Google has published a new set of guidelines for bloggers who receive free products from brands. The “best practices,” which focus on nofollow usage, appear to suggest that certain blogger outreach marketing campaigns are now very much on the tech giant’s radar.
Google has advised bloggers to use the nofollow tag on links that may link back to a company’s site, social media accounts or mobile app, an online merchant’s page with the listed product or a review site’s page showing reviews for the product, as these links are not organic and would not exist without the provision of a free service or goods. Links that pass PageRank in this way go against Google’s own Webmaster Guidelines on link schemes. Google has also urged marketing firms to help bloggers by reminding them about nofollow usage.
Google also wants content creators to disclose their relationship with a third party by stating this near the top of a post so that readers are informed about viewing sponsored content before reading it in its entirety. Google adds that there are laws in certain countries that make this act of disclosure regarding sponsorship mandatory.
Finally, Google says that compelling and unique content is the best means to ensuring that posts are both useful for readers and compliant. “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.”
Bloggers who fail to follow the advice may suffer the consequences, as Google often sends out manual actions penalties for non-compliance after publishing best practices focused on nofollow usage. Blogger outreach campaigns and the creation of genuine, authentic content to promote a particular service, brand or product remain a legitimate marketing tactic.