Video: Google’s Matt Cutts On Advertorials & Webmaster Guidelines

google-penalty-squareGoogle’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, posted a new video today on YouTube clarifying Google’s stance on Advertorials and “native advertising.”

Advertorials are editorial-like content that is published because an advertiser has paid the publication to publish the story or the content.

Recently, we covered a story on how a major U.K. floral company was penalized for using advertorials as a way to boost their Google search rankings in an artificial way. Google’s Cutts wanted to make it clear that it is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines for webmasters and advertisers to use advertorials or native advertising as a means of passing PageRank to your webpages.

Matt explained that Google treats links as editorial votes. When links are embedded into advertorials or paid stories, if they are not disclosed, that is against Google’s guidelines.

Matt Cutts posted a slide showing their guidelines for both user advertorial disclosure and search engine advertorial disclosure:

google-advertorial-guidelines

In summary, the Google guidelines for Advertorials are:

(1) Search Engines: If links are paid for, i.e., money changes hands, then links should not pass PageRank. You should nofollow links in Advertorials.

(2) Users & Readers: It should be clear to your readers that this is a paid story by labeling it advertisement or sponsored story.

So, why is Google talking about this now? There was no change in Google policy, but Matt said that there has been an increase of webmasters using this technique in the recent months. They have taken action against this for years and will continue to do so in the future.

Matt also added that this does not just impact Google Web Search but also the Google News results. Google News might not only remove the paid content but also might remove the news source from the Google News index completely.

Here is the video:

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Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Link Building: Paid Links | Top News

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Katrina Moody

    So just to be ridiculously clear — bloggers who do a sponsored post and receive some compensation for said post should use all rel=nofollow links in the content of that post? Because I’m pretty sure that’s not happening ;-)

  • http://www.rustybrick.com/barry Barry Schwartz

    sounds like it

  • Katrina Moody

    Yeah – just thought I’d make it beyond obvious so I can point some folks this way *grin*

  • Chase Anderson

    Someone in the UK is feeling a little nervous right now. I’d also hate to be a large scale news site, it seems someone was just put on notice.

  • Joe

    This is ridiculous. Google should not enforce this ridiculous policy. How can they tell if a post was paid for or not?

    Bottom line is, if post & link needs to be useful to users. So what if it’s paid? If it helps the user then it shouldn’t be nofollow.

  • http://www.dpom.co.uk/ Brett Dixon

    So what about services such as PR Web? We’ve all seen terrible content produced for PR Web which is supposed to be a Press Release but instead I see many that are akin to advertorials (and blatant self promotion) and PRWeb pump this crap into Yahoo and Google News (and others). Many of these “Press Releases” are swamped with Links that pass page rank and many of them service as nothing more than backlinks – which shouldn’t be surprising since PR Web sell their service as a tool to help SEO!

    Annoyingly, Google says this doesn’t work but SEL have in the past had stories showing this does work rather well. Seems to me it would be an easy thing for Google to catch onto yet they don’t.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Brett Dixon: “So what about services such as PR Web?”

    Barry Schwartz: “Google News might not only remove the paid content but also might remove the news source from the Google News index completely.”

    I guess we just have to wait and see what happens.

  • http://www.dpom.co.uk/ Brett Dixon

    Yep, wait and see! I hope so, seems like an easy win to me for Google.

  • Illogicalthinker

    Maybe Google should make something the SE’s will understand, such as rel=”paid” that way they determine if it is worth following or not following.

    How does the user determine if a paid link should be nofollow or not? They might think it is good info but they are getting paid for it so do they really care?

    Bottom line though, Google wants people to rank because people found it useful, not because some high dollar firm decided it should be useful.

  • Illogicalthinker

    It has and still does work, in fact it worked really well for the last two years or so. Now it is at about 20% of what it was in December though. I think they are still trying to find benchmarks for it so they punish those who they think deserve it and not those that are just stupid.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this dies out in the next year or two.

  • Zach

    The Reason Why PR web works is because other publication sites which are high authority sites such as yahoo, digital journal and other sites publish the same news content with a dofollow link, which includes rich anchor text keywords. However matt Cutts did said that the links from prweb doesn’t count, but what about the links from other sites, which publishes the same news content.

    Sometime companies just publish Press Release, Just To build their link profile, without any news worthy Content.

    I think Google is smart enough and they might be knowing about these issues, better than us.

  • Zach

    Google has already made rel=”nofollow”. What Google is trying to say is whenever there is a paid content you mark it as a sponsored post or an advertorial, in clear words and mark the link as rel=”nofollow”

  • Illogicalthinker

    True, I was just trying to be the devils advocate here.

  • http://www.websitespot.com/ David Lalumendre

    I personally like it. It levels the playing field for those that try to play by the rules. It, in a way, eliminates the issue of just throwing money at the problem by just buying links. Obviously there are other ways around it but it begins to address one very common issue.

  • http://www.nerve.org/ Dr. Michael Pasquale

    Well I would like to see more enforcement on the part of Google and I am very glad to hear this. Paid links, Paid Content and Paid Blog networks are the accepted standard and have been the rule in for plastic surgeons who spend a tremendous amount of $$ on this, as its very competitive. We have spent months cleaning all of these old SEO techniques off our sites after penguin and I hope it pays off. Yet looking around today all I see is my competition on huge paid networks of advertorials–paid links etc. So we will see.

  • not for robots

    What happens if it’s not ‘paid-for’, exactly, but you use your network to create, high quality, unique content that points back to your site? As an example, The Daily Mail Group use all of their online assets to build rank for each other, is this ok? Seems to be a grey-area.

