As the majority of the SEO community now knows and too the now presumably unemployed agency/in-house team of Interflora – advertorials and link networks will cause you great problems in organic search. If you want to read the two best articles on why Interflora lost rankings for a number of high value keywords (including their brand terms) then these pieces by Martin Macdonald and Chris C Cemper are the best around – and both right in my opinion.
What I found more interesting was Aaron Wall’s blog post on how Google themselves had done the same, promoting some of the core services and products like Adwords, Analytics and the Chromebook. One can only presume that the internal marketing department for those areas are NOT familiar with their own webmaster guidelines – which really actually doesn’t surprise me, given the size of the business.
Anyway – I managed to spot another national UK Newspaper with an advertorial – the Mirror seemingly putting 4 do follow links with exact match anchor text pointing to “MoneyVista”. (view the page here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/personal-finance/cheap-insurance-compare-comparison-sites-1705747)
I would hope that the guys over at the Mirror are now formatting the links in this article with the correct no-follow and start implementing a checklist for the guys that upload the content to avoid reductions in PageRank.
Moving on to the broader subject we all know paid links are bad but what’s not been discussed in specific detail before are the parts of the subject that constitute “grey areas” – of which there are many.
- Advertorials are often done by the biggest brands in the world by people that don’t even realise what SEO is – they look for consumer reach and PR pickup. While it’s completely the responsibility of the buyer and seller to know the correct technical setup such as the “no follow” – these are often missed
- Product reviews – what’ to stop someone like Apple giving away 10,000 Mac Book Pro’s to the top most authoritative bloggers? Nothing. I’d be willing to bet that at least 30% would write about Apple and most likely link to them too
- Blogroll Links – a lot of bloggers still genuinely like to link to their friends, colleagues and respected similar websites but with the risk of penalties I’m sure many now avoid this
- Web Designer Links – many agencies and web designer like to mark their work with “Produced by” or “Designed by” at the bottom of websites. This usually happens to businesses that are small or medium sized as they don’t usually know the implications of leaving it there
- Partner Links – for larger businesses there are often company partnerships, these often result in crossover linking, either on a stand alone page or in the footer of a website. Sometimes this is a business requirement and useful to consumers – but would search engines know this?
- Guest Blog Posts – at the moment this is OK to do but only if you have a genuine reason to write something of value. Small or duplicated guest blog posts are NOT acceptable but many still fear their good ones could put them at risk.
I’m sure most of these links above will become outlawed if they’re not already – or simply just no-follow all links to remove risk.