Google: Manipulate Links In Advertorials And You’ll Be Penalised
Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam, posted a video (see below) stating Google’s position on using advertorials to manipulate Google’s search results.
Basically, if you are using follow links in your advertorials, you MUST make them “nofollow” links. If you don’t, on your head be it!
Here is a transcript of the above video:
So let’s start with the easiest stuff, editorial content. That’s the meat and potatoes of whatever you’re writing. If you’re a blogger, it’s the primary stuff you’re writing about.
If you’re a newspaper, it’s the news articles that you publish, online or in your newspaper. I think people have a pretty good sense about what editorial content is.
So how about advertorial content or native advertising?
Well, it’s advertising. But it’s often the sort of advertising that looks a little closer to editorial. But it, basically, means that someone gave you some money, rather than you writing about this, naturally, because you thought it was interesting or because you wanted to.
So why do I care about this?
Why are we making a video about this at all? Well, the reason is, certainly within the Web Spam team, we’ve seen a little bit of problems, where there’s been advertorial or native advertising content or paid content that hasn’t really been disclosed adequately, so that people realize that what they were looking at was paid.
So that’s a problem.
We have had longstanding guidance, since at least, I think, that says, look, if you pay for links, those links should not pass PageRank. And the reason is that Google, for a very long time, and, in fact, everywhere on the web, people have mostly treated links as editorial votes. They link to something because it’s inspires passion in them. It’s something that’s interesting. They want to share it with friends. There’s some reason why they want to highlight that particular link.
Now, if someone were to come to a newspaper reporter and say, I’m going to give you some money, can you link within your editorial story that you’re writing, your news article?
That would be deceptive. People would not realize that there was payment involved. And it would really not be fair.
So paid links, that pass PageRank, change the landscape. It makes it uneven, so that people can’t compete on a level playing field. And that’s what we want to ensure that we have on the web and, certainly, within Google’s web index.
So what are the guidelines for advertorials or for native advertising?
Well there’s two-fold things that you should think about. The first is on the search engine thing side of things. And search engine wise, you should make sure that, if the links are paid, that is if money changed hands in order for a link to be placed on a website, that it should not flow PageRank.
In essence, it shouldn’t affect search engine’s rankings. That’s no different than the guidance we’ve had for years and years and years. Likewise, if you are doing disclosure, you need to make sure that it’s clear to people.
So a good rule of thumb is there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure. It shouldn’t be the case that people have to dig around, buried in small print, or have to click and look around a long time to find out, oh, this content, that I’m reading, was actually paid.
So why we’re talking about this now. This isn’t a change in our search engine policies, certainly not in the Web Spam team. Well, the reason is that we’ve seen some people who have not been doing it correctly.
So we’ve seen, for example, in the United Kingdom, a few sites that have been taking money and writing articles that were paid, including keyword rich anchor text in those articles, that flowed PageRank, and then not telling anybody that those were paid articles. And that’s the sort of thing where, if a regular user happened to be reading your website and didn’t know that it was paid, they’d really be pretty frustrated and pretty angry when they found out that it was paid. So we’ve taken action on this sort of thing for years and years. And we’re going to keep taking strong action.