interflora-vanished

Update 27/02/2013: Post has been updated to include thoughts and feedback from ex-Googler, Andre Weyher.

If you are in Search and haven’t already heard about what happened to Interflora in the UK, you should be ashamed of yourselves *kidding*. A few days ago the news about Interflora getting wiped off the face of the Internet was broke by Martin Macdonald. According to Martin’s analysis, Interflora were nowhere to be found in Google for keywords such as “flowers”, “florists” and other related terms which they were ranking highly for. Martin has done some pretty awesome analysis as to why Google dropped the hammer on Interflora in his post.

Since the news broke, there has been numerous discussions and analysis around the issue. Here’s a curated list that is worth a read:

Most of the analysis and feedback concluded that it was due to the excessive use of advertorials and some other “less savoury” tactics that led to Google giving Interflora the boot.

I thought it would be great to as a few Australian SEOs what they thought of the subject. So here goes…

Dan Petrovic

Dan Petrovic

Dejanseo.com.au | Google+ | Twitter

 

 


What are your general thoughts on Advertorials? Should they pass PageRank?

Advertorials like every other paid form of advertising should be disclosed and its links should not be part of Google’s link graph. I do disagree with the use of rel=”nofollow” at webmaster’s own discretion. A sophisticated search engine such as Google should be able to refine their methods of detection of paid links and simply not count them. This means that interflora shouldn’t have been able to rely on paid links in the first place.

Do you think Interflora deserved the penalty? Why?
The whole Interflora advertorial affair is a manual thing and a publicity stunt more than anything else, I’ll be much happier when Google is capable of discerning unnatural links and handling them without any need for fear-mongering policies. It’s just bad for their cute Googly brand.

Do you agree with Google’s decision to kick them out of the index when they themselves invest heavily on advertorials?
My opinion on the subject of Google having paid inorganic links is that it vastly differs from Interflora’s intentions.

What would you suggest Interflora do to get themselves back in the index?
Interflora should nofollow all paid links, document it and submit a reconsideration request. Search quality team will need to see a good proof that the best effort has been made to remove paid links designed at result manipulation. Whatever’s left is material for the link disavow tool.

Leveraging media spend for SEO benefits have been around for years. Do you agree with this practice/tactic?
I am very much in favor of leveraging media spend for SEO benefits but you have to be smart about it. I’m not going to say anything more 😉

Matthew Forzan

Matthew Forzan

ewebmarketing.com.au | Google+ | Twitter

 

 


What are your general thoughts on Advertorials? Should they pass PageRank?

Advertorials have their place in offline/occasionally online but since they are paid for, I’m on the opinion that they shouldn’t pass any PageRank at all. Its far too easy for anyone with some decent budget to get these types of links. Paid articles don’t work, why should these?

Do you think Interflora deserved the penalty? Why?
They were obviously made an example of in this situation and we don’t know the true backstory of how these links came to be etc, however doing this sort of thing at this scale should at minimum at least raise a flag. Whether they deserved being kicked out of the index is a different story. I definitely think sites like this should receive link warnings and given ample time to state their case, get things sorted but booting them out without knowing the hows and whys isn’t always fair.

Do you agree with Google’s decision to kick them out of the index when they themselves invest heavily on advertorials?
It’s another case of the pot calling the kettle black (do as I say, not as I do) and whilst it would be nice for Google to play by their own rules, we’ve seen time and time again that they can do pretty much whatever they like with this stuff. Until there is enough complaints pointing in Google’s direction and it effects their PR, I doubt we’d see them change their tact.

What would you suggest Interflora do to get themselves back in the index?
Submit a reconsideration request of course :). Get an SEO to evaluate their link profile, remove those which look directly manipulative (some of those “newspaper” sites CLEARLY serve no purpose then to pass PageRank) and build some real links. If they are at fault, admitting they were wrong and doing the right thing in “cleaning things up” can have massive wins. Most people are familiar with the iAcquire banning last year and what they did to fix it so I’d suggest Interflora follow iAcquires lead.

Leveraging media spend for SEO benefits have been around for years. Do you agree with this practice/tactic?
I’m a strong believer in “natural” SEO. Besides the obvious technical/foundation type stuff that every website should implement, the rest of SEO shouldn’t involve crazy tactics that are designed to pass “PageRank”. We often get caught up in all these buzz words trying to impress our clients and as cliche as it sounds (especially this year) we really need to be focusing on answering users questions and providing them with great content (answers) that will ensure they have a pleasant experience and want to come back to your website. If someone chooses to “pay” for editorial content then I think that it should be allowed so long as it doesn’t have much (if any) SEO benefit and the viewer of the content is made fully aware that what they’re viewing has been paid for.

James Norquay

James Norquay

jamesnorquay.com | Google+ | Twitter

 

 


What are your general thoughts on Advertorials? Should they pass PageRank?

Advertorials are fine to pass page rank if they are used correctly in a more natural sense and are used in sensible numbers with unique content.  The problem arises when companies use similar articles on over 150+ advertorial websites, which in term creates a spammy series of content.

