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The Interflora Penalty for "Paid" links
Gmorgan




msg:4547898
 4:33 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Has anyone seen the story doing the rounds today about Interflora?

Their SEO firm had been doing some blogger outreach which focused on giving away flowers in exchange for a review and a link back to the site.

It was working well and is something most SEO/PR firms would consider a great strategy but their very impressive rankings were torn down by a penalty this week.

Looks like they crossed the line into link buying and Google took action.

I don't think all is as it seems but I do think Google is in the wrong if it is for these blog links. This is a solid PR strategy that has stood the test of time, so who are they to say that it's no longer an option? It's not like it was spamming or black-hat, so why not let it be?

 

tedster




msg:4549305
 3:34 am on Feb 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

Schmidt's statement seems to inply that Google gave up trying to identify real quality and fell back on brands as the only solution they were capable of coming up with.

Schmidt's comment about brands came in 2007 and Panda 1.0 was released in 2011 - Google's first serious attempt to measure "quality" via an algorithm.

Marketing Guy




msg:4549351
 9:29 am on Feb 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would expect Interflora to make a recovery of sorts. They have at least been cleaning up their link building efforts (including a bunch of links that were actual decent and could be considered acceptable). Whether or not they'll clean up their low quality content is another thing - that stuff would have had any other site hit by Panda by now.

It'll be interesting to watch though. A basic cleanup job may see most rankings return - a completely new strategy may see them lost for good, or even better ones claimed in their place.

markd




msg:4549520
 5:54 pm on Feb 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

Wow Martinbuster - I didn't expect get so much bile from a Moderator in response to my post! Sorry if it offended you or gave you the wrong impression on the points I was genuinely trying to make and the questions I was asking.

I get the picture about 'no follow' - as you say it's so simple even someone like me can understand it.

<< It's not a "win-win" situation where you get your link, the publisher gets a good article, and the readers get useful content... You can dress it up and call it a win-win situation for everybody but it's still a paid link.>>

Sorry, we'll have to disagree about this. I think it's entirely possible to pay to have your message brought in front of an audience via a media owners' website (or any other channel) AND in doing so provide useful content to the readership. Paying might be about getting the prominence, it's then about what you do with it. It would seem a waste of budget to me to get somebody's ear and not use this opportunity to their and your advantage. That's the win win. It's not all about 'the link', although I know some who may disagree that 'Google is not the internet' these days.

Clearly that's not the ethos behind the Interflora approach but it's certainly one we try to impress on our clients when they consider any kind of marketing and promotion - online or otherwise.

aristotle




msg:4549576
 7:59 pm on Feb 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

Schmidt's statement seems to inply that Google gave up trying to identify real quality and fell back on brands as the only solution they were capable of coming up with.

Schmidt's comment about brands came in 2007 and Panda 1.0 was released in 2011 - Google's first serious attempt to measure "quality" via an algorithm.

Well, if my interpretation of Schmidt's statement is wrong, then what did he mean?

Btw, Panda didn't directly boost any sites to higher rankings. In fact, its main effect was to demote certain types of sites so as to clear the way for brands to move higher.

Andy Langton




msg:4549577
 8:04 pm on Feb 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

In fact, its main effect was to demote certain types of sites so as to clear the way for brands to move higher.


That's a simplistic view, IMO. It's nothing to do with brands (in the offline sense of the word, anyway) and many major websites suffered at the hands of Panda, just as many lesser known websites ranked well. I think connecting Panda with brands is a mistake.

As for Schmidt, he seems to like the idea of getting press for controversial comments, so I've never held too much stock in his views - at least as they might directly translate to algorithmic changes. Google's general direction, sure, but directly equating those comments with particular updates is a stretch too far.

tedster




msg:4549650
 3:27 am on Feb 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

It seems clear to me that Schmidt was talking about using brand as a signal - just not exclusively. In other words, they are still working to identify "quality" content in addition to rewarding those businesses who have built a brand... because Google's end users like brands.

It was 2009 (two years later) when Update Vince [webmasterworld.com] clearly rewarded many big brands. However, we still don't know exactly what factors define a brand in Google's eyes,

Whitey




msg:4549800
 12:05 pm on Feb 28, 2013 (gmt 0)

we still don't know exactly what factors define a brand in Google's eyes

In some major verticals it's the brands with the largest ad spend / market capitalizations on an international and regional basis. Probably that equals a lot of activity and buzz that might contribute to arms length signals and overides more irrelevant and secondary ranking techniques.

Editorial may play a part also in major verticals.

It may not work exactly like that, but it sure looks and seems someone put a do not disturb sign on certain brands with demotions and penalties. If it fit's the commercial and quality objectives, manipulative techniques appear to be ignored. And for sites to overide the brands with improved UI/quality/authority , there isn't exactly a plethora of success being published out there [ although as i mentioned earlier, reduced resources would have constrained a lot folks].

