The Aftermath of the Google Update

25 April 2016

You’re likely to be aware that a few weeks ago the recent surge in brand and influencer engagement, caught the attention of Google, who released advice on the best practice for influencer and brand collaborations, in order to ensure that content is both helpful to users and of course complies with the official Google Webmaster Guidelines:

  • - The main point to remember here from Google is; ‘links that pass PageRank in exchange for goods or services are against Google guidelines on link schemes’.
  • - To avoid being penalised for malpractice, influencers should utilise a ‘nofollow’ tag on all links which were not generated organically. This new guideline positions the influencer to have the responsibility to remember to use nofollow on these links, as well as declaring a disclosure of sponsorship within the post.
  • - Google concludes their guideline by reminding influencers to always keep in the forefront of their content strategy, the importance of keeping their content relevant, and of high quality- not just for the sake of advertising.

This is an interesting step that Google has made in recognising the importance of influencer marketing and its relationship with SEO, reinforcing that it is a quickly being considered, a legitimate digital marketing strategy; but what are the implications for both brands and bloggers?

A great priority for brands who are requesting these links, is their visibility in search results and improving where they rank, as well as increasing their website authority. Under these Google guidelines, requested is that brands do not simply organise product placement with an influencer in exchange of a link back to their site. Moreover, brands are placed in a riskier position when sending products to influencers to review. As the influencer is not obligated to leave a positive review; what if they end up hating the product and leave an honestly negative post? Under this circumstance, they would have to adhere to the guidelines and state; ‘This is sponsored content’, however not only would this confuse readers, it probably won’t bode well with the brand.

Within the same vein, the guidelines could get blurred for influencers, who wish to proactively approach a brand to work with. Often when an influencer outreaches a brand they love; if seen to be a good match, they are offered samples by the brand due to the organic nature of their interest, which will often get featured and mentioned by the influencer in some form of content.

By adhering to Google’s new guidelines, (because the product is technically free, but the interest is not) – the link still would not be defined as not organic. Other factors must be considered, such as the cost of purchasing; is it fair to assume an influencer can afford these acquisitions? Another thing to consider is of course credibility; will the action of an influencer stating that their content is sponsored at core, go against the origins and the true essence of an audience trusting the unbiased opinion of their favourite influencer?