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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:4547973
 7:28 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

For those who haven't head about this situation, see Google Says No Comment On Why Interflora Was Penalized [searchengineland.com]

However, just a few hours after that particular article was posted today, I now see that all the rankings for Interflora seem to be restored. So whatever the real story is, it doesn't seem to be the standard type of "penalty".

Andy Langton




msg:4547976
 7:30 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

In the UK at least, they're still a no-show for their own name.

netmeg




msg:4547981
 7:37 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

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?


Cause it's probably not considered "natural" linking. Pretty much anything a company does themselves in order to get a link isn't considered natural linking these days.

tedster




msg:4547982
 7:37 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Interesting. I was checking on google.co.uk - but from the US.

cabbie




msg:4547984
 7:44 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

I would guess that the U.k. version of interFlora is banned.
They bought lots of 'guest articles' on many UK newspapers promoting Valentines day.
All those newspapers have lost their page rank now.

HuskyPup




msg:4547987
 7:51 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Do we now expect that EVERY single newspaper/magazine/blog/website review is now going to be banned no matter the product, cars, TVs, computers, beds, hotels, food, holidays, whatever?

In fact, let's all obey the mighty Gorg and not talk or write about anything at all then they'll be $crewed with nothing to $crape!

cabbie




msg:4548002
 8:09 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

These were blatant one page ads displayed as part of the newspapers content and specifically about interflora.
See later post.[searchengineland.com ]

This could have been done so much better and more subtly.

Andy Langton




msg:4548011
 8:31 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's pretty much an open secret by now that newspapers sites sell anchor text links. I would assume Google is openly declaring that it isn't news to them that this is occurring. Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken so many years for them to do so.

HuskyPup




msg:4548013
 8:34 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's time I got out of this $tupid bu$ine$$, doesn't this kind of Google action concern anyone else?

What would happen if I took 50 hacks from the top 50 widget trade mags on an all expenses paid visit to my new factory in whichever country and provided them with all the information they needed, complete with samples and sweetner products, and on their return they all wrote about my new factory and my widget products and linked to me.

Am I to be penalised for what's been going on for years in every industry on every continent? Geesh, fubard, Gs fubard business because they clearly haven't a clue what really happens!

Andy Langton




msg:4548015
 8:37 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Am I to be penalised for what's been going on for years in every industry on every continent?


But that isn't what happened here. It doesn't take too much of a look at the link profile to see that this was about specifically buying anchor text links with the sole purpose of manipulating Google results. Literally a 10 second look at their links will tell you all of their main target keywords.

johnhh




msg:4548042
 9:01 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

"sole purpose of manipulating Google results"

Or maybe they were just having a marketing campaign - nothing to do with Google.

Andy Langton




msg:4548044
 9:06 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Or maybe they were just having a marketing campaign - nothing to do with Google.


If you have a reason why requesting specific anchor text is part of a "marketing" campaign that isn't to do with ranking better in search, I'm happy to hear it :)

goodroi




msg:4548058
 9:52 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

As someone who has played with paid links including links on newspaper sites - it is 99% of the time only for Google manipulation. These links usually cost a good bit of money and rarely generate enough sales to come close to covering the cost of the link. They are (or I should say were) a smart investment because you could quickly recover the link cost with the sales from higher Google rankings.

You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still just a pig at the end of the day.

A better investment would have been for more natural link development. Imagine a contest to rewrite the "roses are red, violets are blue" poem and the top 100 poems would have won free Valentine roses. Something like that would have naturally generated publicity, goodwill and backlinks. Of course the backlinks would not have grown as fast or with just the right anchor text but it would have been much less obvious manipulation.

Andy Langton




msg:4548069
 10:32 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well, exactly. I can't really see how Google is the bad guy in this sort of situation. If you go for buying anchor text links, you do so in the knowledge that Google specifically outlaws those techniques for its own results, and that's their prerogative.

If anything, unless you're a reasonably big brand or have deep pockets, this is surely a good thing. Brands are protected by their otherwise strong profiles from most algorithmic problems in a way that "the little guy" certainly isn't.

johnhh




msg:4548091
 11:25 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

"requesting specific anchor text is part of a 'marketing' campaign that isn't to do with ranking"

You are assuming it was requested by a SEO or intended to be an optimisation technique - no proof of that. It could also be .. let's see what entices people to click the link is it "great flowers online" or "don't forget your flowers for Mothers Day !" ?

Web site marketing and sales is not all about SEO !

Sometimes its about getting the message across to the maximum number of people. If you have got the budget what better way to spend it than a marketing campaign on major newspapers seen by millions each day.

Andy Langton




msg:4548096
 11:40 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

There appears to be a follow-up directly from Google on this:
A reminder about selling links that pass PageRank

Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or "advertorial" pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations.

[googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...]

oliondor




msg:4548100
 12:02 am on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

So when I offer products to review to bloggers and get a backlink I will be banned ? <snip> Google, doing evil again, hope these Chinese will show Google who is the master of the world !

