Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 54.205.89.199

Forum Moderators: goodroi

Message Too Old, No Replies

Exposing Google Loopholes

How Brands are Buying Their Way to the Top of Google

     
2:48 pm on Feb 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 13, 2002
posts:14316
votes: 270


Marty Weintraub has written an article titled, Exposing Google Loopholes In Light Of @FTC Native Guidelines [aimclearblog.com] in which he details discussions with Mashable.com where it becomes increasingly apparently that the native advertising product they sell is may violate FTC guidelines requiring disclosure of advertising as well as Google's own guidelines separating advertising from content.

There are several areas of concern for publishers selling native advertising. First, Google has well documented SEO Webmaster Guidelines (search engine optimization) and Google News quality guidelines, which webmasters should adhere to in order to avoid being penalized or even delisted from Google results. Second, the FTC has weighed in on disclosure requirements for ads to help audiences understand what content is authentic editorial versus content purchased by advertisers.


Marty notes a gap in Google's Guidelines regarding advertorials in the SERPs:

When it comes to Web Search results for on-page advertorial content itself, Google doesn’t guide marketers much. Google rules deal with linking from paid pages, with little guidance governing body content in native, paid articles. It’s confusing to us that Google allows paid content to impact organic Web Search.


Marty is correct, there does seem to be a lack of guidance to webmasters. But there is no lack of guidance for Google's quality raters. Google's own quality raters guidelines states:

"Advertising should never disguise itself as the.." [Main Content] "..of the page. Pages with Ads that are designed to look like MC should be considered deceptive."


Google's own quality raters guidelines expressly states that advertising designed to look like content should be classified with the lowest possible ratings. So what's going on? Are brands free to sell positions in Google Organic SERPs and Google News and big brands are free to buy their way to the top?
4:37 pm on Feb 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

Administrator from GB 

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month

joined:May 9, 2000
posts:23532
votes: 413


Well, that's an interesting discovery by Marty, and thanks for posting it.

I wouldn't call it a loophole, but I cannot see that remaining for long as it stands.
6:39 pm on Feb 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

Moderator from GB 

WebmasterWorld Administrator andy_langton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Jan 27, 2003
posts:3332
votes: 140


I guess this is a loophole in the sense that there doesn't seem to be clear guidance from Google on ranking advertorials, just guidelines about not having value-passing links from them. In a way, it's actually pretty forward-thinking of Mashable to be doing this in a world where traditional link-selling is probably the default for media sites.

Other than pattern-matching "disclosure" paragraphs, I can't see much that Google can do about this, though. Is the future a Google full of native advertising? Maybe.
8:29 pm on Feb 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 28, 2013
posts:2698
votes: 408


I'm surprised this thread isn't in the Google Search forum, since it's about search. In any case, Matt Cutts talked about native advertising, a.k.a. advertorial, more than 2-1/2 years ago, and it got quite a lot of coverage at the time:

[searchengineland.com...]

As engine says, "I cannot see that remaining for long as it stands." And it would seem easy enough for Google to identify and ignore any advertorial that meets the FTC disclosure guidelines.
9:02 pm on Feb 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 25, 2005
posts:1222
votes: 124


Google News is the biggest loophole here, in my opinion. There's pretty much zero quality control, so it's relatively easy to start ranking for highly competitive trending searches. Whether you bring real news or advertising disguised as news doesn't really matter, it all gets through once you are allowed in.
8:25 pm on Feb 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 28, 2013
posts:2698
votes: 408


Maybe Google News should charge a fee for publishers to participate--possibly a sliding scale, but with a minimum fee high enough to discourage scraper sites disguised as news sites and similar dreck.
12:39 am on Feb 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:May 22, 2005
posts:656
votes: 19


Maybe Google News should charge a fee for publishers"
yeh right, newspapers pay millions to reporters in salaries and expenses + print run costs, Google scrapes all them . How long would it take to build a list of top 10 newspapers in each country ?

<aside>Last time I purchased a newspaper in a USA state the headline was 'Pig prices drop' despite major involvement in other world areas. </aside>
9:57 pm on Feb 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:July 29, 2007
posts:1745
votes: 80


To be fair to Google news, I find their selection of news source MUCH less biased than almost every other "big news portal". I logged into a well known major news outlet yesterday and was presented with a full page image of Obama with a huge anti-trump title and a video of the president bashing Trump. That's news but the 20,000 words of "editorial content" below it basically told me that Obama is on par with a god and Trump is on par with an insect and that's what should be expected from Trump's side of the aisle.

I mean, it's so in your face that it doesn't matter what side you're on you instantly know that not one positive article about Trump or negative one about Obama will EVER appear on that site and sure enough....

