As News Publications Experiment With Sponsored Content, Google Says Keep It Out Of Google News

google-news-logo-squareNews publications having “sponsored content “deals are on the rise, and Google’s apparently concerned enough that it’s issued a warning today that publishers should keep such content out of Google News.

In a post today on the Google News blog, the company writes:

If a site mixes news content with affiliate, promotional, advertorial, or marketing materials (for your company or another party), we strongly recommend that you separate non-news content on a different host or directory, block it from being crawled with robots.txt, or create a Google News Sitemap for your news articles only.

Otherwise, if we learn of promotional content mixed with news content, we may exclude your entire publication from Google News.

Why such a warning now? Consider this:

healthcare and wireless - Google Search

See that article about how wireless is changing health care, from the Washington Post? It is from the Post. But it wasn’t written by the Post. It was written by the CTIA, a wireless trade group:

Wireless Changing U.S. Healthcare

CTIA paid to have its content placed within the Washington Post as part of the Post’s new Brand Connect service, launched earlier this month. It goes from CTIA, into the Post and into Google News, as if it’s from the Washington Post. And, Google clearly doesn’t like that.

So take heed, publishers, as more of you consider sponsored content. Keep it out of Google News, or Google News may kick you out of the service.

Postscript (March 28): Ina Steiner from EcommerceBytes has been in touch via email, Twitter and in the comments to say this was all triggered by a story from that site written two days ago, looking at how news sites are using affiliate links more in their content and assuming this post from Google is aimed at curbing that activity.

Maybe. But I hadn’t seen that story, nor did it fit in with what I was already seeing in terms of sponsored content within news sites that the post did (and does) seem targeted at.

EcommerceBytes gives an example of this story out of Business Insider called “15 Of The Most Sarcastic Amazon Product Reviews Ever” as ecommerce being brought into news, and the story later quotes Google as saying:

“We take seriously our mission to provide the best possible experience for those seeking useful and timely news information and make clear that Google News is not a marketing service,” Brack wrote in an email, declining to comment further.

Maybe two days later, Google did decide this was an issue enough that it needed to do a reminder blog post. But if so, that’s odd. Google doesn’t have a problem with affiliate links, even if they are in a story about the 15 stupidest Amazon reviews or if they are using a service like VigLinks or Skimlinks, which can turn words into affiliate links.

The reason it doesn’t is because in most cases, it has already said it discounts those links: Google’s Matt Cutts On Affiliate Links: We Handle Majority Of Them.

It specifically gave the all clear to VigLink: VigLink: Fire & Forget Solution To Turn Outbound Links Into Affiliate Earners.

I sure wouldn’t expect Google to single out VigLink-rival SkimLinks as the “bad one,” given that Google Ventures backs VigLink. That would look pretty bad for Google, saying a competing product is bad when clearing one you’ve invested in.

Google’s chief concern with affiliate links has been whether they are used as a way to push paid links to build rankings, given links are effectively used as votes by Google, a way to figure out what should rank higher. That’s why it warned about advertorial content last month: After Penalizing Interflora & UK Newspapers, Google Warns Against Advertorials.

I don’t recall Google ever having before said that just having an affiliate link in an article might somehow reduce it to the degree it shouldn’t be in Google News. In contrast, look at the wording of yesterday’s post, it seems aimed at what I wrote about with sponsored content:

It’s difficult to be trusted when one is being paid by the subject of an article, or selling or monetizing links within an article….

If a site mixes news content with affiliate, promotional, advertorial, or marketing materials (for your company or another party)….

Yes, affiliate content is mentioned — but “affiliate materials” not affiliate links. The “selling or monetizing links” part is perhaps more relevant to the affilate situation, but since Google had previously said it was catching the majority of affiliate links automatially, it seems more relevant to the issue of paid links, links purchased mainly for a ranking boost.

I am checking with Google to see if they can shed more light.

Postscript 2: Google told me that the post it did yesterday was a “reminder post” similar to what it posted in February, warning against advertorial content.

From this, I don’t think publishers need to worry if they have affiliate links from major, recognized programs in their news stories, or if they use programs like VigLink or SkimLinks that create such links. That, alone, doesn’t seem like it would get you banned.

I do think that if someone creates content lacking any real news value, affiliate links or not, that will be an issue for Google News.

Related Topics: Channel: Content | Google: News | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Michael Martinez

    This news just absolutely drips with irony.

  • Darryl M

    Avoiding spam is a good thing.

  • Guy Chapman

    Where SEO goes wrong: it tries to fool people into reading advertorial. Actually interesting content works in a way that advertorial never can. Ask Jimmy Wales.

  • Todd Keller

    Agree with M.M.

  • Eduardo Morales

    Well, can’t be long before Google News gets the axe anyway, right?

  • Ina Steiner

    Danny, Google’s post seems in direct response to our articles about services like VIglink, would be great if you could address this in your article.

  • Brenda Thompson

    upto I looked at the bank draft ov $6434, I have faith …that…my friend had been actualey bringing home money in there spare time from there new laptop.. there brothers friend has done this less than 20 months and as of now cleared the dept on their home and bourt themselves a Mazda MX-5. go to, jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • Phil Simon

    Fascinating. Maybe Google is becoming the anti-Facebook?

  • Danny Sullivan

    I’ll add a postscript and explain what I also explained to you via email.

  • Jill Whalen

    This is good news. I wonder when they will stop allowing all those fake press releases from being in Google News as well.

  • Drew Kondylas

    Who determines the value of an advertorial? Just because someone or some company pays for placement on a news site, is it automatically worth less (or worthless) to a potential reader? What about Op/Ed posts that are not paid placements? And what if a newspaper staffer writes a story and a company pays to sponsor or takeover all the advertising on that page? Does it matter which came first, the story or the sponsorship? The Washington Post is being honest in their presentation of their relationship with CTIA. Personally, I’d still want to see it in my search results, and then judge the value for myself. This is a very slippery slope for Google and for other search engines.

  • Harsh Bawa

    The move I personally believe is a good one as news sites and those which enjoy higher rankings on Google might simply use this to their advantage and ask for more and more money for sponsored links and news.

    It might strain the relation of Google with a few networks but ultimately benefit the users as a sponsored post will always have a tendency to ask people to buy something or simply promote a thing.

    But yeah, Google cannot simply decide which content is best or not. Many times, a sponsored content may be good enough for people who are looking for something,

  • Nevada divorce

    How do you keep sponsored content out of Google news? How does it get on Google news in the first place…like in ads?

  • dorabowers

    Aria. I just agree… Glenn`s comment is surprising… on monday I got a great Infiniti since getting a check for $6843 this last five weeks and also 10k lass month. it’s definitly the easiest work I’ve had. I actually started seven months/ago and immediately started to bring in minimum $82, per-hour. I went to this website,, jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • Rory Manchee

    This story will run and run…. With all social networks looking to do more with news (Facebook to upgrade the newsfeed, Google rethinking Reader, Yahoo! buying Summly and Twitter adding better contextual

  • Rory Manchee

    This story will run and run…. With all social networks looking to do more with news (Facebook to upgrade the newsfeed, Google rethinking Reader, Yahoo! buying Summly and Twitter adding better contextual analytical for trending stories), news is the latest social media frontier – please see my latest blog:

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