Google vs. Sponsored Posts: Protect your Blog from Penalty

Google vs. Sponsored PostsSponsored posts are a preferred blog monetization strategy.

Your blog is like real estate where it isn’t wrong to ‘rent out space’, that is, publish sponsored posts; but, you need to follow certain rules of the trade.

Once upon a Time…Google paid Bloggers for Sponsored Posts

…surprised?

In 2012, reports emerge that Google paid bloggers to publish sponsored posts in order to promote the Chrome browser.

A search of “This post is sponsored by Google” yields 400+ results.

Sponsored Posts by Google

In short, Google is found guilty of practicing what it doesn’t want other advertisers and bloggers to follow. SearchEngineLand.com covers the issue, followed by Google’s response.  Apparently, they did have a campaign to promote Chrome browser but it wasn’t what they signed-up for.

Personally, I feel sad thinking a giant like Google can’t control and monitor their project and its outcome.

No one knows the truth for sure but this is one instance where Google goofed up!

Is Google against Sponsored Posts?

Google’s penalty of popular guest blogging network like MyBlogGuest and PostJoint create confusions. Bloggers and advertisers are reluctant to pursue sponsored content advertorials thinking Google will penalise them.

The perception is without any conclusive evidence.

The fact remains that Google isn’t against publishing sponsored posts. There are only two criteria:

  • the links mentioned in the sponsored post is “nofollow”
  • the content isn’t thin.

If your blog adheres to these two criterions, there isn’t any chance of receiving any kind of manual penalty.

Why should Sponsored Posts links be NoFollow?

In a post titled, Paid Posts should not affect Search Engine, Matt Cutts says:

Clear disclosure of sponsorship is critical, and that includes disclosure for search engines. If link in a paid post would affect search engines, that link should not pass PageRank (e.g. by using the nofollow attribute).

Google – and other search engines – do take action which can include demoting sites that sell links that pass PageRank, for example.

Note the underlined words.

How to Convince Advertisers to Accept NoFollow?

Sadly…advertisers only want DoFollow links!

I know how it feels. Even though advertisers know that Google is against paid dofollow links, it still wants bloggers to offer the same.

Chances are that if 10 advertisers contact you and you offer only nofollow links, maybe just 1 will show interest, right?

See, you can’t educate everyone but make the effort to explain certain factors to potential advertisers. Tell them how Google perceives sponsored posts and that if they want dofollow links only, it will spoil their business in the long run. Sooner or later, Google will get a whiff of things and before they even bat an eyelid, the advertiser’s site will be out of search engines.

Moreover, show them your blog statistics such as PR, DA, PA, MozRank, daily / monthly Pageviews and unique visitors. If an advertiser is looking for brand visibility and engagement, these statistics will matter more than the nature of a link!

Of course, be prepared to receive less advertising deals because not all advertisers will agree to the proposition but fret not, you’re protecting your blog and their business.

Tips to Safeguard your Blog

(a)…if your blog isn’t penalised.

If your blog isn’t penalised yet:

  • You’re following a safe linking policy, that is, adding ‘nofollow’ to sponsored posts.
  • Google hasn’t spotted you yet!

If the second option applies to you, follow these steps:

  • Add the rel=”nofollow” tag to all sponsored content published previously. You can do this manually by logging into your WordPress or Blogger blogs, visiting each blog post and making the change. This option is not feasible for blogs containing a large number of published content. Therefore, if you have a WordPress blog, use any of these WordPress plugins – WP External Links, Follow NoFollow Control and NoFollow for External Link. If you have a blog on Blogger, refer to this post and follow the steps.
  • Resubmit the blog index via Google Webmaster Tools (GWT).

If you want to add the rel=”nofollow” manually, follow the image example and read the post detailing all about the NoFollow attribute.

Nofollow link example

(b)…if your blog is penalised.

If your blog receives a manual penalty notification from GWT you need to take action immediately.

Give the Google team a couple of weeks to process the reconsideration request. If it’s approved, your blog will be promoted to its original rankings; otherwise, you have to try again, following the same process.

Can we NOT depend on Google?

No, we can’t.

Google Inc. is a search engine giant, like a monolith structure. It doesn’t have any competition (as of now) and your readers visit Google everyday…so how can you avoid Google? You can’t.

Therefore, it’s better to play it safe; play by the rules and keep your blog safe.

What do you think?

Comments

  1. says

    Hello Chitraparna Ma’am,

    I think it’s very difficult to convince Advertisers for NoFollow links. So, in my thinking, the only to stay away from penalty is by Not accepting Paid Posts unless contacted by Advertiser who ready to for Nofollow link (which is very Rare).

    • says

      I understand that Atinder but if you have a blog with great engagement and brand value, I don’t think “informed” advertisers would hesitate. If bloggers stop accepting paid posts, an important advertisement model will go out of business and that’s not possible.

      The need of the hour is to inform potential advertisers that asking for a dofollow link jeopardises their own business.

  2. says

    Looks like they don’t practice what they preach. They are like our politicians who always do the opposite of what is required of them and most of the time its destructive. Basically do what you want and diversify your traffic.

  3. says

    Hi Chitraparna,

    I have a lot of sites and when I go into them to make changes, update, etc. I usually make all links nofollow except sometimes I leave links to my personal blog alone or in other words dofollow. Most of my links mainly are only to send traffic to different sites of mine.

    Also if I have a lot of wikipedia links (some of my sites have a lot of images from there) I usually make about half of them nofollow whenever I go into a page with such links.

    • says

      Hi Charles,

      Wonderful to see you here :) Don’t you think making all external links nofollow is bad? I mean ads should be nofollow but what about referential links given within a blog post?

