Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Interflora Link Spam controversy And The Reminder About Selling Links By Google

Matt Cutts the head of the search spam team issued a warning on the Google official blog recently. Google has always warned webmasters of the consequences of buying links which pass on PageRank. Infact Google on the webmaster guidelines page long time back has in detail mentioned-“Any links intended to manipulate a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme.

 This includes any behavior 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 WebmasterGuidelines. Matt Cutts has clearly stated that “Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or "advertorial" pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations. The consequences for a link selling site start with losing trust in Google's search results, as well as reduction of the site's visible PageRank in the Google Toolbar. The consequences can also include lower rankings for that site in Google's search results.”

The Google warning comes after the UK flower company, Interflora, was found to have recent links on 150+ regional news sites all over the UK, all in the form of advertisements within articles through ‘unnatural’ link-building.

As a result, 2 weeks back just after Valentine’s Day, Google pulled the SEO ranking of Interflora for its own brand name as well as generic related topics such as ‘flowers’, ‘flower delivery’ and ‘florist’, which would usually have brought the company to the top of the search list.

The site was penalized and its search presence got affected adversely when Google took action. Prior to the penalty the domain ranked in the first place for the terms [Flowers], [florist], [flower delivery], [flowers online] and hundreds of other related search terms. The website did not even appear for its own brand name.

Here is a picture of the search results in Google UK for [Interflora].

Google has also clearly stated on its blog that they do take this issue very seriously and recommend that    selling (and buying) links that pass PageRank should be totally avoided so that you do not face the  loss of trust, lower PageRank in the Google Toolbar, lower rankings, or in an extreme case, removal from Google's search results.

But now, just this past Sunday, a week before Mother’s day in UK, they are already back in SERPs for most of their rankings. Soon after they got the notification for the removal , Interflora worked on cleaning their link profile and also used the Disavow Tool. In this Interflora case, Google’s timing has been very timely. The site was penalized about a week after Valentine’s Day, and has now shows to be lifted one week before the UK celebrates Mother’s Day. Those are two of the most popular flower-buying holidays of the year.

Is Google trying to put across a point very clearly by taking an example of a famous site where other small sites despite cleaning the link profile and using the Disavow Tool struggle to get their search presence back. In 2011, J.C. Penney regained its Google visibility after being penalized for 90 days. By this example they are also highlighting the use of the disavow tool which they want the webmasters to use to clear the site of any unwanted links and in the long run the Google index is also getting cleared of these unwanted  sites from where these unwanted links come from.

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