Adverts: How Not to Say it With Flowers

NAH  knows how - a surprise from him this morning - not 1 but 2 bunches of daffodils :)
Thanks for all your comments on yesterday's post - when I set it up, I'd forgotten I'd be attending a TOTS 100 Blog Summit in Bristol and 'no follow' would be covered there too.

Interflora shows how not to say it with flowers

I found out yesterday Interflora were penalised by Google recently. They manipulated their page rank by placing advertorials re Valentine's Day with around 150 national and local newspapers and got caught out. As a result they and all the newspapers concerned received page rank penalties. For Interflora it meant their ranking on the keyword 'flowers' went from 1 to 49 and they didn't even appear in page 1 of search results for 'Interflora'.

Whilst their page rank has been restored relatively quickly (within a few days)*, with Mother's Day happening tomorrow here in the UK, it's likely they've incurred a substantial loss of business as a result. Quite a spectacular own goal eh? It also probably explains why one of my few remaining advertisers at the time asked for the removal of their advert, even though we'd agreed to have a no follow link.

My Interflora experience

I have a bit of a track record with Interflora too as they were the second company to take an advert on my blog. They supplied a nice little badge with all the corresponding HTML needed, so it was easy for me to add them to my sidebar. This was well before no follow reared its head, so I had no worries about the link to their website, though I did think they were a bit cheeky at the time because the badge had not one, but two links.

A few months later they approached me again. Would I like to review one of the plants in their gift range? It was a rather nice expensive standard bay tree with a twisted stem - most tempting. However, they also wanted to dictate the 3 links my review should contain. None had anything to do with the item I'd be reviewing: there were a couple of links to father's day gifts (including whisky!) and another to one of their European websites. None would have been natural links within my content and I knew readers would be puzzled by them.

I refused and after a number of emails were exchanged, Interflora finally got the message I couldn't be persuaded. I decided I wouldn't be contacting them when the time for advert renewal came up. I haven't purchased anything from them since either.

That was a couple of years ago and it looks like Interflora have continued with their 'games' and gone out to play with much bigger fish in the online pond than my minnow sized blog. The whole sorry tale serves to reinforce what I said yesterday.

And now for some good news...

It was encouraging to learn there is at least one digital marketing agency prepared to place adverts with no follow links. Take a bow Tom Brennan of Fresh Egg**, for not only representing a company prepared to do so, but also for ensuring lots of bloggers understand why the concept of no follow is important to them :)

* = this tends to happen when major companies are penalised. The problem is that if search for a large company doesn't feature that company, most people tend to think 'Google is broken', rather than 'that-company-must-have-sneakily-been-trying-to-manipulate-its-position-in-search-results'.

** = I can't link to their website at the moment as it appears to be down at the time of writing :(

Further reading

The Independent's informative article on what happened with Interflora - I believe from comments from bloggers yesterday (because they suddenly found their blog placed higher in search results than the newspaper) they were one of the national newspapers penalised by Google.

Kalexico's  article from 1st March which graphically show's Interflora's fall from grace and some of the twitterchat happening at the time. It also contains evidence Interflora have continued to try to manipulate bloggers' content and the story that Google had to self-impose a 60 day penalty last year as they found themselves in breach of their own webmaster guidelines!

Google's reminder dated 22nd February re their webmaster guidelines re link selling. Interflora aren't mentioned, but the media believe this piece was in response to their shenanigans. I read this when researching for yesterday's post but didn't realise what else had been going on. Matt Cutts is in charge of Google's anti spam operations and also writes a very readable blog about this kind of thing.

Search Engine Land's piece from 5th March on how Interflora managed to come back from their penalisation so quickly. It's not quite as readable as the other links, but does it put forward the idea that part of the explanation could be people might think 'Google is broken' when a company goes missing from searches on their own name.

April 2013 - apparently Penguin v2.0 is imminent (Penguin is what caused all the furore last year) and is a major update. Here's a very good article about what constitutes a natural link/good linking practice. Use it to test the way you add your links to your posts.

Finally I  must mention Sally Whittle and TOTS100 because she and they often have very readable blog posts about blogging issues in general. I might not be a mummy blogger, but I do value the tech reads content area on their blog and for also arranging days like yesterday's Blog Summit.


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