Marketeers Take Heed! Google Update Their Webmaster Quality Guidelines.
Earlier this week, Google announced that they had updated their Webmaster Quality Guidelines (or SEO Bible, as it is colloquially known). While their core message, “focus on the user”, remains unchanged, the overseers of search did stress that social media, PR, affiliate marketing, and SEO would now be playing a more predominant role in helping Google ascertain search engine rankings.
For example, Google will now begin penalising those websites that fail to moderate/filter their comments/spam effectively. Furthermore, webmasters are advised to monitor their sites for any suspicious activity, including hacking or cyber attacks.
Google also touched upon blogging, particularly how marketeers/PR’s utilize bloggers to lever their or their client’s SEO. So, in terms of improving search engine rankings, offering bloggers freebies in exchange for a link-containing review could be detrimental for both agency and client.
“Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. This includes any behaviour that manipulates links to your site, or outgoing links from your site. Manipulating these links may affect the quality of our search results, and as such is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.” – Google, Content Guidelines
That’s not to say marketeers/PR’s should stop interacting with bloggers altogether. Instead, the latter should ensure that any links (linking to the desired product/service) within their review are tagged as nofollow.
Affiliate marketing is also discussed in Google’s updated Webmaster Quality Guidelines. Affiliate links are fine, as long as they are supported by contextual and moreover, original content that adds value for the user, such as a product review. However, affiliate websites i.e. websites that solely focus their operations around affiliate marketing and offer no value whatsoever will be penalised.
Google have also submitted a set of quality and technical guidelines for rich snippets which, in layman’s terms, are small clips of information (e.g. rating stars) that give users a taste of a website’s content, and appear on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). Google’s crackdown indicates that any company believed to be fraudulent – that is to say, they have forged their ratings or similar, will be penalised. Equally, if a company believes that a competitor is trying to sabotage their reputation by abusing Google’s rich snippet quality guidelines, they should let the search engine know.
To conclude, Google’s updated Webmaster Quality Guidelines provides important (though nothing unexpected) information that marketeers, PR’s and businesses in general should take into account when planning an SEO/promotional strategy.