Do you think Interflora deserved the penalty? Why?
I believe the penalty was harsh yet Google is clearly looking to take a tough stance and Interflora has been used as an example. That been said after some analysis on the current link profile for Interflora there were some other links been white text on white background which were do follow and had the anchor text “Flowers”. I believe it has been a combination of things which has attributed to the penalty for Interflora (example here) https://plus.google.com/u/0/104627466131988547008/posts/eHfTQVecn2m

Do you agree with Google’s decision to kick them out of the index when they themselves invest heavily on advertorials?
The website is not kicked out of the index it still has 39k pages indexed via the syntax- site:interflora.co.uk

What would you suggest Interflora do to get themselves back in the index?
Clean up the link profile using some of the follow tactics:

Tactic 1 – Download a list of backlinks from Majestic SEO /Webmaster Tools – look for un-natural anchor text, or suspicious links from this CSV file.
Tactic 2 – Use software such as Link Detox to work out what links are toxic from the profile, in the case of Interflora 70% of the link profile is toxic.
Tactic 3 – Attempt to look for any quick wins first on link removal for example are they all on a network you can reach out to the link network owner to take them down.
Tactic 4 – Also make use of the Disavow tool for links which you cannot remove.
Tactic 5 – Once this process is completed then file for a reconsideration request and provide as much information as possible along with the attached CSV files of the links you have removed. In my experience the more detail the better chance of success.

I have further information on cleaning u a link profile for a client of mine with great success (example here) http://jamesnorquay.com/seo-is-not-dead-you-are-just-doing-it-wrong/

Leveraging media spend for SEO benefits have been around for years. Do you agree with this practice/tactic?
Leveraging media buys to assist SEO has been around for a long time, and it works if you use the relationships for a more natural process and promotion and you do not engage in spammy practices.

To be honest very few Australian companies would be using this tactic. It would only be large agencies with direct connect to CPM buying companies and media partners would try and leverage this relationship for SEO gains. My advice is to play by Google’s rules as it will work far better for a long term SEO strategy.

leigh-hanney

Leigh Hanney

Yennah.com | Google+ | Twitter

 

 


What are your general thoughts on Advertorials? Should they pass PageRank?
Should they pass PageRank? Sure, sometimes… and here lies the problem. In theory I don’t have an issue with an advertorial passing PageRank if it’s a high quality piece of objective content. However I also object to anything that is actually marked as ‘advertising’ being able to influence PageRank. I mean ‘No comment’…

Do you think Interflora deserved the penalty? Why?
Possibly – for being too aggressive and sending a red flag perhaps… But there is no question that they’ve been singled out. I guess anyone relying too heavily on advertorial style links (or being too obvious) to build their links profile was surely put on notice from around 2007 that Google may take a closer look at some point. Risk vs reward. They should have known there was ‘some’ inherent risk involved.

Do you agree with Google’s decision to kick them out of the index when they themselves invest heavily on advertorials?
Didn’t “Do no evil’ change to ‘Do what I say, not what I do” a long time ago?

What would you suggest Interflora do to get themselves back in the index?
They could:
a)    Play the ‘wait and see’ game. Clean up their offending links, file a re-inclusion request. etc. OR
b)    They could re-launch on a new domain and start fresh.
I would go with option 1. Google will let them back in a few months…

Leveraging media spend for SEO benefits have been around for years. Do you agree with this practice/tactic?
No comment. It’s complicated.

Andre Weyher

Andre Weyher

Netcomber.com | Google+ | Twitter

 

 


What are your general thoughts on Advertorials? Should they pass PageRank?
As the name suggests, advertorials are more of a commercial affair and in many ways similar to normal ads. I fully understand why Google sees them that way and I dont think they should pass pagerank as a real, natural link does. Advertorials were one of the gaps that were still generally seen by the industry as an easy way go get links, with the interflora case we have seen that this now also is becoming a no-go area for SEOs, another strong signal that the industry needs to be focusing on what it should… Authentic link building because there is something interesting enough to link to.

Do you think Interflora deserved the penalty? Why?
Any large organization with a huge online presence should be taking Google and the guidelines they give, very seriously. I presume that interflora has an SEO department that follows Google every hour. If indeed it turns out that the links they were building were against Google guidelines, I do believe they deserve the penalty. It’s harsh but if they got an advantage over their competition by applying spammy techniques, they should be made an example of.

Do you agree with Google’s decision to kick them out of the index when they themselves invest heavily on advertorials?
What counts here is the intent of the advertorial. Remember that quality in SEO is all about intention. If the advertorial is placed to spread information, it serves a purpose. If it’s there to pass pagerank, it doesnt.

What would you suggest Interflora do to get themselves back in the index?
I’ll assuming that the amount of links a site like interflora has runs in the hundreds of thousands. They have a long road ahead of them to remove these links through outreach. Once they have finished this process of assessing all the links and reaching out to get them removed, they need to use the disavow tool to remove the ones they couldn’t reach. Submit a well written reconsideration request and start a campaign of building, real, naturally DESERVED links. More on the topic of recovering from a link penalty on my latest blogpost.

Leveraging media spend for SEO benefits have been around for years. Do you agree with this practice/tactic?
Absolutely, SEO is becoming part of PR now, there is nothing wrong with using the media budget in order to spread the word that your site is out there! If you have a unique site or product that offers people something really interesting to link to or write about, do all you can do to spread it… Just dont buy links 😉 (That sentence is getting a bit boring, isn’t it?)

Closing thoughts…

Like most individuals in the industry, I think that the penalty on Interflora is a little too harsh and that they have been made an example by Google. In situations like these, there are so many factors that could have caused this to happen. The moral of the story is not to put all your eggs in one basket, never excessively use and rely on a single SEO tactic. Leveraging media spend  for SEO benefits is a touchy subject, if can be a very effective strategy IF you do it right.

What happened to Interflora should act as an example to both advertisers as well as publishers. Both the “link buyer” and “link seller” will both be affected. If this can happen to an international brand and major online publications in the UK, you can bet your money that it could happen to anyone here in Australia.

I would like to thank all the contributors to this post, I greatly appreciate your contribution.