I guess Google needed to draw a line in the sand and redraw the starting point of what they wanted to see [ not what we wanted to be seen ] as central to their content / product offerings and commercial strategies.

Interflora, clearly irked the heck out of the SPAM team and whoever else at Google was in on the decision [ if at all ].

jay_v




msg:4550922
 1:54 pm on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

Looks like they have got the rankings back : [searchengineland.com...]

Shaddows




msg:4551284
 8:37 am on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I wonder if Interflora's legal dept was active in that decision.

Here in the UK, it's Mothers' Day on Sunday; a very significant sales period. I'm sure InterFlora would have been looking at a significant impact in terms of business through lost rankings.

11 days is no time at all for a violation so severe that it made a blog post. Either Google didn't want the flack from an InterFlora profit warning, or something legalistic happened.

Unless I'm missing something?

Whitey




msg:4551307
 9:29 am on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I guess it will be interesting to know how the release of the penalty has been applied across previously ranking keywords and/or what treatment has been given to the SPAM activity specifically e.g. neutralising those offending links. It seems we'll need to wait a while.

Has Interflora been given consideration that others could not otherwise expect?

IanTurner




msg:4551368
 1:59 pm on Mar 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

It is possible that Interflora is now being given consideration that most of us could not expect to get, however I think that this case is actually a real step in the right direction by Google in dealing with the blatant bribery of the 'traditional media' (newspaper & magazine) sites by the PR departments of large companies as part of their SEO strategies.

In a lot of cases to get an aticle in a newspaper or magazine and a link on their website you pay a PR consultant a chunk of money, they give half of it to their mate who is a journalist and bingo their you have your article and link.

Whitey




msg:4551571
 1:41 am on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

A report here [seroundtable.com...] assuming that the newspapers took down their links and a reconsideration request might have been sent. Can anyone verify the former?

Just 11 days. How easy can it be?

johnhh




msg:4551576
 2:11 am on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

Has Interflora been given consideration that others could not otherwise expect?


American owned - tick
Big Adwords spend - tick
Well known brand - tick
US Legal Team - tick

easy really.

Chris_D




msg:4551605
 4:45 am on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

What I actually thought was pretty amazing was the timing....

- Valentines Day February 14
- A week later, Interflora goes AWOL in the SERPS & frantic clean up commences...
- Feb 22, Matt Cutts warns about advertorial link buying.
- March 3rd - Interflora reappears in the SERPS
- March 10th is UK "Mothering Sunday" (Mother's Day)

I find it fascinating that a penalty happens a week after Valentines Day, and the penalty is removed a week before Mother's Day - the two biggest sales events on a Flower sellers calendar.
Coincidence?

Or the big G just sending a message - 'It could have been far worse guys....'

aristotle




msg:4551748
 2:49 pm on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

Or the big G just sending a message - 'It could have been far worse guys....'

Except it wasn't far worse.

This cheating by Interflora was a gross violation of Google's rules, but since they're a big brand, all they got was a little slap on the wrist. The only message this will send is - IT PAYS TO CHEAT. How much extra money did Interflora make from their cheating? I bet it was a lot more than they lost due to this short penalty.

FranticFish




msg:4551751
 3:03 pm on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

Their rankings have returned for more than just their brand name: they're back for 'flowers' here in the UK.

I'd love to know what went on behind the scenes, but I think you could make quite a good legal argument that all rankings that Interflora enjoyed up to the latest link buy should be returned if those links were removed.

If Google penalised for a certain set of links, then those links = bad.

If Google didn't take action before then, then it could be argued that everything done to that point was OK with Google, because they didn't act on it.

HuskyPup




msg:4551769
 3:52 pm on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

<ot a bit>

American owned - tick
Big Adwords spend - tick
Well known brand - tick
US Legal Team - tick


Oh, I just had to check that out since I've always known it as British with its HQ very near to where I live. Seems it was sold to the US in 2007 with another onward sale in 2008.

Never knew that.

</ot>

johnhh




msg:4551775
 3:59 pm on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

@HuskyPup

The other night some of us here, at different locations across the UK, started analysing the ownership of .co.uk's, .com's, and other TLD's that appeared for a wide variety of searches, from info to ecommerce. It was quite revealing..... although sometimes you had to dig into things a bit.

Initially it just a bit of fun, until you see a pattern.

Leosghost




msg:4551780
 4:09 pm on Mar 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

Interflora is huge..it now owns all the wholesale suppliers who sell things like wires and oasis and cellophane etc to all the florists in France..and even a lot of the wholesale flower dealers..

I agree with johnhh's first post..and yes tracking and tracing who really owns what in any country tld can be very interesting..

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