Recently Google has issued an important warning to encourage more transparency. This warning is directed at bloggers who receive freebies and marketing companies who send out freebies to bloggers to generate reviews. This is a huge industry and one that works well for bloggers and the marketing industry. We get asked regularly by bloggers who want to know how to receive free products to review or feature on their social media accounts.
It has been a popular marketing technique for some years. The only disadvantage has been the risk that readers may not realise that a review has been written because the blogger has received the product as a freebie. Inevitably some bloggers will be more positive about the product as they didn’t have to buy it and also if they started to slate products they know the marketing companies will stop sending them freebies. We’ve been concerned that the plethora of positive reviews across the internet for specific products is starting to create untrust with internet-savvy customers who realise that many reviews are not impartial.
But the truth is that marketing and SEO companies (ourselves included) love this method as it generates free coverage of products and it helps to create quality links back to company websites. We all know that paid-for links are a big no-no these days but as genuine links can help a website to achieve higher rankings with Google. So up until now this was regarded as a perfectly acceptable SEO technique.
But Google have focused their attention on this technique and they’ve issued some important instructions to bloggers regarding reviews about freebie products. This will have a massive impact for marketing and SEO companies who will be frustrated that these changes make life even harder for them. And for those of us who have been in the industry for a long time we are left wondering if our clients will be penalised for blog links which were created years ago for their products.
Here are Google’s instructions and our explanations:-
Use NoFollow Links
When you link to the product, company or their social media accounts be sure to use NoFollow links. If you are unfamiliar with Nofollow links, it just means that Google won’t count the link when they crawl your site. In the world of search engine optimisation links are really important and the more links the better so long as they have not been bought. Now Google seems to be saying that links created as a result of a freebie are the pretty much the same as those that have been paid for. We all know that websites which use paid links have been penalised in the past by Google so the technique of asking for freebie links is now deemed risky too. To avoid the risk of the blog and the product company websites being penalised (i.e. drop down the search results or in some cases disappear from the results) you need to set each and every link to NoFollow. Or alternatively don’t create any links, just ask people to Google the product.
How to Add NoFollow
Create a link as usual. Then look at the code version of your link. (In WordPress click the Text view). Your link would normally look like this
<a href=”http://www.rachelcase.co.uk”>Rachel Case Marketing</a>
Add the following rel=”nofollow” taking care not to delete any brackets or inverted commas.
<a href=”http://www.rachelcase.co.uk” rel=”nofollow”>Rachel Case Marketing</a>
2. Tell Them It Was A Freebie
Google wanst you to add a statement to your post or webpage to explain that you received the product as a freebie. They suggest that you put the statement at the top as users may not read the entire post. This seems reasonable and its a policy that is already being used across social media using hashtags like #spon for sponsored, #paid for paid or #samp for sample
3. Create Unique Content
This is interesting. They ask that bloggers aim to offer their visitors ‘a compelling reason’ to come back. They also suggest trying to become the ‘go-to source of information’ in your niche or aim to provide ‘exclusive content that only you can create due to your unique expertise or resources’. It sounds like Google are concerned that are there are too many similar blogs out there and a lot of bloggers seem to be copying each other. This may be a warning from Google that they intend to favour unique and compelling blogs even more in the future.
What do you think about this latest SEO change? Will it affect you too?