There are plenty of websites – big brands included – that willingly attempt to cheat Google’s algorithm to rank better on their search engine. Google, of course, considers this unacceptable. But, the fact that Google have penalised themselves several times for breaking their own rules is testament to how complicated and confusing their own rules can be.

Well, at least they’re fair. Below, a quick look back on times when Google has took action against itself.

5) Chrome & Paid Links

One way to sin against Google is to buy links in the hope that you’ll generate lots of inbound links to a desired website/page. But Google has found itself buying links before as part of a campaign to promote its new and shiny Google Chrome web browser. Google involved two different promotion companies for a video campaign of theirs, and after the news got out, all parties made apologies all round; saying the links were obtained more accidentally than intentionally.

No matter. It happened, Google knew it happened and was thus a violation of Google’s algorithm rules. Eventually, the page for Chrome was knocked out of the top rankings for searches on “Google Chrome” for two months.

4) Beat That Quote & Acquiring A Problem

In 2011, when Google acquired the financial comparison service Beat That Quote, they also acquired a problem. SEOs and SEO website were quickly hot on the press to claim that Beat That Quote had been buying links and doing other black-hat SEO techniques for a while, and as you may have guessed, Google weren’t happy.

They responded by penalising Beat That Quote to such a degree that they no longer even ranked for their own name on Google’s search engine. The penalty was lifted 2 weeks later.

And applied again the next day. How long it remained after that is unclear, and seemingly undocumented.

3) Google AdWords & Cloaking

There’s another dark tactic which people can use to illicitly rank on search engines called “cloaking”. This is the name given to attempts at masking content on your pages to appear differently to a web crawler than it would to a human being. This ended up happening to help pages in relation to AdWords, and when Google noticed this they penalised said pages so that they no longer ranked well for searched on topics like “adowrds help”.

How long the AdWords pages remained penalised is unclear.

2) Google Japan & Paid Links

Google got in trouble with itself again after their Japanese counterpart admitted to buying links to help promote a Google widget. When the news surfaced, Google’s spam team reduced the PageRank score for Google Japan from 9 to 5. PageRank is a value of importance that Google assigns to all web page across the internet. You can guess that it’s determined by a lot of key factors, and serves to influence Google’s decision if a page ranks well. In Google Japan’s case, it had very little impact as people seeking the website could still just as easily find.

The PageRank score rose to 8 after 11 months, indicating the end of their penalty.

1) The Original ‘Cloaking’ of Google AdWords

Remember above, how Google penalized itself because of cloaking involving its AdWords help pages? That was actually the second time the AdWords support pages had been involved with cloaking. The first time was also the first time Google ever took action against itself.

Someone at Google had hidden content on the pages in a way meant to help those using Google’s own internal search tool. However, because those changes were seen by Google’s main search engine, that meant they were in violation of guidelines. After this was spotted and discussed, Google had the pages removed from its index. For how long, as this point, I can’t locate.