Google & Sponsored Posts: Protect your Blog from Penalty

Chitraparna Sinha
Jul 25, 2016 · 5 min read
Should A Blogger Accept Sponsored Posts or Not?

For a full-time blogger, sponsored posts are a preferred method to earn money from a blog. With the help of advanced brand monitoring tools to “paid to blog” sites, times are easier for a blogger to get adequately compensated for driving audience to a brand / product. With good incentives, a blogger can even charge $1000 for a review!

The blog is like real estate where it isn’t wrong to ‘rent out space’, that is, publish sponsored posts; but, you need to follow certain rules of the trade.

Once upon a Time…Google paid Bloggers for Sponsored Posts

…surprised?

In 2012, reports emerged that Google paid bloggers to publish sponsored posts in order to promote the Chrome browser.

A search of “This post is sponsored by Google” yielded 400+ results.

In short, Google is found guilty of practicing what it doesn’t want other advertisers and bloggers to follow. Search Engine Land covers the issue, followed by Google’s response. Apparently, they did have a campaign to promote Chrome browser but it wasn’t what they signed-up for.

Personally, I feel sad thinking a giant like Google can’t control and monitor their project and its outcome.

No one knows the truth for sure but this is one instance where Google goofed up!

Is Google against Sponsored Posts?

Google’s penalty of popular guest blogging network like MyBlogGuest and PostJoint in 2012–2013 created confusions. Bloggers and advertisers are reluctant to pursue sponsored content advertorials thinking Google will penalize them.

The perception is without any conclusive evidence.

The fact remains that Google isn’t against publishing sponsored posts. There are only two criteria:

  • the links mentioned in the sponsored post is “no-follow”
  • the content isn’t thin.

If your blog adheres to these two criterion, the idea of getting manual penalty is eliminated.

Why should Sponsored Posts links be NoFollow?

In a post titled, Paid Posts should not affect Search Engine, Matt Cutts says:

Clear disclosure of sponsorship is critical, and that includes disclosure for search engines. If link in a paid post would affect search engines, that link should not pass PageRank (e.g. by using the no-follow attribute).

Google — and other search engines — do take action which can include demoting sites that sell links that pass PageRank, for example.

It’s worth noting that PageRank doesn’t exist anymore. Does it mean bloggers can game the system by offering paid do-follow links?

How to Convince Advertisers to Accept NoFollow?

Sadly…a large number of advertisers only want Do-Follow links!

I know how it feels. Even though advertisers know that Google is against paid dofollow links, it still wants bloggers to offer the same.

Chances are that if 10 advertisers contact you and you offer only nofollow links, maybe just 1 will show interest, right?

See, you can’t educate everyone but make the effort to explain certain factors to potential advertisers. Tell them how Google perceives sponsored posts and that if they want dofollow links only, it will spoil their business in the long run. Sooner or later, Google will get a whiff of things and before they even bat an eyelid, the advertiser’s site will be out of search engines.

Moreover, show them your blog statistics such as DA, PA, MozRank, daily / monthly Page Views and unique visitors. If an advertiser is looking for brand visibility and engagement, these statistics will matter more than the nature of a link!

Of course, be prepared to receive less advertising deals because not all advertisers will agree to the proposition but fret not, you’re protecting your blog and their business.

Tips to Safeguard your Blog

There are 2 ways about this:

(a)…if your blog isn’t penalized.

If your blog isn’t penalized yet:

  • You’re following a safe linking policy, that is, adding ‘nofollow’ to sponsored posts.
  • Google hasn’t spotted you yet!

If the second option applies to you, follow these steps:

  • Add the rel=”nofollow” tag to all sponsored content published previously. You can do this manually by logging into your WordPress or Blogger blogs, visiting each blog post and making the change. This option is not feasible for blogs containing a large number of published content. Therefore, if you have a WordPress blog, use any of these WordPress plugins — WP External Links,Follow NoFollow Control and NoFollow for External Link. If you have a blog on Blogger, refer to this post and follow the steps.
  • Resubmit the blog index via Google Webmaster Tools (GWT).

If you want to add the rel=”nofollow” manually, follow the image example and read the post detailing all about the No-Follow attribute.

(b)…if your blog is penalized.

If your blog receives a manual penalty notification from GWT you need to take action immediately.

  • Add the rel=”nofollow” tag to all paid content. Use the plugins and Blogger resource indicated above.
  • Once done, place a reconsideration request from here.

Give the Google team a couple of weeks to process the reconsideration request. If it’s approved, your blog will be promoted to its original rankings; otherwise, you have to try again, following the same process.

Sponsored blogging has evolved and advertisers are coming to terms with the change. Advertisers are slowly understanding the merit of maximizing the audience base of a blogger than focusing on a a couple of links only.

Brands and product marketers are spending huge money to partner with blogging channels for repeat deals in terms of product launch covering, giveaway and contests, special deals for readers and so on.

Can we NOT depend on Google?

No, we can’t.

Google Inc. is a search engine giant, like a monolith structure. It doesn’t have any competition (as of now) and your readers visit Google everyday…so how can you avoid Google? You can’t.

Therefore, it’s better to play it safe; play by the rules and keep your blog safe.

What do you think?

Chitraparna Sinha

Written by

Content Strategist, Speaker, Consultant & Professional Blogger | Payoneer (India) Brand Ambassador

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