Google promise to do no evil… but they have been caught manipulating website ranking using the very same technique that has seen other sites punished – paid links.
Basically, Google has paid for “advertorials” in online newspapers, and within the content is direct links to Google products. According to Google the only legit way of doing this is to ensure the links are “no follow”. In the examples uncovered, the links are just regular, meaning Google benefits from the link juice.
These things can easily happen when a company gets too big, and especially when they assign a publicity campaign to someone who has no knowledge of SEO practises. I doubt it was deliberate!
Meanwhile, in the UK Google has punished flower delivery service Interflora, as well as more than 150 news sites that they had advertorials on, just like Google, without “no follow” links.