Google puts the onus of appropriate linking and product disclosures on influencers, brands and the agencies with whom they work in a new blog post about best practices for webmasters.
The search giant’s note had other details but is mainly about PageRank, a portion of the method Google uses to rate authority in their search results and a factor they’re just about to starting hiding from public view. Google is reminding bloggers and other influencers that since their relationship with a company that provides them product or compensation isn’t organic, they should be using the nofollow tag on their posts. By using that tag, the link will not provide PageRank authority to the company’s web site. While PageRank isn’t the only factor in domain authority, it is something often gamed by SEO experts to get more traffic from Google searches. SearchEngineLand’s SEO Table of Contents (shown below) provides more detail about how Google rates web pages.
Per Google, since the influencer writing about the product was given a free product or compensated in some way, their relationship should not provide domain authority to the company. The warning is not limited to just the company’s main URL; Google extends this advice across the board including links to a company’s social media accounts, merchant pages, reviews and mobile products on app stores. The blog post reminds everyone in the relationship, including brands and agencies, to help keep influencers in compliance.
A link from a compensated influencer without the nofollow tag is akin to link-building schemes by Google’s estimation. Indeed, a company could theoretically engage in an affiliate or large-scale influencer marketing campaign that provides them thousands of inorganic links. That concept undermines PageRank and is part of the reason why Google has brought in additional factors to judge which pages should be showing up in search results.
Google also reminds influencers to disclose their relationship and that the real way to get traffic to a site is to ‘create compelling, unique content.’ While that’s good advice, marketers know that one of the key advantages of using influencer marketing is to reach a built-in audience and drive traffic to your content, web site and conversion points. Google is not saying that can’t happen, of course. They’re just protecting the already diminished value of PageRank to effectively score a website. The nofollow tag won’t stop an influencer with a true brand affinity from creating ideal content or pushing quality traffic to the brand’s channels, it will simply prevent a company from gaining inappropriate authority from using a forward-thinking marketing strategy.