As a form of online marketing, some companies send bloggers free products to review or give away in return for a mention in a blogpost. (We’re wondering where ours got lost in the mail.) Whether you’re a company supplying products or have a blog and accept such products, for years, there have been very detailed disclosure guidelines and regulations from the Federal Trade Commission for such trade-out endorsement arrangements.

Exterior of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Washington, D.C.

If government regulations don’t get the attention of bloggers and marketers, this should: Google has issued “best practices” for the way bloggers and publishers should treat links that are part of trade-outs or endorsements. And while “best practices” sounds like something as harmless as a “friendly suggestions,” Google typically issues such best practices to indicate that it will soon be carrying out “manual actions” against websites that don’t comply with the friendly guidelines. Or to put it simpler, there are human reviewers at Google who are going to start recommending to Google overlords that  specific websites who don’t follow the rules of endorsement be dinged. If you don’t follow the rules, you can expect to start being penalized for selling links — even if they are in the form of trade-out endorsements.

See also on | Despite the Rumors, Google Doesn’t Mind Guest Blogging, IF…

Google will start viewing such undisclosed or improperly tagged links and will be treating them as violations of Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Here are two critical practices to follow:

Situation | A company offers to provide a product or service to a publisher or blogger in exchange for a link to one or more of the following

  • The company’s website
  • The company’s social media accounts
  • An online merchant’s page that sells the product
  • A review service’s page featuring reviews of the product
  • The company’s mobile app on an app store

What should the blogger or publisher do about such links?

< > Use a “no-follow” tag with the link

This means you need to add a small bit of code that looks like this:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>I loved it</a>

to any link you point to as part of the trade-out.

Why should the blogger or publisher use the nofollow tag on all such links?

“Because these links didn’t come about organically,” says Google. The links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide a free good or service in exchange for a link.”

Disclose the relationship

beam of light

Google says |  “Users want to know when they’re viewing sponsored content. Also, there are laws in some countries that make disclosure of sponsorship mandatory. A disclosure can appear anywhere in the post; however, the most useful placement is at the top in case users don’t read the entire post.”

 Photos: Think Stock


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