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Interflora Penalty: Newspapers penalised for selling links

It seems Interflora has taken down a couple of UK Newspapers with them, or rather, exposed the fact that they have been selling links on a massive scale.

Weeping Flower

Image courtesy – http://www.sjlshots.com

As the fog cleared proceeding Interflora’s penalty, Google turned to a number of regional newspapers that had clearly sold links in the form of advertorials. They have since been reprimanded with lowered PageRank scores. Although Google never officially commented upon the Interflora penalty, the same goes for this revelation.

Here are some examples – but you’ll have to act quickly as they’re being pulled by the day!

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

(Examples courtesy Search Engine Land)

Why are companies still buying and selling links?

Selling or buying links can and will incur a penalty. Fact. But why is it that five years after Google officially went on record to say that selling links to pass on PageRank, companies are still trying to pull the wool over Google’s omniscient eye?

If you bought the links the answer is easy: Companies can quickly pull the links and send a reconsideration request to Google. The turnaround for this can be pretty swift if Interflora’s reinclusion after 11 days is anything to go by. They will have seen a major dent in their traffic and ultimately their profits – but this is something that a globally recognised company can easily recover from.

A Tweeter is told to take down Interflora link

A tweeter naively confirms Interflora’s penalty – image courtesy Search Engine Land

Arguably, if you’re website or blog relies heavily upon advertising revenue and your Pagerank has dropped to zero (like most of the aforementioned examples) this will have a catastrophic effect on your advertising monies. Usually the Pagerank downgrade penalty for selling links drops to a three or a four, so a zero shows that Google is righteously miffed and like an irritated supply teacher, they’re making an example of these naughty newspapers!

Google gives a gentle reminder

Gorilla with folded arms

Image courtesy http://www.dltruth.com

As previously mentioned Google didn’t pass comment on whether the lowered PageRank score for over 150 regional newspapers has anything to do with the buying or selling of links or even Interflora for that matter, but when Matt Cutts, Head of Search Spam took to Google Webmaster Central’s blog to reiterate that selling links to pass PageRank will incur a penalty, with specific reference to advertorials, the wilted flowers that had been left in the wake of Interflora’s penalty became all too clear.

The moral of the story

The message is clear: to maintain Google’s trust, be sure to mark any paid advertising with the rel = ‘nofollow’ attribute and don’t dabble in any black hat tactics which could see your site ranking lower in the search results and losing the option to view your PageRank score in Google’s Toolbar.

If you need any help with your link building techniques, we have two very experienced white hat wearing consultants (James and Barrie) that can ensure that your website will rank on page 1 of the search results for keywords that are specific to your business.