Over the past few years, Google has gone to great lengths to penalise websites that were using tactics that could be considered questionable ethics in an effort to achieve higher Google search engine page rankings. The well-known updates called Panda and Penguin eliminated or penalised websites that either had poor content or low quality links. For the most part, these updates removed sites that were not following best practices. However, many small businesses were punished even though they didn’t knowingly do anything wrong. Many critics questioned Google’s motive for these updates since it left no choice for many website owners other than using paid listings while their sites were fixed to adhere to Google’s guidelines. All along, Google has maintained that their only motive is to deliver an excellent search experience to its users.

 

Now, Google just announced in a March 11, 2016 blog post  that bloggers who have been receiving free products or services in exchange for write ups or reviews that link back to the websites should use nofollow tags for any such links. Here is what they wrote,

 

Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on all such links because these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide a free good or service in exchange for a link).

Companies, or the marketing firms they’re working with, can do their part by reminding bloggers to use nofollow on these links.”

Their blog posts also outlined that bloggers should disclose the details of these kinds of relationships and create unique and compelling content that gives readers a reason to come back to their blog. Therefore, if bloggers were copying specific details about a product or service, they can expect those types of posts to be devalued and penalised.

The response from the blogger and marketing community has not been positive. It seems that most feel Google is taking things too far in attacking bloggers and their blogs or websites. It is a very grey area and difficult to know who is getting “freebies” and who isn’t. Besides the fact, that most bloggers are independent individuals. Are they to be expected to go back through all of their posts in all their years of blogging and change regular links to “nofollow” links? For some, it could be an overwhelming amount of work. Most critics of this new imposition on bloggers say that since Google says this is a form of advertising, which points to the fact that they are trying to hog all of the advertising for themselves. What do you think about Google’s latest announcement? Does this change your opinion of Google?