Huffington Post has an anti-white section(called "White People") of their website now, but no anti-any-other-race section, so where do you draw the line? Is that entire section "advertorial" since it's a "news" site but in some sections only promotes one view? It also promotes racism by giving a voice to it(even if only against whites) but is highly ranked anyway... where do you draw the line of what constitutes an advertorial on a news site?
10:09 am on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:2986
votes: 201


Google News is an aggregator that uses a mathematical algorithm to select which stories to link to. That's not the same as an independent website that has human writers and reporters who create original content.
1:25 pm on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member from DE 

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 11, 2014
posts:487
votes: 142


I do not believe Mashable and other websites who leverage branded content are violating anything. Say, they get an anonymous tip about this new cool product or service and make a editorial puff piece. If I follow this article's line of thought the article should be penalized because it's branded and supportive of the product or service, which is non-sense.

Plus, lets be realistic, everyone with a high end online news site and their dog sell paid editorial content. It something inherited from the age where print was the only news.

So, what is the problem again? Oh, I know, the problem is, most webmasters do not have 20k to get an article of their business that will not only provide more traffic than their entire organic stack combined, but as a side effect will produce a good number of juicy organically generated back links. Well folks, welcome to the real world, and let me tell you this is not anything new under the sun either.
1:45 pm on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:2986
votes: 201


well Nutterum -- evidently you missed the point. Some of the posters in the thread think that google should try to close the loophole in order to level the playing field, so that people who can afford to pay $20k don't have an unfair advantage. Of course you're right that some will continue to take advantage of the loophole if it isn't closed, but that's not the point.
1:49 pm on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member from DE 

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 11, 2014
posts:487
votes: 142


No, I did not missed the point. What I am saying is that Google has no way (yet!) to distinguish between a free article praising someones service or product or whatever and linking to it and the same article only this time paid. How can Google algo. distinguish between the two articles with identical content. How can they determine which article is paid and which particle is a free news editorial.
2:29 pm on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:2986
votes: 201


What I am saying is that Google has no way (yet!) to distinguish between a free article praising someones service or product or whatever and linking to it and the same article only this time paid.


So you're saying that google has no way "yet!" . Does that mean that you agree with the others after all, that google should try to close the loophole, but you doubt that they can, at least not for some time to come.
3:12 pm on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:June 28, 2013
posts:2698
votes: 408


What I am saying is that Google has no way (yet!) to distinguish between a free article praising someones service or product or whatever and linking to it and the same article only this time paid.

When the publisher of an advertorial piece complies with FTC disclosure requirements, it shouldn't be that hard for Google News to tell the difference between "native advertising" and editorial. All Google needs to do is look for labels such as "Advertising," "Sponsored Content," and "Promoted Stories."
4:09 pm on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 27, 2013
posts:75
votes: 6


I imagine that the FTC would agree that Google should have to label a web result page that is paid advertising as paid advertising. I don't think that they should be satisfied with the answer from Google that it would be too hard. They would not accept that answer from any other publisher.
4:17 pm on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

Administrator from GB 

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month

joined:May 9, 2000
posts:23532
votes: 413


Let's think of users' views on this. How much of a bad thing is this?

Personally, I abhor advertorial passed off as editorial. It's fooling readers, and degrades my overall opinion of the publication and its value. However, I really do not mind reading advertorial, as long as it's marked out so.
8:23 pm on Feb 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 30, 2007
posts: 621
votes: 3


The gap between news items and self-promoting articles is at times not there... another issue is that many (if not all) so called news websites now sell products in the midst of the news item.... I get tired of seeing a news item about a celebrity and in between the news item is 'where to buy the clothes the are wearing'.... I guess newspapers don't sell newspapers (much) anymore and need to make their money somewhere....
2:21 pm on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member from DE 

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 11, 2014
posts:487
votes: 142


What I was saying in my posts is that the algorithm can't distinguish between the two. I am fairly certain that Google has no intention of amassing a small army of editors and reviewers to check every single article for "sponsored" content. Even if they did, the results will not be 100% objective. Hence why "paid shortcuts" are common practice on the internet. This does not mean there is a loophole. What this means is that Google can't (yet! - maybe their AI will in the future?) solve the "paid content problem" inherited from the offline news industry.
4:29 pm on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

Moderator

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 25, 2002
posts:8371
votes: 180


Well... I've been involved in purchases of native content and have been reading up on this a bit lately. Without disclosure there is no doubt, none, that it violates the FTC guidelines.

Here's what the FTC has to say about native advertising (man I *hate* that name).

Guide for Businesses: [ftc.gov...]
Enforcement Statement: [ftc.gov...]

The IAB of course claims this will "stifle innovation."
[iab.com...]

They are particularly bothered by the "clarity" clause in the Business Guidelines.

Terms likely to be understood include “Ad,” “Advertisement,” “Paid Advertisement,” “Sponsored Advertising Content,” or some variation thereof. Advertisers should not use terms such as “Promoted” or “Promoted Stories,” which in this context are at best ambiguous and potentially could mislead consumers that advertising content is endorsed by a publisher site.


We get pitched all the time by Instagrammers. If they disclose at all, they say "excited to be partnering with Acme Widgets" but even that is not the norm.

