A common practice employed by brands in order to generate inbound links to their website is to handout free gear to bloggers. In return those blogger’s would typically link to the brand’s website in reference to said free gear, resulting in SEO boosts. Google looks to have made moves to fight this with a recent set of instructions for those bloggers and brands who participate in such practices.
Link-building has long been one of the key elements to building a brand’s profile online and boosting search engine rankings. In recent years, it has become more of a science, and made more difficult by Google in efforts to ensure links to other websites appear ‘natural’. Since the birth of SEO, Google has steadily implemented algorithm updates to combat those manipulating search engine results with ‘unnatural links’. The theory behind this, is that users will find more relevant search results, rather than search results that are there because those websites have the most links.
The new set of instructions state that “links that pass PageRank in exchange for goods or services are against Google guidelines on link schemes.” Except if those brands remind the bloggers to a.) inform readers of the relationship in their post and b.) use a “nofollow” tag on the link. By the looks of things, brands that send out free gear for endorsements from bloggers without following the guidelines could stand to suffer hefty SEO penalties. The old tactic that’s long been a staple for brands who want to generate solid links, has suddenly become detrimental for SEO.
These changes stated in the guidelines will almost certainly affect bloggers and brands, as the value in generating links this way is just no longer there. Should the bloggers use “nofollow” links, those inbound links won’t really help authority flow through to a brand’s website. So there’ll be no real gains to be made SEOwise. Brands will have to get their thinking caps on and come up with innovative ways to increase traffic to their websites, and increase brand awareness.
source: thestyleinsider (Lifestyle & Fashion blog)
Changes like this don’t necessarily mean the brands will suffer. There’s still plenty of value in such links even when bloggers follow the best practice guidelines. It’s a way that brands can reach out to a wider audience and drive traffic to their website through the blogger’s audience. So it’s still going to boost the brand’s online presence regardless. Potential sales will still come through these channels
Even if Google is tightening the reigns on brands and bloggers to produce relevant content that’s open, honest, and natural. I’m sure the SEO pros out there will figure out ways to counter any updates that crack down on the practice. It’s what makes SEO so interesting. The key for brands to understand is that they must make sure their content is worthy of being shared in efforts to generate natural links from users. In the meantime, the on-going battle between Google and those that want to manipulate search engine rankings will continue, and in-turn the science of SEO will continue to become more complex.