  • Ali Zaidi

    They already give nofollow links brother. All the big news websites that the PRweb gets your content published on give nofollow links.

  • Zach

    Just a Quick Link for you.. This news got published on 28th of May 2013. This news content was distributed via prweb

    http://www.timesunion.com/business/press-releases/article/African-Americans-Find-New-Solutions-to-Their-4554406.php

    Get your facts right.

  • http://www.noticiashoy.cc/ Noticias de Hoy

    What about Press Relases they also have to be nofollow ? Matt cutts is the dictator on the web and the destroyer of virtual worlds.

  • captain_planet

    I think rel=”paid” may actually be a nice idea, it is a grey area, if you have a listings site or a tourism site this would be useful for google to take into account the links however some of these may have been paid (i.e. for an enhanced listing) therefore should have nofollow and not be counted by Google. I think this is a bit unfair and certainly not fair to penalise sites with the listings on if they don’t use nofollow

  • http://www.nathanielbailey.co.uk/ Nathaniel Bailey

    I run a blog where all the content comes from guest posters, so what does google want me to do?

    Its 100% free to post on the blog as long as you follow the rules and its unique content (I check each post), so will google be thinking all those who guest post on my blog are paying for it?

    I get nothing out of the service from my guest posters or any of the content they supply, any revenue from the site is made from adds which are all nofollowed, so with blogs like mine do you think google will know this?!

    The end question here is… How does google know which blogs/posts are sponsored and paid for against those which are free like all the posts on my blog?

  • NickCobb

    Awesome. So, sites that accept infographic submissions but try and
    charge a fee are just shooting themselves in the foot . . . and the
    people paying have little reason to do so.

  • Illogicalthinker

    Paid for in anyway = Nofollow. So if you pay someone to post links on press release, then they should be nofollow links.

  • Illogicalthinker

    Google won’t like it, if they figure it out.

    This is what Matt and Google really want.
    Links to be gained by attractive content, not bought or farmed.
    There is not really any grey-area there are just black areas that Google has not produced algorithmic means to mark as such.

  • http://www.noticiashoy.cc/ Noticias de Hoy

    Then how can you tell anyone tell if it’s paid or not ?

  • Durant Imboden

    How does Google know? Patterns. Cheapo Widgets Inc. isn’t likely to buy a guest post only on your blog: Such posts–with embedded link–are likely to be published on many different blogs (otherwise, they wouldn’t have any significant SEO benefit), leaving enough fingerprints for Google’s algorithm to detect a pattern of behavior.

  • http://www.nathanielbailey.co.uk/ Nathaniel Bailey

    People DON’T buy anything on my blog, its FREE that’s my concern!

    As for your comment about duplicate content, read my comment again and you will also see the bit about them all being manually checked and rechecked to make sure we only have original content on the blog!

    Really try reading comments fully and correctly before jumping the gun, you missed to very important parts of my comment about NOT being paid and about CHECKING content ;)

  • Durant Imboden

    One tiny quibble with Matt’s video: Links aren’t necessarily “votes” (except in Google’s eyes), and they aren’t necessarily given because the site owner or editor is passionate about the linked sites or wants to share the linked sites with friends. In an ideal world, links are citations that help the reader find original sources or additional information on a topic. Think Wikipedia links, as opposed to Google +1s or Facebook Likes.

  • Katrina Moody

    Here’s the thing — if you’re a savvy blogger you should already be doing this as part of this is also spelled out via the FTC rules for sponsored/paid posts and advertising. I think they will find some bonafied folks who just don’t get it who will break the rules – but the majority of folks breaking the rules don’t care!

  • Durant Imboden

    The point is that Google is looking for patterns. If you publish guest posts with links to sites that Google flags as likely link buyers, you’re going to look like a participant in a spam network. In fact, you’ll BE a participant in a spam network, knowingly or otherwise.

    The simplest way to avoid the problem would be to “nofollow” links in guest posts. Of course, you may not want to take that step because it will make it harder to attract guest posts. It all comes down to which matters most to you: attracting guest posts that you don’t have to pay for, or protecting the integrity of your site.

  • Guest

    I see the point your saying, but I agree with Durant. Google “looks” at patterns. It is possible that there are those who “guest post” the exact same write up on, say, two different blogs. However, it is also possible (and it is really happening out there) that these “guest bloggers” post two different articles on two different blogs — i.e. Parts of a Clock on Website A, Uses of a Clock on Website B — the catch would be that the embedded links on those two supposedly different articles are the same (points on the same website or page).

  • http://twitter.com/carissarose_ Carissa Rose

    ^ That was me, the guest. Hehe.

  • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

    I actually think that’s not new at all. Google has always said to nofollow links if you were paid to place them, right?

  • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

    Apparently, the answer to your question, Nathan, those guest posts need not to LOOK LIKE advertorials: no exact-match links for example, no irrelevant links, etc…

  • Katrina Moody

    That’s my thinking, Ann. My understanding is that they will likely be looking more specifically for these things now, not that they are new.

  • Chase Anderson

    I think it’s very common for sites to be operated solely on ad revenue. If Google were to manually look at your site and try to determine how it’s profitable, it should be clear it’s due to the ads.

    If it’s an automatic process, there are probably tens of thousands of useful sites primarily built or at least largely built on guest posts. If Google’s algorithm couldn’t automatically detect the advertorials vs the guest posts with a high degree of accuracy they wouldn’t launch this algorithm.

    In my opinion, on issues like this where there isn’t one specific method or even a handful of algorithmic approaches to the issue, they rely on their manual review process to detect the offenders. If your site is really useful, and drives revenue from ad content, Google’s manual review team shouldn’t be confused and won’t penalize you for your guest posts.

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