Google really wants you to buy a Motorola Droid, the hot new phone that just hit stores today. In fact, Google is so enamored that it’s advertising the Droid on its homepage: “The Droid is on sale now. Learn more.”
Clicking the “learn more” link leads to this “mobile partners” page that touts the Google search capabilities available on the Droid.
The two links in the upper right — the “Get” button and the “Learn more” text link below it — point to verizonwireless.com and droiddoes.com, respectively.
It’s hard to make the case that this isn’t an ad on Google’s home page, and SEO folks will surely notice that neither off-site link uses the nofollow tag. In other words, some can argue that Verizon is effectively buying a link from Google, which Google fights against.
(Postscript: The link from the home page redirects to a virtual page that is blocked by Google’s robots.txt file, so shouldn’t be passing along PageRank and would be in compliance with Google’s paid links policy. But the “Google Search on Droid by Motorola” page has no such block leading to the Verizon site).
For its part, Google will probably point out that it has run promotions on its home page before, like in October, 2008, when it promoted the T-Mobile G1 — the first Android-based phone — on its home page.
At the time, Google denied that was an ad for T-Mobile, instead calling it a promotion for a Google product.
Google has quite famously declared in the past that the Google home page would remain ad free, compared to other portals. Said Google’s Marissa Mayer in 2007:
There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.
But Google actually has a long history of promoting things on its home page. As Mayer also said in 2007:
The Google home page is very simple and when we put a link underneath the Google search box on the home page to advertise one of our products, we say, “Hey, try Google video, it’s new, or download the new Picassa.” Basically it’s the only other thing on the page, and while it does get a fair amount of click through, it’s nothing compared to the search, because most users don’t even see it.
Notable among these was a Da Vinci Code promotion that put a puzzle on the Google home page in 2006, as well promoting Firefox on the home page in the same year. Both were non-Google products being pushed.
What are your thoughts on today’s version of the home page? Is Google advertising Motorola and the Droid phone?
Postscript: Google’s Gabriel Stricker gave us this statement about the Droid mention on Google’s home page:
We are currently running a homepage promotion for Droid. From time to time we include a link on the Google home page that points users to exciting and important information, whether it be relief opportunities in the wake of a tsunami or hurricane, awareness about an important cause, or information about a new product. The Droid is a hardware collaboration that we’ve been very active and involved with, so it makes sense that Google has an interest in getting the word out.