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Google has been firing off warning shots. They give offenders notice, and those offenders who deign to ignore their warning will face harsh rebuke in no time flat. Just a few weeks ago Google sent out warnings to a host of webmasters regarding bloggers fai lure to disclose free product reviews, and the accompanying no follow links in their posts. Bloggers were told to add “nofollow the link” html script if they decide to link to the company’s site, social media accounts, or places where they can go to buy the product or services and review pages (include mobile app review pages too). Google gave everyone a few weeks to comply, and those that continued to disregard their edict, were issued fines just two weeks after the warning was sent out. It would appear Google is not joking about this policy.
Google has commented, in Google threads, about policies for those blogging about products they are receiving for free from companies wishing to essentially pad their bottom line with loosely-purchased reviews. Google actually published a post called “best practices for bloggers” (suggest adding hyperlink to post) who are reviewing these products they are getting for free. Ultimately what Google is looking to achieve is posts that are both informative, but also those that are modified, by using the rel=nofollow html code so they don’t pass PageRank. John Mueller from Google actually made a few comments about this on Google threads. Bloggers are encouraged to resubmit after the links are cleaned up for reconsideration. After Google’s webspam team looks at each resubmission, they will remove the manual action if guidelines are met.
The All-Mighty Link Graph
Google’s stance is about the fact that these links are manipulative by nature, and that to preserve the integrity of their search engine, these outbound links must be regulated. If any blogger is putting outbound links on their sites as a result of a review, they were likely put on notice by Google recently. The perceived offender will also suffer a rankings-drop on Google searches. The reasons they are doing this are quite simple: it is their search engine, and they can police it however they want. Google has a link graph this is easily their most treasured asset. This link graph is what helps define rankings, and any product reviews that contain a link also double as a way of building links. Google does not want this link-building business going on, they have been clear about it, they are going to stop it, and they will win.
The problem with free products being shipped out, presumably by companies large enough to absorb the cost as they know they will recover those costs in increased sales, is smaller companies do not have a chance to be seen. Smaller companies are always crowded-out by companies with more resources. Google’s actions might provide an ancillary benefit to smaller companies, but it is doubtful that is what is motivating them. They are not going to let their search engine be abused by companies who are trying to buy a higher ranking. The message is clear: you cannot buy your way to the top, it must be earned.
Google Will Win
Google is, perhaps to a fault, deeply concerned with their link graph. That is what powers ranking decisions, and the way sites link to each other is the basis of the Google algorithm. The problem with castigating bloggers is some of them are being honest, yet they will be swept up in this widespread Google reprimand, at least in the short-term. Their sole ambition is to stop this practice of free-promotion because it is having a deleterious effect on their link graph. In the end, the reasons Google is cracking down are at least a few, but it all comes back to the graph.
How To Create A Nofollow Link
Many bloggers are unsure of how to complete a “nofollow” link. In order to do this, one must go into their code and look for the link that normally starts with an “a” proceeded by a less-than sign and followed by href=http:// and it ends with an “a” that is proceeded by a less-than sign and followed by a greater-than sign. Once this is located, you must put us the code rel=”nofollow” , and this needs to be done either before or after the link. In taking compliance one step further, you should also disclose within your text that the product was given to you, for free, and therefore the review was solicited. Also, it might be safe to add the nofollow if your link is commercial. In the event that a relationship does not exist between you and the company you are reviewing, make that clear as well, but still include the nofollow.
Fixing With Plugins
Some of you are already in the Google crosshairs, and this is an awful place to be. They are like the IRS of the internet, and the last thing you want to be is on their radar. Google webmasters do not think that all links have to be “nofollowed,” but are simply trying to regulate anything that undermines their link graph. For those of you that do a lot of reviews, if you are using a WordPress site, you can create a “nofollow” plugin, so in this way it will be easy for you to make all links on your site nofollow compliant. Go through any links on your site and use the plugin to make them nofollow, and make all affiliate links nofollow. Be sure to check all over your site, because if you don’t find, they likely will, and you are better to avoid unnecessary attention by this absolute necessity to commerce.
There Is Help
If this sounds complicated, that is because it is not easy. Local SEO Search Inc. (www.localseosearch.ca) can help you maximize your search engine optimization while also keeping you within the all-important Google link guidelines. Call us at 877 689 5268 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. A little help goes a long way, and if you want to keep Google happy, seeking out help is probably a good choice!