A few months ago, a new client came to our company with a huge dilemma. All of their Google rankings were gone! We looked into it and found out that they were penalized. Apparently they hired a cheap SEO company that was using black hat techniques. So we had to find all the back links that were placed on totally inappropriate sites (not even related to their industry)—there were hundreds! Once we contacted the site owners asking that the comments and links be removed, we were able to submit a new request with Google.
Anyway, the only reason I decided to tell you this little story is because something similar happened with a huge online florist, Interflora. The company was penalized two weeks ago for not complying with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
David Naylor, head of SEO marketing at Bronco, said, “In January, Interflora, in order to get ready for Valentine’s Day, paid newspapers to run stories which were only there to get links to improve their Google ranking.”
Though Google did not directly address the Interflora catastrophe, Google’s Matt Cutts, the head of search spam, did readdress their rules: “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 linkselling 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.”
Always remember, if you do use advertorials, be sure to use a “no follow” attribute, telling Google not to use that link as part of their PageRank algorithm.
According to Search Engine Land, “As we could see in the Interflora Deep Dive Analysis the 100 or so Advertorials where not the only bad links in the mix…Interflora actually had more than 70% of their links as toxic or suspicious according to Link Detox. So those were actually 1000′s of links that would probably not pass a manual review by the Google spam team.”
They were back on the ranks on March 3rd. But they did see a drop in sales during those 11 days where they were not present on Google’s search engine.
Please take these examples as a warning. Do not trust cheap SEO companies and most certainly do not pay for links in order to rank higher. When hiring an SEO company, make sure you know exactly how they plan on optimizing your site to get you better results on the search engines. Be sure to ask what other clients they have worked with so you can Google them and see if they are present on the ranks.