Interflora goes beyond the PALE
Beyond the PALE (PR, Advertorials, Links and Exposure)
In an insightful guest blog, Al Mackin, CEO of theEword, a search engine optimisation agency based in Manchester, examines Google's decision to punish Interflora for buying links, and the implications for PR.
Who doesn’t love flowers? As of last week you’d be forgiven for thinking Google, as the search giant threw a stop and dropped Interflora out of its search engine results - even for queries on its own brand. You have to be extremely naughty for Google to push you this far down on your own brand term, so what has the respected floral giant done?
Google punishes buying links
The reason for this downgrade has been answered a hundred times over in the last few days with some fantastic analysis in the SEO community. Most agree that the SEO strategy was flawed, which in part was to pay for newspaper (and related) websites to create copy and link to them.
Links help websites rank higher and this sort of online advertorial is frowned upon by Google as it’s seen to artificially inflate the rankings of websites that may not deserve it. Google wants to have the best, most valuable, websites in the number one natural search position, not the websites that spend the most money.
And it wasn't just Interflora that was punished; the Independent newspaper and many regional newspaper websites that hosted the advertorials have seen a significant drop in their value, as their Page Rank scores plummeted. While the PageRank metric isn't the be all and end all, it is a quick and easy way to determine the value of a website.
Is this the end for advertorials?
Matt Cutts, one of the key voices at Google about SEO, has reiterated in his blog that links should not be bought. That means that the concept of link-earning is more important than ever. Link earning means getting a link from someone because you, your business or your content is great, engaging or exciting (or all three) and someone will naturally decide to link back to your outstanding website.
But what if you genuinely want an advertorial - rather than an advert - on a website that has a lot of traffic? Does Google's decision really mean this is no longer an option?
Not necessarily. My advice to clients and their PR teams is to speak with the client's SEO company and seek their advice on the best tactics. For example, Google brought in a microtag, a small piece of code that gives instructions, which allows you to tell the search engines that they shouldn’t follow (and value) a particular link. This is one mechanism that the SEO company may advise you to use. You can find out more about this here.
It's also important to remember the 'rules' of creating good online copy, and how you can include natural links within that text. I'll be covering our top tips in a second piece for this website, to follow tomorrow.
Al Mackin is CEO of theEWord, a search engine optimisation agency based in Manchester
Date: 27th Feb, 2013
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