Google has sent a clear message to bloggers. Disclose the relationship and don't link to brand Web sites in exchange for products or services mentioned in blog posts that could contribute to an increase in the brand's position in organic search listings on its engine when receiving a freebee. Bloggers must add the nofollow code to the link that prevents its crawler from giving the post too much, well, equity, the quality of being fare and impartial, which could push it to the top in search query rankings.The nofollow code prevents "equity" from being passed from the blogger to the brand through a link in the eyes of the search engine as it calculates the position of the brand's Web page in a query page. It centers around Google PageRank, one of the stronger ranking elements that Google uses to serve-up their results
This warning isn't new, but rather a reminder that bloggers are just as responsible as brands when it comes to transparency and making sure readers understand the relationship between the brand and the blogger, so recommendations and reviews after receiving a gift doesn't taint purchase decisions. It seems Google has decided to make a public statement, says David Harry, SEO strategist at Verve Developments.
Harry knows at least one brand that has been penalized for bloggers linking to its Web site with targeted anchor text from a word after sending the blogger samples for review. "In was brownies, of all things," he explains. "Bloggers, being what they are, started linking back to the client with the anchor text "brownies" or "awesome brownies," although the client never asked for the link. It didn't matter. The brand was penalized.
Search marketers have long known that brands can get in trouble with targeted links from bloggers when sending out samples, but in this case Google decided to "flip the script, in the sense that they're now making it clear to bloggers that they can get in trouble for using clean links to companies when reviewing a product."
Google is "pointing the gun at the blogger, not just the company seeking a product review" letting them know both blogger and brand need to take responsibility of being transparent about the relationship as to not taint or sway the buying decision of consumer, Harry says. Rather simply lay out the facts to help consumers make the best decision for themselves.
The blogger should use nofollow code in the link pointing to the Web site page of the company that sent the product to test or review. Harry gives this example -- <a href="http://somesite.com" rel="nofollow">great brownies</a> -- of the code to use.
It shouldn't be a problem if the blogger remains objective and honest about their relationship with the brand, similar to the way search engines and publisher sites need to identify sponsored content in search engine query results and news feeds.