Should Google Penalize Itself?


kick me

Since the Interflora/Advertorial affair, webmaster community has been buzzing with discussion questioning Google’s own linking policies. SEO Book and Search Engine Land have covered this pretty well so there’s no need for me to repeat the events. Instead I’d like to point out that this is not the first nor the last time this is happening.

The Disconnect

Placing rel=”nofollow” to links associated with advertising material is not an intuitive thing by any stretch of imagination. I worked with many large organisations and the level of disconnect between various marketing departments is unbelievable and Google is no exception. Do you think that every marketer understands Google’s linking policies? Of course not, and this is why Google is generally pretty lenient with unnatural links devaluing them where possible and even letting some slide (algorithmically speaking).

The Intent

When there’s a problem and a reason for manual action is when somebody at Google’s search quality team notices a well-established pattern of clear and long-term manipulation of results through paid links (including advertorials). I know what you’re going to say, “oh but how can you judge the intent of the advertiser, who gives you that right?”. Well there are numerous siganls available out there including commercial anchor text, absence of other links, participation in other types of link schemes, consistency of linking across different advertorial platforms and domains…etc. Do you honestly Google is really trying to rank in their own search engine for a term “Chromebook”?

What should Google do?

Google should certainly not go and penalise their websites, that would be bad for users looking for their products. Instead they should go back and change every instance of links arranged as part of paid campaigns to include rel=”nofollow”. Finally, passing around a memo with search quality guidelines within Google’s marketing team might help them avoid any future embarrassments.

Dan Petrovic is a well-known Australian SEO and a managing director of Dejan SEO. He has published numerous research articles in the field of search engine optimisation and online marketing. Dan's work is highly regarded by the world-wide SEO community and featured on some of the most reputable websites in the industry.

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8 Responses to “Should Google Penalize Itself?”

  1. Whether this was organised as an internal campaign or via a marketing agency, in the age of Google – I think it is pretty poor form of anyone involved to not at least be passingly familiar with link guidelines. I’m not expecting them to be masters of the universe but doing it blindly is fairly poor form, especially since in many areas of the world advertisers are already obligated to disclose the fact that it is a paid placement and not editorial.

    • Alistair Lattimore
  2. True. A simple memo and training of all new staff and agencies should do the trick.

    • Dejan SEO
  3. Disavow! :)))

    • Giacomo Pelagatti
  4. > since in many areas of the world advertisers are already obligated to
    disclose the fact that it is a paid placement and not editorial.

    Uhm, no. It is the publisher’s responsibility to disclose any paid advertisement.

    • Giacomo Pelagatti
  5. No, no, no…. you need to clean up first and then disavow what cannot be cleaned.

    • Dejan SEO
  6. Google gets lot of free links when bloggers and highly authoritative sites link to their newly released products, business announcements etc. Google gets lot of high quality click through referral traffic to their domain. So to be frank Google need not go for dofollow advertorial links and knowingly or unknowingly they shouldn’t themselves break the webmaster guidelines.

    • Rank Watch
  7. Someone needs to grasp thier balls in one hand and cut off the penis with a rusty iron bar with the other. It won’t be a clean cut and blood will gush everywhere, but isn’t this a poetic statement to the “dic” tutorship google has on search and the will to do whatever they want to hard working SEO professionals? I ask you gentlemen, lets rise up!

    • Anon
  8. Hello Dejan,

    When I started to have link issues after the release of the latest algorithm updates, I remove them manually. Still, I have to disavow everything that I wasn’t able to remove. It’s simple but time-consuming especially if you have to address other important issues. Anyway, I have to admit that we can’t do anything but to follow Google’s rules to survive in this industry.

    • Spook SEO

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