As Search Engine Land reported on Tuesday:
"Yesterday, we reported that Google sent out outbound linking penalties to a mass number of webmasters over the weekend. It turned out that this was directly related to the warning from Google a few weeks ago for bloggers to disclose free product reviews as such and nofollow links in their blog posts over these product reviews."
The news is not necessarily earth-shattering, we admit, but Google's stance clearly illuminates some crucial themes we write about on The Organic SEO Blog. An analysis of Google's recent notice on the Webmaster Blog, reveals--again--the crucial importance of quality links, honesty, and, importantly, unique content.
For a search engine like Google, links offer clues to the relevancy and quality of a website's content. In the SEO world, we often define "backlinks"--links from another website to your own website--as low quality or high quality. High quality links can be defined in different ways, yet most come from trusted, relevant sources that send increased traffic.
Established sites enjoy an abundance of such quality backlinks. For a new site, attracting backlinks from established sites is one of the best ways to improve placement.
For more on link building, read: "Don't Just Build Links; Inspire Links."
Unfortunately, link-building has been abused by Black Hat SEO specialists. Google created its Penguin algorithm, in part, to penalize bad links. At the time, Google clarified its definition of a "bad" or "artificial"--or low quality--link:
“Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme.”
In its recent announcement about product reviews, Google intimated that bloggers who post links for free products were essentially participating in this very sort of link scheme:
"Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on all such links because these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide a free good or service in exchange for a link)."
Again, that word, "organic," defines the most sensible approach to SEO. And, in case you're wondering, here is more info on the nofollow tag.
Honesty, transparency, and integrity are the hallmarks of a good business--and, of course, of good SEO. As Google states in its notice: "Users want to know when they’re viewing sponsored content." Put another way: users do not want to be duped in any way.
The success of any organic SEO campaign begins with the integrity of a website's brand. Without a transparent offering, a website can not possibly create the sort of content that attracts attention.
In fact, as we've noted before, "our blog's sponsor, Alex Stepman, refuses to work with companies who do not have a clear offering. If a company does not have a good product to promote, organic SEO will not be nearly as effective."
For more on brand integrity, read: "Brand Loyalty & Organic SEO."
|Honesty? [Photo Source]|
Google framed its recent Webmaster post as "Best practices for bloggers reviewing free products they receive from companies," although, for the most part, the post reads like a admonition: Don't do this! Google's final "best practice," however, is a framed in the positive--a "do this" that will ring true for any regular reader of The Organic SEO Blog:
"Create compelling, unique content," Google says:
"The most successful blogs offer their visitors a compelling reason to come back. If you're a blogger you might try to become the go-to source of information in your topic area, cover a useful niche that few others are looking at, or provide exclusive content that only you can create due to your unique expertise or resources."
The subtext of this comment strikes to the heart of what makes so much of the Internet, frankly, bad: generic writing.
Google's assumption is that a review of a product received for free--and not disclosed--is essentially biased. What possible value can a biased review offer?
At the very least, disclosure informs a user to be weary of the "review," especially a glowing review. And yet, disclosure lends a review credibility. Without disclosure, the review might just be, essentially, a generic advertisement that offers little value beyond the product's own promotion. We go to reviews for unique knowledge of the sort Google is constantly trying to promote.
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