A few weeks ago, Google announced new guidelines for bloggers reviewing free products from companies. If a blogger receives free product(s) in exchange for posting a review on their blog, these steps must be followed to be complaint with Google Webmaster Guidelines. Although these are all important, please pay particular attention to number 1 as Google recently issued several penalties for violation of this guideline.
- Use the nofollow tag on any links that point back to the company/product website to avoid passing any PageRank, which would be considered a “link scheme” in the eyes of Google because the links were not earned organically. See below for instructions on how to implement the nofollow tag.
- Disclose the relationship so users know that it the blog post includes sponsored content.
- Create compelling, unique content. No two blog posts (whether within your own blog or related to others) should be the same or too similar.
Google’s Manual Action Penalty for Unnatural Outbound Links
In a related move, last week Google issued mass unnatural outbound links penalties, specifically around outbound links intended to “manipulate search results.” The warning read “Unnatural outbound links from domain.com violate Google Webmaster Guidelines.”
According to Search Engine Land, Google penalized sites by deciding not to trust any of the links on the website. The sites may not have seen a drop in their rankings, but Google is not trusting these sites for passing any PageRank or value to other sites at all until the manual action is lifted. Visit your Google Search Console account to determine if your blog has been affected.
How To Use Nofollow Tags
“Nofollow” tags provide a way for webmasters to tell search engines “Don’t follow links on this page” or “Don’t follow this specific link.” These tags should be used any time a link is paid for or received in exchange for goods or services. To use a nofollow tag on one individual link, please follow these steps:
- Edit the page/post where sponsored content exists
- Go to the HTML/Code view of the content
- Locate the link you wish to apply the tag to
- Add rel=“nofollow” within the link code snippet
- Example: <a href=“website.org” title=“website” target=“blank” rel=”nofollow”>website</a>
- Save the page/post
Recovering From an Unnatural Link Penalty
If you were already hit with Google’s Unnatural Link penalty, Matt Cutts & Sandy with Google discuss the steps to recover, including the use of the nofollow tag and the submission of a reconsideration request.