This week Google sent out an outbound linking penalties warning to a mass number of webmasters (mainly bloggers).
The warning was to those who do not follow Google’s guidelines around those linking to sites (social media account, website, merchant page, review services page, mobile app page, etc) as a direct result of monetary incentives, free products or free services.
If bloggers do this then they need to have a rel=nofollow tag attached to them.
This penalty only affects the websites linking out, and not the websites being linked to (for now).
Google’s advice for bloggers & webmasters who have been penalised or want to follow best practice is:
1. Nofollow the link, if you decide to link to the company’s site, the company’s social media accounts, an online merchant’s page that sells the product, a review service’s page featuring reviews of the product or the company’s mobile app in an app store.
2. Disclose that you are writing this content because the company gave you the product for free. Google said, “Users want to know when they’re viewing sponsored content,” and sometimes there is a legal requirement to do so.
3. Create compelling, unique content so that it adds value beyond what is out on the web.
Google said you should “provide exclusive content that only you can create due to your unique expertise or resources.”
If a post was made because of a free product (or free service, or just paid, etc.), then any links placed there need to have a rel=nofollow tag attached to them. This includes links to the product itself, any sales pages (such as on Amazon), affiliate links, social media profiles, etc. that are associated with that post.
Additionally, I imagine your readers would also appreciate it if those posts were labeled appropriately. It’s fine to keep these kinds of posts up, sometimes there’s a lot of useful information in them! However, the links in those posts specifically need to be modified so that they don’t pass PageRank (by using the rel=nofollow).
Interestingly, Google have tightened up their policy on repeat offending sites due to some webmasters removing the ‘nofollow’ tag following reconsideration. They state that it will not be as easy to achieve success with future reconsideration requests when the intention is to spam.
Summary: I still think blogger outreach can form part of your SEO strategy however you need to stick within Google’s rules as set out above.
[as featured on Global Business Intelligence]