Most of the time, website owners and bloggers don’t keep up with the latest guidelines that Google dishes out (and there have been many). No surprise there – does anyone except SEO consultants?
That’s fine most of the time because bloggers are usually too busy coming up with great content. But lately, with all this talk about paid links and especially advertorials, they could find themselves unwittingly facing a massive Google penalty.
Google’s war on paid links isn’t something new. Most bloggers intuitively know they have to clearly mark sponsored content and advertorials as advertisements – not so much for the benefit of search engines but to maintain the trust of their readers.
But Google seems to be getting serious on punishing those who don’t follow its guidelines on advertorials. The last thing we want to happen is our favourite bloggers losing all their search engine rankings because they aren’t clear about what to do.
What are Advertorials?
Advertorials are types of advertisements that look like editorial content. They have been getting a lot of flak even before the Internet came along. This is because they are advertisements that hide behind the assumed objectivity of editorial content. Most readers won’t realize that the content was written with ulterior motives.
Google’s guidelines on advertorials and other paid links have been around for a while, but the search giant is really pushing the message right now. Matt Cutts recently released this video on 30 May 2013.
There has been an increase in the use of advertorials as a link building method after Penguin showed up. And Google seems quite fed up. Maybe we can also expect an algorithm update specifically targeting advertorials soon?
It’s not only the web spam team that’s all hot and bothered by advertorials. Matt Cutts says that the Google News team is on board with the war on paid links and will go to the extent of removing entire websites from Google News.
Seems like Google’s trying to send a strong message.
In any case, bloggers and webmasters would do well to take heed and make the necessary changes.
How Google Can Punish You
A major UK floral company, Interflora, was punished when it embarked on a major advertorial campaign in February this year. It had its Toolbar PageRank (TPR) completely removed and wasn’t even ranking for its own brand name. Its rankings took a huge hit across the board.
You can check out the Search Engine Land article for more information on the Interflora case.
And they weren’t the only ones hit by this penalty. Many newspaper websites in the UK also saw their PageRank reduced or completely removed because they failed to prevent it from passing through advertorial links.
By the way, Google will penalize both the sites buying the link (the advertiser) and the site selling the link (you, the intrepid blogger).
What to do with Your Advertorials
- Inform Your Advertisers – Let your advertisers know that you’re going to comply with Google’s guidelines and will stop any PageRank floating through the links within the advertorial. There shouldn’t be any objections unless they commissioned the advertorial purely for link building purposes. Even if they were, remind them that it’s for their own good as well. Both you and the advertiser will get punished if you participate in paid link schemes.
- Publish a Disclaimer – Each piece of sponsored content or advertorial should have a “clear and conspicuous disclosure”. Both the search engines and your users will definitely appreciate this.
- NoFollow Advertorial Links – This is where most bloggers will find themselves falling foul of Google’s guidelines. They usually aren’t very diligent in using the nofollow tag when they link back to the advertiser. The tag prevents any PageRank from floating through the links.
Here’s the tag:
Here’s how a properly implemented nofollow tag looks likes:
- <a href=”http://www.myexample.com” rel=”nofollow”>Your Advertorial Link</a>
Simple enough, right?
Step-by-Step Guide to Adding NoFollow Tag
But here’s a step-by-step guide anyway.
- Go to HTML view…
- Add your link as you normally would
- Add your URL
- Add the nofollow tag
You can use this Chrome plugin to check if your nofollow tag is working properly.