Marketers beware. Google has been increasingly vocal about the use of advertorials or paid article content and links to promote search rankings.
Not to be confused with content marketing, an advertorial is an article written in the sole interest of a brand—whereas content marketing is written with a consumer’s interest in mind.
Here’s a brief timeline:
In February, Google removed a company’s entire website
from its search results because it was employing advertorials disguised as editorial to pass search value on to its website.
In March, Google dedicated a blog post
to the issue, saying:
“Credibility and trust are longstanding journalistic values, and ones which we all regard as crucial attributes of a great news site. It’s difficult to be trusted when one is being paid by the subject of an article, or selling or monetizing links within an article. Google News is not a marketing service, and we consider articles that employ these types of promotional tactics to be in violation of our quality guidelines.”
Google went on to say that the consequence of getting caught could result in “the removal of articles, or even the entire publication, from Google News
.” Additionally, Google launched a submission form for reporting spam
In late May, the head of Google’s spam team, Matt Cutts, released a video
reminding marketers about the potential repercussions of using advertorials to game search results.
What can marketers do to reduce their risk of being penalized by Google?
• If you do use advertorials, confirm that the news site—or any kind of site—places advertorial content on a different domain or subdomain or directory (such as http://advertorial.example.com or http://example.com/advertorial) and clearly notes advertorial content as such for readers.
• Make sure your hosting company blocks advertorial pages from getting crawled by using a robots.txt file or no index meta tags, which let the Google news crawler know to avoid indexing the folder or domain that houses advertorial content.
• If links to your website are embedded in the advertorial, make sure publishers use no follow tags on those links, which communicate to Google not to pass any SEO value to your site.
• Ask your SEO or IT teams to see whether they’re getting link warnings (see below) in their Google Webmaster Tools message box. If they don’t have Google Webmaster Tools installed, encourage them to get it.
• Most important, stay away from publishers or vendors that promise paid content will increase SEO performance. Google’s message is clear: Avoid these tactics, or risk punishment.
[RELATED: Learn why you NEED a content marketing plan at our autumn content marketing boot camp.]
Ultimately, Google’s vision is to provide users with an unbiased organic search experience. As its algorithm continues to get more sophisticated in detecting paid content practices that attempt to skew search engine results, it’s even more important for marketers to stay in tune with SEO teams and the latest search engine guidelines.
Nick Papagiannis is director of interactive/search for independent marketing and communications agency Cramer-Krasselt.