Google’s sniper scope was on the prowl again last week, and like any good assassin their target was chosen with little fanfare. There was a minor announcement by Google last Friday, picked up by a few news search sites but had little publicity elsewhere.
Google have issued a warning to bloggers. The warning is aimed at those bloggers that willingly review products for companies in exchange for a backlink to that company. From now on, if you issue a backlink it has to have a ‘nofollow’ tag around it.
Now I picked up on this quiet little adjustment from Google and thought it pertinent to place the announcement on Facebook. The response was bloggers throwing their arms in the air in mild panic! I also fielded many questions from brands, concerned that they employed a system of sending products to bloggers for reviews. The brands wanted to know what the point was in sending out products for review if they weren’t receiving any love in return.
Now, if you are a brand that sends products to bloggers in the hope of receiving traffic in return, you need to correct your aim. Continue to do what you’ve been doing for the potential traffic you hope to receive from that site or blogger, not for the free backlink from said site. That way you avoid the disappointment when your backlink has a ‘nofollow’ attached to it. From now on you shouldn’t do it for the backlink, because if the blogger forgets to add the ‘nofollow’ then Google will punish both the blogger and your brand. Both pages will be penalised.
So then came the inevitable flood of questions of, “How do I insert a ‘nofollow’?” It’s fairly easy. It’s a simple piece of code that needs inserting into your page and looks like the example below.
So if Google has singled out this particular area of backlinks, how, might you ask, obtain other backlinks? Well it is interesting that Google has only targeted bloggers in this situation, as there are thousands of other sites out there that do back linking for favours, which is essentially what the bloggers are doing in relation to promoting brands.
Google is basically saying to those bloggers that, “We’re having to penalise you because that backlink wouldn’t have existed if not for the product you were given. It’s an unnatural backlink.”
This is where Google muddies the waters. Google has always viewed backlinks as a vote for your page. Page A linking to Page B means they both state each is a good site, for example. There are other ways you can get backlinks. Take community organisations for example.
Try a site: edu for example. This asks Google to show you sites with educational (edu) domains. Then add ‘member discounts’ to the example to reveal educational institutions that offer discounts to their members. Now most educational sites offer linked sites with membership discounts. They will offer a backlink to the supplier offering that discount, anything from sporting organisations, community groups, volunteer organisations or a whole range of sites that have a great standing with Google. You could easily obtain a backlink from those sites held in high esteem by Google, but they are basically paid backlinks! You are offering something in return for that backlink. Even a slab of beer in exchange for a backlink is a paid backlink. (I’m not advocating we switch to a beer economy by the way, as much fun as it sounds!)
It’s only a crime if you get caught, as the old adage goes. Well it’s the same with Google. There is no way for Google to know you exchanged beer for backlinks, the same way they would be unaware of the backlinks in the education examples above.
Another good one before I leave is the Internet Society of Australia (isoc.org.au). There is a page on their website for ‘Foundation Organisational Members.’ Now you would imagine a prestigiously named organisation such as this to have an exceptional page rank, but their member’s list still contains some odd names. So it proves you can still get decent backlinks from quality sites without involving an exchange of value, therefore not contravening Google’s rules. Bear in mind though, that if you have to pay to be a member of an organisation such as the Internet Society of Australia, it is fundamentally a paid backlink. Facebook also does it; with plenty of FB members effectively selling backlinks on FB pages, although they would offer greatly reduced benefits if they were buried deep within a Facebook page.
So that’s it for this week. Just be aware that Google’s great eye is firmly focussed on bloggers that review products in exchange for backlinks. They will be penalising both the brand and the blogger, so be warned!
Jim’s been here for a while, you know who he is.