The tail end of last week, anyone who reads about search would have spotted the Interflora ranking massacre unfold. It tweaked my interest, not only because Interflora are a huge national brand, but because they also dominate in many local searches too.
Chatting with various people over the weekend, it was clear that many small business owners wouldn’t know a nofollow link if it came up and hit them, let alone why and when they should use them.
Perhaps worse, some are taking part in similar practices that allegedly got Interflora in deep doodoo with Google.
To be fair, it is ignorance rather than any malicious intention to manipulate search. Ignorance is no defence…
What happened with Interflora?
Type into Google – Interflora (go on, I’ll wait)
Other than the paid results at the top of the page, there is a distinct lack of organic search results pointing to the Interflora website. For a company that size with the budget they have, not ranking for the business name is a bit concerning.
Google walloped them for breaking the rules, and hit a lot more keywords than just their business name.
There was all sorts of speculation over the weekend, from blogger outreach to local doorway pages and bad linking strategies. But after the Google announcement regarding paid links, it’s pretty clear that advertorial links are the issue.
Reminder: Google’s guidelines on paid links that pass PageRank also apply to “advertorial” pages. See goo.gl/PhwsY for more info.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) February 22, 2013
Before the announcement, Anthony Shapely published a great assessment of the situation over on the David Naylor blog. His assessment also shows a huge number of local newspapers having their Page Rank devalued for publishing advertorials without nofollow links.
What has all this got to do with you?
I know many people who are approached to publish sponsored posts on their blogs and several who do accept a fee to publish posts. I also know several small businesses who have either offered products to bloggers for review or have paid banners and ads on other peoples’ blogs.
These are all examples of paid links and Google have very clear guidelines about them.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
Perhaps surprisingly, several people did not know about Google’s policy on paid links despite regularly using them. Or the fact that both the linker and linkee can have their wrists well and truly slapped by Google.
For a small business, a manual penalty can be the death knell of a website.
It doesn’t mean you need to stop running ads, sponsored posts, approaching bloggers yourself or even running advertorials in local newspapers online. Google use these tactics too (and break their own rules – not for the first time either…)
It does mean stop the links passing PageRank by making them nofollow.
If you accept sponsored stories or ads on your site, add the rel=”nofollow” tag to the links.
If you use sponsored stories, ads and advertorials to drive traffic to your site, work with the publisher to ensure rel=”nofollow” tags are added to the links.
Over to you…
Do you use paid links as part of your online marketing strategy? Will Interflora’s experience make you reconsider? I’d love to hear from you in comments!