The Truth Behind SEO and Paid Links
Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Recently, another storm blew up around SEO, advertorials, and links. At the center of the storm were Google and Interflora, a popular UK-based flower retailer. In an effort to promote themselves in the run up to Valentine’s Day, Interflora sent bouquets to bloggers. The idea was simple: send bloggers flowers, bloggers blog about flowers, readers like, click and buy. Seems like a good marketing plan, no?
Not quite. Google decided the flowers were intended to boost PageRank and consequently annihilated Interflora’s search ranking.
Exchanging flowers for links is tantamount to buying links and Google has a long-standing policy against paid links that masquerade as “organic” links. I emphasize ”masquerade” because that part is all too often forgotten. Paid links are fine; Google earns a few billion dollars every month from paid links. The issue hinges on trying to pass paid links for natural links.
Was that really Interflora’s goal? I don’t know. What I do know is that their reaction was to call all the bloggers who got flowers and ask them to take the links down in an attempt to salvage their reputation with Google. That was the wrong move in my opinion – it’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Interflora could have avoided this situation entirely with one simple snippet of code:
By reminding bloggers to include this simple code in their Interflora links, Google would have rightly ignored the links for purposes of passing PageRank to Interflora and no SEO cliff-of-doom would have transpired. Here’s how it looks in HTML:
<a href="interflora.co.uk" rel="nofollow">Interflora</a>
Instead of asking bloggers to delete the URLs entirely, Interflora could have simply asked bloggers to add the nofollow, keeping the links up and the clicks (and sales) coming.
Even better would have been to recruit these bloggers into their affiliate program. Google’s Matt Cutts is on record making it clear that the vast majority of affiliate links are handled correctly. This means Google’s PageRank automatically ignores affiliate links, and you don’t need to include a nofollow (though it can’t hurt). With affiliate links handled properly by Google, there’s no risk of penalty.
If asking bloggers to include nofollow in their links or signing them up individually to an affiliate program sounds too arduous, well, I agree. The whole notion of manually tagging paid links is antiquated. After all, that’s exactly the problem VigLink technology solves. And just like every other affiliate link, Google handles our links correctly.
Bloggers who use VigLink avoid these paid link SEO scandals, don’t risk their own search rank or that of their favorite merchants, and never lose another commission rightly earned. As of this writing, VigLink users earn $6 for every sale they drive to Interflora. That beats an SEO cliff of doom any day.
Posted by Oliver Deighton, Vice President, Marketing