      BTW, how do you get links from Wikipedia?

  4. says

    Chitraparna,

    Yes , probably making all external links nofollow is bad. But in my case almost all of my external links go to my own sites and use SEO keywords. The ratio is way to high, so I am making them generally nofollow instead of changing the linking words. Anyway I only make changes if necessary, so still a great majority of my outbound links are still not nofollow.

    As far as wikipedia I mean outbound links going to wikipedia. I sometimes have links going to images or to the author of the images. Also I have external links going to wikipedia for terms or words that need a definition or explanation. In my travelquizweekly site almost all the images are from wikipedia. I’ve read you should make links going to wikipedia nofollow. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I feel I need to make some of them nofollow anyway.

  5. says

    I did not understand y google is penalising for paid post? Paid post is for advertising their product and improve the site and page rank. What is the harm in if bloggers give dofollow link?

    • says

      …that is precisely why Google is penalising bloggers. Google doesn’t have any problem with paid posts but those posts shouldn’t pass dofollow link juice because by doing so, according to them, bloggers are helping advertisers to “manipulate” the search engine rankings.

  6. says

    It is hard to convince the advertiser to get nofollow links but still there are many advertisers who are only concerned with branding and traffic so that they do give deals with nofollow links too. I am not sure but Google is doing everything to solidify its own business model. Suppose if are business websites are not able to get dofollow links then they might not rank well(not necessarily) and if they do have to run their business then they have to advertise with adwords and the money will to Google.

    Whatever it be but we cannot ignore Google hence we have to do what Google likes. Nice post Chitraparna.

    • says

      You’re right Atish. Google is solidifying its way to become a monopoly, if it isn’t already. It’s tough time for bloggers, especially those who depend on sponsored content as their primary monetization strategy. Don’t you think?

      Nice to see you on my blog.

  7. says

    This is an interesting read, Chitraparna, especially because I was just looking into sponsored reviews recently.

    I think I can (occasionally) live with a nofollow link or two from a blog post. In the end, as long as your blog delivers exceptional quality, many readers will undoubtedly follow you and may ultimately become long-term fans.

    And as you know, the sky is the limit once you pull that kind of attraction. A loyal fan base could equal word of mouth, an astounding reputation, and many more sales.

    While dofollow links are great, Google (or competing sites) can always make your ranking drop on any given day.

    Anyway, thanks for the heads up about the potential pitfalls of sponsored reviews.
    Take care!
    Elvis Michael

    • says

      You’re right on point Michael. If a review on a popular site fulfills your purposes – signups, branding, exposure – a nofollow link will suit fine. It ultimately boils down to how the advertiser perceives ranking and truth be told, a lot of SEO agencies misguide their clients.

      In the end, not only the blogger but the advertiser suffers too if Google decides to drop rankings, isn’t it?

      Thanks for visiting and adding your valuable opinion.
      Chitraparna

  8. says

    Through the whole post I like the last point and that is actually right. We never ever depend on Google. I take Google same way like I take Yahoo and Bing. I always give priority to three of them more and these threes are same for me. Thanks Chitraparna for the lovely post. :)

    Regards!!
    Hiten

  9. says

    Rules are rules and should be followed. Though I think that majority of bloggers simply would not publish paid blog posts. Loyal readers will immediately know that. Well, I guess advitisers are also aware about the dangers and majority would accept nofollow attribute on links.

    • says

      Well, bloggers have become a confused lot. I believe that it is important to monetise a blog. As you say, readers come to know if its paid content or not. I think readers won’t find any issue with paid content unless and until the paid content is useful to the loyal readers.

      What do you think?

  10. says

    I think nothing will change until we actively fight Google and its imposed rules on webmasters. We are indipendent beings and so we should stat online, too.

    I’m soon launching a project to fight Google and give advertising freedom back to people. Matt Cutts knows, because I openly invited him to come and penalize my project upon launch.

    Gonna be fun. ;)

    Luana

  11. says

    Personally I don’t think advertisers would listen to bloggers in this aspect. They pay bloggers only because of do-follow links. As long as the sponsored post is very much relevant to your site there are lesser chances to get penalized. Again it will not be going to happen in every case. Unfortunately there is no strong alternative to Google. People are compelled to bend their heads before Google’s Monopoly. Thanks for the insightful post Chitraparna. :)

    • says

      You’re partially right, Suresh. There are a lot of advertisers who understand that it is stupidity to run after dofollow links always.

      Did you come across the recent news about PR update? Google won’t update the toolbar anymore. I wonder how advertisers are going to deal with this now.

  12. says

    Hi Chitraparna,

    Thanks for replying to my comment! :)

    The project is the site linked in my name, an advertising community that supports collaboration between advertisers and bloggers and discourages the use of external metrics like PageRank or Domain Authority.

    The project launched two weeks ago, so there’s still plenty of work to do; I’m trying to build mindshare for now. I just wanted to offer an alternative to all those website owners and advertisers who feel trapped inside the current mechanism (that doesn’t work anyway, because it ends up in penalties for both sides) and get to work the way they always wanted to.

    For example, instead of evaluating a website or blog on the basis of PR or Alexa or DA or indexed pages in Google or Bing (all of these are vendor-biased metrics, not objective metrics), advertisers can assess blogs on more objective metrics such as number and quality of comments (conversations), traffic analytics display (e.g. SeeTheStats.com), number of subscribers, quality of content and dedication to the community built around the blog/site.

    I can tell you a bit more via email, or this comment will turn out a super long papyrus. :)

    Thank you!

    Luana

    P.S. M. Cutts isn’t back from leave yet, so our challenge is on hold for now.

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