[edited by: Andy_Langton at 12:12 am (utc) on Feb 23, 2013]
[edit reason] Please use language appropriate for a professional's forum [/edit]

Andy Langton




msg:4548104
 12:16 am on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

So when I offer products to review to bloggers and get a backlink I will be banned?


If you see above, Google have pretty much said that they targeted "advertorials" that deliberately intend to sell links.

From my experience, it is pretty rare for bloggers to use keyword anchor text unless it is requested - after all, they don't know what your keyword targets are anyway. If you take the step of requesting or paying for specific anchor text that matches your organic search targets, you're going to be pretty high on the radar.

johnhh




msg:4548110
 1:02 am on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Do you guys in the USA have 'restraint of trade' legislation ?

I mean does the USA have such laws....

brotherhood of LAN




msg:4548111
 1:47 am on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

it is pretty rare for bloggers to use keyword anchor text unless it is requested


Indeed. Maybe a tiny percentage would, but certainly not the majority. I haven't looked at the backlinks but I can guess that there's a higher percentage of keyword rich text from sites that have commonality.

Google still can't measure intent but either way it's never nice to be on the wrong side of a penalty.

I just checked the brand name on G UK from a Canadian IP and the site wasn't returned.

claaarky




msg:4548142
 8:57 am on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you obtain a high volume of links that don't generate traffic it's a pretty good sign it's just a link building exercise.

If you're in 13,000 google+ circles but when you post there's zero interaction it's a good sign that's all been done for SEO.

If you place content underneath your footer that's a good sign it's not for users.

Looks like they've gone for it on all fronts.

superclown2




msg:4548171
 12:08 pm on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

An excellent move IMO. I can think of lots of big companies that have doing this for years and getting away with it, perhaps the playing field can get a little more level now.

netmeg




msg:4548176
 2:00 pm on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

Stupid move on their part; Google's been very clear about how they feel about paid links. If they *weren't* for SEO purposes, they could have slapped a nofollow on them - they didn't. They didn't have to request specific anchor text - they did.

Am I concerned about Google doing this? Not one bit. I believe that stupidity should get what it deserves.

All you people complaining about domain crowding and too much big brand should be supporting this action. Or is it okay if the big brand buys their way to the top as opposed to being "granted" good SERPs by Google?

ZydoSEO




msg:4548225
 7:06 pm on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you play with fire, you will eventually get burned. I honestly don't feel sorry for them one bit. They commited the crime... now they need to suck it up and do the time.

seoskunk




msg:4548242
 9:33 pm on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

They commited the crime...


Crime...thats funny. Still it shows how a "brand" can not be trusted anymore than a small business. For those who disagree please enjoy your Horse Burgers.....

ZydoSEO




msg:4548281
 2:03 am on Feb 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

crime = guideline violation
time = penalty

metaphorically speaking. ;)

bsterz




msg:4548293
 3:16 am on Feb 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

JohnH - I undersand your sentiment, but in reality we know that this is not true. We all know that anchor text is used to manipulate SERPs. Users would be just fine with for "flowers for your mother we suggest: flowerwidets.com."

I feel the same way for who everyone who cries about Google not just discounting bad links. It cannot allow for ppl to intentionally manipulate their product w/o penalizing them. To do so would be counterproductive.

martinibuster




msg:4548300
 4:19 am on Feb 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

This action by Google doesn't seem to be indicative of a crackdown on the UK link selling scene. If so, then those in the UK should heave a sigh of relief.

No offense intended, but I have encountered sites in the UK that have been aggressively soliciting paid advertorials that are not labeled as paid. The cynical attitude I have encountered that puts a price on everything is straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. It's shocking when a non-profit type organization lunges a hand down your back pocket. Gives the impression that everything is for sale, regardless if it's nailed down or not.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4548315
 7:10 am on Feb 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

Why not let it be?

Let's count the reasons. Interflora is owned by United Online I believe.

United Online is the company with shady registration practices on their free NetZero internet platform - many customers won lawsuits ordering United Online to repay automated payments they took without warning or option to avoid being charged on free services.

Classmates, owned by United Online, was ordered to pay as a result of violating member privacy in a class action suit.

United Online is the company charged with fraud not once but twice by the FBI due to the same thing on its points website. Most of the leadership left when they couldn't get their social platform, classmates, sold or listed on wall st.

Classmates was ordered to repay members $15 each in a federal class action suit because they tricked members into paying extra for gold memberships, this was yet another different suit.

I don't have all of the specifics but I will say I am NOT surprised with this company having this kind of trouble.

Another of United Online's websites, Memory Lane, caused so many problems for a real company already called Memory Lane Inc that they got sued for that name too. Apparently the frustrated United Online Memory Lane customers were so fed up they kept contacting the other company to complain not knowing it wasn't United Online. [geekwire.com...]

That's going to happen when the only way to reach a company is by paying for support, they hide all phone numbers and offer per minute support/contact instead. Shady...

In comparison this news is not surprising, imo, their rep is mud and the odds are Google has had to deal with them before.

[edited by: Sgt_Kickaxe at 7:34 am (utc) on Feb 24, 2013]

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