Lately we’ve witnessed a backlash in the SEO industry regarding SEO advertorials. In other words some SEO practitioners have attacked a British newspaper publisher for contacting them to sell so called “SEO advertorials”.
I was a bit surprised because I consider SEO advertorials a legitimate technique of search engine optimization. The issue here seems to be the way these SEO advertorials were devised, not SEO advertorials generally.
Thus I’d like to explain how SEO advertorials can work for both publishers and search marketers without being considered to be outside the Google webmaster guidelines.
Google mas made it clear that paid links are not acceptable for them as long as the links pass PageRank or authority. The solution is to use the “nofollow” attribute on paid links to tell Google do discount them for their ranking algorithm. In case your SEO advertorial is just a paid link with a lot of content around it still the same rule applies.
Here the post might end. SEO advertorials would be of much less worth then. They would only make sense traffic-wise that is when the links are actually sending targeted traffic to the advertised site. So most people in the SEO industry who are determined to play by the rules would ignore this SEO technique.
Let’s reconsider advertorials again though. How do they work for SEO in the first place?
The goal of an SEO advertorial is not just to get link juice via the link in it. An SEO advertorial on an authority site that I refer to is made to rank well in Google results by harnessing the domain authority of the site hosting the advert.
Imagine a legit site that is quite new, something like several months old but wants to rank for competitive keywords in the regular Google search. Usually it would need to wait quite a while to do so. Some people in the industry call the phenomenon Google sandbox, others don’t believe it exists. It’s clear though that domain authority and domain age are major ranking factors which you attain over time so that an established newspaper has a much higher authority than a new small business site. Moreover, newspapers have a much higher link popularity few businesses can match.
Also make sure to remember that advertorials are nothing new. We know them from newspapers and print magazines. They are a legit way to advertise. Some people hate them because they look like articles other people love them because they are much more informative than simple ads. Print advertorials use the authority of the publications they appear in to promote their products or spread the message.
This is exactly the same approach that makes sense for SEO advertorials. An SEO advertorial done right is an extra page with a sponsored article on an authority site. It’s clearly marked as an advertorial. It is linked from the homepage in a way hat makes sense or both users and search engines. Thus you don’t want to link in the footer but rather somewhere in the sidebar or in an extra section somewhere in between the actual content. The page the advertorial is on is actually both a landing page and a sponsored article. It should be readable (not just keyword stuffed nonsense) and make actual sense for readers that is offer some valuable information.
Like in a newspaper where you would probably take a look at an advertorial while scanning the pages it’s the same here. Whether you arrive by the frontpage link or via Google you quickly scan it to realize sooner or later that it’s an advertorial. By that time you are either interested or not, in some cases you will think “it’s just and ad” and bounce but in other cases you will think “it’s an ad but it’s still interesting”.
In case you treat the SEO advertorial like a landing page you will make sure to add a clear call to action in it. Something saying “subscribe now”, “become a member”, or “try now” depending of course on what you actually offer or advertise.
Nobody has “manipulated” Google here, or at least not more than an advertorial in a magazine manipulates you.
I’m not a big friend of advertising. That’s why I focus on SEO. SEO advertorials are certainly not my favorite SEO technique. Nonetheless many companies don’t have the options I have, especially in countries where social media aren’t as powerful as in the UK or US.
What do you think? Are SEO advertorials using nofollow for external links legitimate in within the Google webmaster guidelines? Why or why not? In case you’re name is Matt Cutts and you work for Google: Do you agree?
It would be make no sense to downrank such pages as otherwise Google would have to penalize sites displaying ads per se.