The question I have though is how does this differ from paid product placement in a movie or television show. Is a filmmaker required to disclose that everyone in the movie is on Macbooks because Apple give them money? Actually, apparently not

FTC staff has expressed the opinion that under the FTC Act, product placement (that is, merely showing products or brands in third-party entertainment or news content – as distinguished from sponsored content or disguised commercials), doesn’t require a disclosure that the placement was paid-for by the advertiser.
[ftc.gov...]
5:34 pm on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:July 29, 2007
posts:1745
votes: 80


Google doesn't care about the ethics of something they do if it's legal and it makes the person searching happy. Their goal is to satisfy their user, not please or displease anyone else, within the laws of course. Getting an unfair advantage by paying for coverage isn't going to go away so long as money can change hands without G knowing about it.

Google knows who the problem webmasters are even if they can't access the site, when you log into a google product or pass a beacon and your computer is always stuffed with black hat forum cookies and cookies from known problem sites... they know.
1:14 am on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:2986
votes: 201


It seems like a big part of the evolution of google's algorithm over the past few years has consisted of attempts to plug up new loopholes that spammers and businesses find. As soon as one loophole is patched up, another one appears somewhere else.

If somehow google could incorporate into their algorithm a built-in immunity against efforts by spammers and others to game their search results, then they could concentrate more on recognizing quality and value, rather than identifying spam and low quality. The focus should be on promoting good sites, not demoting bad sites as is currently the case.

But an effective built-in immunity would probably have to be incorporated at the most basic level, and it's likely too late to do that now.
3:30 pm on Mar 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

New User

joined:Mar 1, 2016
posts:4
votes: 0


Well they are probablly using some of the platforms for backlinking. One of the latest trends in online marketing is influential marketing. It is a new concept, which helps companies get exposure for their brands through influencers which make subsequent introduction of their product. Most of such influencers are authority bloggers. Main question is, where you can find them, so there are lots of platforms, where such bloggers are registered, some of them are: <snip>, <snip>, <snip>, etc.. It will help get more authority backlinks from blogs and get traffic to your website as well.

[edited by: goodroi at 5:06 pm (utc) on Mar 3, 2016]
[edit reason] Please no promoting websites [/edit]

9:32 am on Mar 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

Moderator from GB 

WebmasterWorld Administrator andy_langton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Jan 27, 2003
posts:3332
votes: 140


<snip>, <snip>, <snip>


It sounds like your "influential marketing" will influence Google to remove your site from rankings. You've listed sites that seem to break Google's guidelines and leave an incredibly easy footprint to identify.

[edited by: goodroi at 5:08 pm (utc) on Mar 3, 2016]
[edit reason] Per forum charter [/edit]

8:42 pm on Mar 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:2986
votes: 201


<snip>, <snip>, <snip>

I saw these names before they were deleted, and I've always wondered if some of these types of sites could actually be google undercover sting operations set up to identify people who are trying to buy Links :)
12:11 am on Mar 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 29, 2005
posts:7057
votes: 427


This kind of thing is not new. Goes back a few hundred years, in fact. Can g recognize advetorials? Possibly ... then again, the advetroial writers will become that much more clever if nuked. At present it does not seem as if g is willing to devote that much more effort to separate content from promotional advetorials.

Algos won't find this kind of content. Humans might not always see it. Some will and move on, but meanwhile, it will continue.
5:09 pm on Mar 8, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member from DE 

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 11, 2014
posts:487
votes: 142


I'm with tangor on this. Maybe in the future Rank Brain will have enough accumulated data and processing power to brute-force and find advertorials but outside of this scenario I do not believe Google will devote manual labor in fighting this problem. Besides if what distilled say become true (backlinks not being a big SEO factor announcement by Google) those types of content will become pure PR without any significant SEO value.
12:11 pm on Mar 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 12, 2014
posts:344
votes: 51


Coming soon, Advetorial Blockers! The public might be dumb but they do eventually catch on. Sites that take this route will eventually loose their audience.
2:27 pm on Mar 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from LK 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 16, 2005
posts: 2591
votes: 60


Google seems to be dealing with this OK. Look at the search phrases they use. All they have shown is that if you search for a long phrase unique to one site, then that site comes at the top of the SERPS for it regardless of quality.

I have not been able to get their example Brandspeak pages on the front page of the SERPS for any phrase that people are likely to use. How often do people type in 18 words into Google? Even large chunks of the phrase did not bring mashable to the top.

Mostly what the article proves is what can be achieved when someone really smart decides to write link bait/click bait.
8:56 am on Mar 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member from DE 

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 11, 2014
posts:487
votes: 142


On this topic you can find the latest from Google Webmasters blog : [webmasters.googleblog.com...]

While they do focus on content created for review purposes, the same applies to any time of native-ad like content. The loophole is when these same bloggers/websites provide do-follow link instead of no-follow. The reality is that unless done poorly there is no easy way for Google to spot these paid-content pieces.

This will change with time when Rank Brain accumulates enough data and/or computing power.
 

Join The Conversation

Moderators and Top Contributors

Hot Threads This Week

Featured Threads

Free SEO Tools

Hire Expert Members