Google Clarifies Links for Blog Reviews

Important Read for all Bloggers. Google have clarified their linking policy for review posts.

Last week Google clarified their position on linking from review posts. If you are blogging about products which you have been sent or experiences which you did not pay for this applies to you.

We know what the law is in the UK and the ASA have previously offered guidance to bloggers. Now Google have published a post which makes it crystal clear how they expect you to be linking not just product links but also social sites, apps and review sites. This is to ensure that links which are generated because a company wants to promote their product or service are not linked as organic links.

Google might not be the law but falling foul of Google Webmaster Guidelines can see your site wiped off search and it can take months to get back.

What they say:

1. Use nofollow tags where goods or services have been exchanged.

  • This includes links to:
  • Company websites
  • Related social media accounts
  • Third party sites selling the product or service
  • A review service with reviews of the product
  • The company’s app or links to the app store

2. Disclose the relationship

Just as you would to comply with ASA guidance you need to disclose that what people are reading has been paid for in some way. Google state: “A disclosure can appear anywhere in the post; however, the most useful placement is at the top in case users don’t read the entire post.”

3. Create compelling content

Yes, Google want you to create a blog which gives people a reason to keep coming back again. Create content which is useful or enriching and you will build an audience who trusts you.

What should I do about old content?

The best practice advice on this is to go back through all of your old posts which feature links to products, services etc and change the links to nofollow links.

How do I make a nofollow link?

In the text or html editor locate your link (in long posts I add in a HERE next to links so I can scan for them easily) and add the code: rel=”nofollow” right after the web address.

Here’s an example:

Before: <a href=”http://blogtacular.com”>Blogtacular</a>

After: <a href=”http://blogtacular.com” rel=”nofollow”>Blogtacular</a>

There are plugins which will help you amend wordpress sites at the touch of a button but do read the reviews carefully before using.

For blogspot (now GoogleBlog) blogs you have a checkbox – super easy!

For SquareSpace users you will need to use a code block – head over to SquareSpace for details.

Does a NoFollow link stop people going to the site?

No, it tells Google the link has been bought in some way and not to use it when it crawls your site. Think of it like a stop sign for Google’s bots. Visitors to your site will click the link in just the same way.

Will this change how I work with PRs?

Most approaches you get from PRs are about being in front of your audience rather than building links. A NoFollow link policy in your media pack can help to make this clear and head off any misunderstandings.

I have been asked not to disclose a review product or service, what should I do?

The long answer: Here you now meet both Google (not the law) and the ASA for UK bloggers (actually the law). Both are saying all reviews should be disclosed so the reader knows from the outset that you did not pay. The ASA doesn’t care if you use a nofollow link or not but will care if you don’t disclose a relationship, people have been fined and it’s not worth the risk. Google care about both and you can bet this guidance comes ahead of another algorithm shift towards penalising sites which do not meet these requirements.

The short answer: If you value your site’s integrity; say thanks but no thanks.

Can I promote my own business?

If you are writing a blog specifically for your business and the business owns the blog then yes, linking to your business from your blog with follow links should be fine. If you are cross promoting between businesses consider using nofollow links to make it absolutely water tight.

When can I use follow links?

Google values organic links and uses them to build powerful search products. Every product, site, event, blog you link to shares your PageRank with their site.

The higher your PR the more Magic Google Juice (what? that’s what it’s called!) is shared with the other site. Sites which have lots of links pointing to them over long periods of time from a variety of sources are ranked well by Google. If you love something link to it and you will be part of that site’s success.

Further reading:

Best practices for bloggers reviewing free products they receive from companies – Google Webmaster Central Blog

Google Guidelines on Link Schemes – Google Support

Using NoFollow links – Google Support