UPDATE: This happened again in April 2018. Google is still penalizing bloggers for hosting dofollow links.

 

PR, those seeking sponsored posts, those supplying product for review, and those placing links on blogs, sometimes ask that the links be marked as dofollow rather than nofollow. Read below to find out why this is not a good idea.

Back in April 2016, Google dropped the gauntlet on thousands of bloggers who post sponsored posts, host text links or receive free products for review. The problem? Nofollow links. The rule is that any link that points to a brand site for which you received any form of compensation (money or product) must be marked as nofollow. You accomplish this by adding the rel=nofollow attribute to the links in your posts.  This rule has been in place for quite a long time, Google just decided to really start cracking down.

On April 8, 2016, I received the following email about this site:

Google's email about unnatural outbound links that should be nofollow

Read Google’s own post on nofollow links for all of the details: Also, Google’s post, Best practices for bloggers reviewing free products they receive from companies.

As mentioned in the above article:

Use the nofollow tag where appropriate

Links that pass PageRank in exchange for goods or services are against Google guidelines on link schemes. Companies sometimes urge bloggers to link back to:

  1. the company’s site
  2. the company’s social media accounts
  3. an online merchant’s page that sells the product
  4. a review service’s page featuring reviews of the product
  5. the company’s mobile app on an app store

Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on all such links because these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide a free good or service in exchange for a link). Companies, or the marketing firms they’re working with, can do their part by reminding bloggers to use nofollow on these links.

 

There have been several posts written on the subject. Here are some very useful links:

http://themayfairy.com/2016/02/21/dofollow-and-nofollow-links-how-not-to-piss-off-google/

Google to bloggers: Disclose & nofollow links when reviewing gifted products

Rules of Endorsement | Google Will Soon Crack Down on Products For Links Scheme

 

Bloggers in networks have received emails similar to the following:

Hi Kris,

I hope you are doing well! As a member of xxxxxx network, we wanted to share an update with you regarding Google’s NoFollow tag in conjunction with sponsored posts as you may find it helpful when working with brands.

If you write a sponsored post, Google considers that a “paid” link. Any time you take money or product from a company and link to their website, you run the risk of being dropped from the Google search engine results pages. Adding the NoFollow tag to a link URL prevents search engines from counting brand links as “votes” in favor of that content. This way, the search engine does not think you are selling influence that will help the brand rank better. You can still link to sponsors as long as you use the NoFollow tag, which will protect you from being penalized.

When to use the NoFollow tag:

  • Paid Links: This will keep links to product on your site from passing credit to the retailer
  • Comments: If your site allows unmonitored comments, this will prevent users from dropping bad links
  • User-Generated Content: If you allow anyone to contribute content to your site without moderation, NoFollow will prevent your site from being seen as “vouching” for links to bad sites
  • Embeds: If you use widgets or infographics from sites you don’t want to endorse

An article on SearchEngineLand.com shares Google’s request of those reviewing a product online through a brand collaboration. When you are given a product for free, and you write about the product, Google wants you to do three things:

  1. Nofollow the link, if you decide to link to the company’s site, the company’s social media accounts, an online merchant’s page that sells the product, a review service’s page featuring reviews of the product or the company’s mobile app in an app store.
  2. Disclose that you are writing this content because the company gave you the product for free. Google said, “Users want to know when they’re viewing sponsored content,” and sometimes there is a legal requirement to do so.
  3. Create compelling, unique content so that it adds value beyond what is out on the web. Google said you should “provide exclusive content that only you can create due to your unique expertise or resources.”

We hope this insight is helpful to you! We look forward to staying in touch on new opportunities in the coming season, and thank you for being a part of our network.

Best,

xxxxx

 

I had to take steps to correct the links on my site and apply for a reconsideration with Google which thankfully was approved. I will now be much more careful about the links that I place. I was being lazy about remembering to set links as nofollow.  I now have a plugin in place, External Links, which will automatically mark all links on my site as nofollow. I can then selectively mark only appropriate links as dofollow.

This crackdown not only hurts bloggers, Google is taking steps to crack down on the brands that encourage bloggers to go against these guidelines.

Don’t take chances. Just follow the rules.