What Google’s Revised Blogger Guidelines Mean for PR Professionals
Lots of brands send influential bloggers free gifts in the hope of bagging a good review and a product link back to their sites. And it’s not surprising seeing as a single mention or a link from a popular blogger can transform a brand overnight.
Take beauty brand Colourpop. (We’ve talked about their success previously.) After sending free gifts to top millennial bloggers Coffee Break with Dani and Kathleen Lights, the brand received glowing reviews and the brand shot to fame, promptly selling out of its flagship product.
These influential bloggers not only helped build Colourpop’s credibility with its target market, their reviews and links to the brand’s website boosted Colourpop’s position on Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), the Holy Grail for marketers.
This sort of transaction between brand and blogger has been common practice for some time now, and is happening more, as bloggers – and vloggers – become more and more influential in the online space.
But what does Google think? The last few years has seen the mighty search engine waging a war on unnatural links i.e. those links that have been bought in order to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google’s SERPs search result. It’s unleashed a number of weapons including the so-called Penguin update and manual action penalties to combat unnatural linking. And this was followed by a Google announcement about changes to its Blogger Guidelines, and how brands engage with influencers.
The Guideline states that buying or selling links, which includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a ‘free’ product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link, can now negatively affect a site’s rakings.
The way forward
Bad news for brands? Not quite. If you’re planning on approaching a blogger with an offer to review your brand or products, you’ll need to make sure they visibly flag the post as ‘sponsored’ and any links included in the post are ‘nofollow’. What does that mean? It means the link will still be there, but the ‘SEO juice’ or authority won’t flow through to your brand’s site in an attempt to boost its rankings on SERPs.
So the three key points to remember:
- Any blogger you engage with needs to state in their post that it is supported or sponsored in collaboration
- ‘Nofollow’ links must be included in the post
- All content must be fresh, interesting and unique
It’s important that bloggers and brands review old posts, so supported or sponsored content can be disclosed and you avoid incurring Google’s wrath.
The future of link building
Engagement with bloggers and influencers is a great way to hit those KPIs by raising brand recognition, achieving valuable coverage for your products or services, and increasing traffic to your brand’s site. But as we’ve seen, this legitimate marketing tactic, is now very much on Google’s radar. The changes are undoubtedly going to create challenges from an SEO perspective but there are ways round it.
Continuing to work with bloggers and influencers should remain integral to your marketing and PR strategies. As long as you remember the three key points above, you can overcome this minor roadblock that Google has placed in front of your online traffic.