Google Releases Guidelines for Bloggers Reviewing Free Products

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Google has outlined its best practice guidelines for bloggers and companies on the use of product reviews in a recent blog on the Webmaster Central Blog. A relatively common method of online marketing is for companies to send out their products to popular bloggers for free, in return for a mention in the blog post. These mentions can be in the form of a product review, just a simple mention or as a bigger prize giveaway.

Now, Google is urging bloggers and companies to adhere to its guidelines to ensure product reviews are unbiased and provide a valuable service to users.

Here are Google’s guidelines:

Use nofollow tags

Google guidelines state that bloggers must use nofollow tags on all links relating back to the site of the company that gave the blogger the free product. The reason given for this is that Google does not believe a company should earn PageRank in exchange for a free good or service.   Google urges bloggers not to link back to:

  1. The company’s site.
  2. The company’s social media accounts
  3. Online merchant pages who sell that product
  4. A review services page featuring the product
  5. The company’s mobile app (if they have one)

Not sure how to implement a nofollow tag? Read our recent blog Top SEO Tips: A Guide To Using The Robots Exclusion Standard to find out more.

Disclose the relationship

Google said it is important for bloggers to disclose their relationship with the sponsoring company, because it is misleading for readers if they are relying on a review that could be biased and unreliable.

Google states that users want to know when they are viewing sponsored content. If a blogger receives a free product from a company in exchange for a mention in one of their blogs, they are likely to be biased, and favour the product no matter how they actually feel, as it was given to them for free. Information from sponsored blogs can be unreliable, and bloggers will miss out negative points about the product.

Create unique content

Google advises  bloggers to offer the most compelling and interesting information they can, as this is obviously going to bring in a bigger audience. Google also advises that bloggers write for a specific market, making sure to “cover a useful niche that few others are looking at” In their product reviews. This will bring in a specific audience that will return to the blog to read up on useful news and information on whatever specific subject they decide to blog about.

Industry response to Google’s blogger guidelines have been mixed, with some believing that an increase in ‘nofollow’ links will make links in general redundant, while others applaud Google’s push for unbiased reviews.

If you are a company using bloggers for product reviews be sure to request a nofollow tag on any linkbacks, otherwise you could get penalised for soliciting paid links.

Not sure how to implement a nofollow tag? Think your site could benefit from a backlink audit? Contact our Technical SEO team today.

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