A lot of the SEO community has got itself in an enormous tizzwozz in the last couple of weeks because Google’s Webmaster Central Blog issued a post directed specifically at bloggers working with brands. The post stated, in no uncertain terms, a few key things that Google considers “best practice” for bloggers who receive gifts from brands to review or do giveaways with.

  • Make sure any links on the blog as a result of the gift are rel=”nofollow”
  • Make it clear to readers that the gift was received for the purpose of the post
  • Write good content (well duh – I think/hope that here they mean more “do something more compelling than just a perfunctory review of the product you were sent, because that’s boring”)

Of course the link-building SEOs of the world have thus gone bonkers, screaming that Google has pulled yet another rug from under them, and the spammers of the world are going to keep bleating at bloggers and trying to pay them for links anyway, and thus the cycle of search marketing life continues.

I’ll let you in on a secret though – nobody at 4Ps was screaming. In fact the general reaction was more along the lines of “Oh, so Google has decided to catch up with the ASA’s guidelines and confirm the bit about nofollowing links then. Fine.” Our lovely content team are going to do a more detailed post of their own discussing the announcement and its relevance to their specific field but to set the scene I just wanted to weigh in from a more technical SEO’s standpoint first – watch this space for the real lowdown from Kelly, our Head of Content.

Now for those who weren’t aware, the ASA issued some specific guidelines a while ago around Vlogging (video blogging) to help everyone involved understand the best way to go about making advertising clear to users and viewers. Nothing was mentioned about links of course, because the ASA is concerned with the bigger picture of making overall advertising clear (that would be the second point of those raised by Google above), but the general gist is, as ever, to be transparent so everyone watching knows what is going on.

Back to the specific blogging and linking situation – am I worried? No. 4Ps stopped doing outreach to bloggers as a solely link building activity some time ago. In fact all the outreach/content co-creation work we do is based more around coverage for influencer marketing purposes than it is for “link building” as an arm of SEO. After all, if top influencers in your niche are talking about your brand, more people are going to look for it. That’s not “search engine optimisation” in the traditional sense, I suppose, but it sure as sugar does affect your search traffic and general brand footprint in search results.

What’s the word for that again? Oh, right…marketing.

Putting aside the fact that we have plenty of examples of nofollows and “linkless” link building still having an immensely positive effect for the brands we work with – two relevant case studies are the Pandora Christmas campaign for Argento and the recipe outreach work for Lindt – that’s why our approach continues to work and make sense for brands in the post-Google-Penguin world.

Do bloggers include links in the content we work with them to create alongside brands? Of course they do – users oddly enough quite like being able to click on things, it’s a pretty fundamental part of this internet malarky – but those links are actually the gravy. The meat and potatoes of the exercise is the coverage. That’s why we don’t mind nofollows.

To the bloggers of the world I can say only this – if someone only loves you for your followed links, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship. You’re influencers. Your content – not just your hyperlinks – has real value. As long as the brands and agencies you work with can understand that, you’re both onto a winning result.

4Ps isn’t just another SEO agency. To discuss how SEO, content and PR are evolving together in order to keep pace with new developments in advertising laws and search algorithms, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and technology across all inbound channels.