I was perusing the FAQ over at Blogitive recently, and found an item I don’t exactly agree with.
Blogitive is a business that, in a nutshell, matches bloggers and advertisers with the caveat that the advertising is in the form of blog content, and within that content is a direct hyperlink with the desired keywords as anchor text. Please correct me if I am missing specifics, but that is based on the information I gathered.
This FAQ item in particular that caught my attention:
Q: Do the search engine mind this tactic?
A: No, search engines need people to create content that is unique and relevant. By supplying that, both you and the client are helping the search engines grow itâ€™s [sic] index. Just make sure to supply as good of content as possible.
While I agree that both search engines and users love original content, I respectfully disagree with the way this question was answered. My opinion is that this particular tactic can be trumped by a specific part of Google’s guidelines, given that the tactic can make it difficult for users and search engines alike to know that the post is sponsored. Matt, in his update to his paid link reporting post, outlines methods to make content like blog posts in ways that don’t affect search engines.
A quick check of the query ["filed under Blogitive"] shows sites that are likely participating in paid blog posting. A sampling shows some websites show that they’re not completely forthcoming on the sponsored nature of the posting. While a site-wide disclosure policy, typically available via a navigational link, seems to be a common way to disclose the nature of some of the content within a site, as a user I’d appreciate that the post itself was labeled as sponsored.
Labeling the post itself as sponsored in machine-readable text moves the site more into alignment with Google’s guidelines:
Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
The takeaway is thus: To the extent the site owner employs paid link activity on their site in a way that works to obfuscate the nature of the links to search engines and to users, is the extent to which that activity can have a negative influence on their presence in Google results. The good news is that there are the aforementioned ways for sites to align with the guidelines and to also align with what users expect from Google’s natural search results.
Brian is a Google employee and a member of the Search Quality group focusing on Webspam. These opinions are his alone.