Google Reacts Against News Sites Selling Links
The consequences of selling links have once again been highlighted after Interflora were found to have been paying newspapers to publish advertorials that included a followed link back to the flower delivery company’s site.This has long been against Google’s guidelines.
What prompted Google to act?
In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s day, Interflora embarked on a huge campaign of placing advertorials in local newspapers, a tactic that was aimed at getting them higher rankings for key terms that they knew many people would be searching for just before the 14th of February arrived. The scale of the activity seems to have attracted the ire of Google with the result that Interflora disappeared from the Google SERP’s – even for their brand name. Interestingly, the news sites did not go unpunished either. The PageRank of over 150 news sites dropped hugely, in some instances going from 6 to 0 overnight. Ouch! This clearly goes to show that Google is not going to tolerate sites that offer these types of “advertorial” links in the future.
As if to emphasise the point, Matt Cutts, who heads up the search spam team at Google, has published a post on the Google Webmaster Central blog reminding site owners that selling links that pass PageRank is a clear violation of the guidelines. He even specifically mentioned “advertorial” pages though he did not go as far as citing Interflora directly.
Where do we go from here?
So, to sum up, what are the SEO lessons that can be learned from the actions that Google have taken? Well, firstly it shows that Google is not taking the issue of paid-for “advertorials” lightly. Secondly it must be a wake-up call for the owners of many news sites who have in the past been guilty of selling these types of links – they now know that Google is taking a more robust approach in enforcing its webmaster guidelines. This all fits in with the ongoing trend from the search engines and is something that must be taken note of to avoid falling foul of the Big G.