Using Advertorials in SEO Content Marketing

Google has a long standing policy on how it views links from advertorials. The explicitly say that it goes against their policy to sell links that pass PageRank. First off, let’s review what advertorials actually are.¬†Advertorials are content that is written like an editorial piece but they are really just content that ¬†advertisers pay for to get published.

Clear Intentions
The intent behind these “stories” is to get links on major news sites and therefore pass off the link juice back to their site. And therein lies the problem. According to Google, these types of link have to be clearly marked as advertisements or sponsored. The links also need to have a rel=”nofollow” attribute attached to them to show search engines that they aren’t trying to game the algorithms.

The problem that Google (and readers) have with advertorials that they aren’t clearly marked as basically being paid ads. Without proper disclosure, it’s misleading to have content that intends to sell to readers. And publishers don’t have to be paid to violate Google’s guidelines. They also aren’t fond of publishers receiving gifts or other forms of compensation for publishing the stories.

Still Thinking of Using Advertorials?
Passing off advertorials as high quality content is a risky move and just when you think you can’t get caught, you can get slapped with an ugly penalty (see: Interflora). If this method of marketing still seems appealing, it’s important to go by Google’s rules and a) clearly mark content as sponsored and 2) follow through with the no follow attribute.

Advertorials aren’t a new tactic but Google has seen a rise in businesses taking this route, hence all the articles and videos against advertorials. In the long run, informative and quality content will help your website’s staying power and we aren’t talking about it through the form of advertorials. The difference is that advertorials tend to be more sales-y and self serving, whereas “evergreen” content is actually helpful.

Google’s Official Stand
Check out what Matt Cutts has to say about advertorials in the video above and let us know if you think it’s fair or not.

Looking at Google’s Evil Ways

While “Don’t Be Evil” is Google’s official motto, there are many recent arguments that can be made showing how the internet giant is slowing descending into the realm of being not-so-good.

Earlier this week, Google got caught utilizing SEO spam to promote its Chrome browser. They hired a video marketing company and bought sponsored blog posts on questionable sites, which bloggers caught onto very quickly. Not to mention that the articles and content that was pushed out wasn’t well-written or relevant to the sites they were being featured on!

This is the exact type of behavior that Google punishes, so what happens when they’re the ones violating this “golden rule”. As punishment, Google has penalized itself for its “mistake” so that Chrome doesn’t show up for browser-related terms (for the time being). Yeah, that will show them… but for how long? You have to admit that it is hypocritical for Google to get caught doing the same thing that they penalized J.C. Penney for doing early in 2011. And in some ways, this argument can be extended to the small scale – how Google is constantly adding more Panda updates to penalize content they deem as spammy or evil. These updates have greatly affected traffic for legitimate small business sites, so why do they just keep coming?

If the issue of spam weren’t so blatantly offensive to SEOs, it’s more frustrating to see that Google isn’t very transparent with their search algorithm and other ranking methods. As far as we can see, they change this as often as they please and leave reputable website marketing firms to guess what is going to happen next.

The more you look into it, the more you’ll discover of the dark side of Google and why so many people question their motives. Do you think Google made a honest mistake with this ad campaign are or they just sorry because they got caught in such a public manner? Maybe it’s time to retire that motto and think of a more fitting one…