Advertorials have recently picked up something of a bad name; in terms of SEO, advertorials represent paid content on websites and online versions of newspapers and magazines – while framed as an editorial, the content is geared towards promoting a product. This practice has become controversial over the past few weeks as the result of Google punishing flower company Interflora for not using a ‘nofollow’ link in their advertorials; Google are coming down hard on companies that seek to distort their PageRank through paid links, and advertorials play an important role in that process. Taking this into consideration, do advertorials still have a place in contemporary SEO?
The use of advertorials has suffered due less to how they’re actually set up, but rather due to how they’ve been linked to websites. In the case of Interflora, not using a ‘nofollow’ link was their biggest crime for Google; usually a ‘dofollow’ link is there to indicate an organic, non paid for link – anything that’s been paid for, and has a commercial bias, should be about driving traffic and generating brand awareness, and should have a ‘nofollow’ tag on any links.
Interflora’s problem, then, was due to it not using the right tagging, and making itself appear higher in search engine rankings as the result of its paid links; the flower company also managed to get into trouble for sending free product to bloggers in exchange for positive reviews and links – Google’s response has been to drop Interflora’s PageRank, while bloggers and other sites have to remove their backlinks to the company.
This isn’t the first time that Google have made an example of a relatively high profile company, and probably won’t be the last; J.C. Penney were punished a few years ago for setting up their own link network, while Forbes have been singled out as selling links. The advertorial problem goes both ways – websites sell space on their sites and links, and businesses are willing to pay for them. In most cases, this relationship doesn’t break with traditional print marketing or sponsorship – however, in terms of SEO, paying for a link that passes Google’s PageRank and is counted as a strong referral from a high profile site is an issue.
So, is there a future for the advertorial in SEO strategies? In short, yes – advertorials themselves aren’t being punished, but instead the link building that comes out of them. As you make use of ‘nofollow’ tags for backlinks, Google won’t have a problem. In the same way, it’s important to be selective about where you buy links; Google’s Penguin algorithm updates is particularly tough on pages that have a portfolio of links from low quality ‘scrape’ sites that effectively host spam-lie content.
There’s also questions to be asked over how strictly Google will enforce its rules in the future – as Aaron Wall recently pointed out, Google don’t seem to have a problem with placing lots of backlinks onto stories that it’s sent out to newspaper websites, and not attaching ‘nofollow’ tags to its links. Wall also notes that advertorials remain, in theory at least, regulated in the press; websites and print materials need to have an ‘advertorial’ disclaimer on any pages, while advertorials are supposed to be downgraded to archive status after 12 months, which reduces their search visibility.
Author Bio:- Online marketer Rob recommends hiring a good web design agency to help you build a great site before embarking on an SEO campaign. In his spare time Rob can be found blogging about the many different linking techniques out there, which ones to apply, and which ones to avoid!