It’s debatable whether PageRank even matters anymore. Traffic can come from all sorts of different sources, including your mailing list or via social media, but the fact of the matter is that getting that juicy organic Google traffic is still highly desirable regardless of the kind of the site that you run.
And yes, even though John has been saying for so many years that if you live by the Google, you’ll die by the Google, we simply cannot deny the power that Google holds on the Internet. You shouldn’t rely solely on organic search engine traffic but you certainly shouldn’t ignore it either. It’s a good idea to stay on Google’s good side as much as you can.
It’s Not Just About the Money
Sponsored content and native advertising has definitely been on the rise in the last couple of years, but even if you’re not receiving cold hard cash for pimping a product or company on your blog, you may be receiving “free” product samples. Google knows this and they’ve published what they believe to be the best practices for bloggers who are reviewing free products they receive from companies. This isn’t necessarily new, but it is still very timely.
In addition to the usual tips and advice you might receive about SEO, like ensuring you have a current and valid sitemap or making sure that you don’t have any dead backlinks on your blog, you’ll want to follow the three main guidelines that Google is describing in terms of receiving free products to review.
The Liberal Use of Nofollow
By default, if you do nothing else, every link that you include in your blog post is going to have a “dofollow” attribute. This means that you are passing along that link love juice along to wherever the destination URL might be. This is normal and valuable for Google’s search engine algorithms.
However, Google insists that dofollow should only be used for links that come organically, meaning links that would exist if some third party didn’t offer you something for free in exchange for that link. If you are reviewing something that you got for free, add the nofollow tag to those links. This includes to the company’s website, social media profiles, or an online store that sells the product, for example.
In the Interest of Disclosure
You may have heard about the change in regulations in the United States some time back saying that you must disclose if you were compensated in any way for the content you’re producing. This includes if you had a meal paid for or if you received a product “for free” in exchange for coverage.
Google says that if the content is sponsored, you need to disclose that to your readers. The 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.” This can be something as simple as some small, italicized text that says “sponsored post” or that you received the product courtesy of XYZ company but “all opinions are my own.”
Great Content Is Still King
The specific guidelines for SEO best practices will continue to change and it can be difficult to keep up. The one constant through all of this is that you still need to produce quality content. You still need content that is unique. You still need content that provides value to the reader.
And this is true even if you are being compensated in some way to produce that content, whether it’s native advertising or you just got a free tablet to review on the blog. Be compelling, be interesting, and deliver “exclusive content that only you can create due to your unique expertise or resources.”