Interflora first, then the Newspapers, next you!

Interflora got busted..

So Martin Macdonald broke the news about the demise of Interflora’s search engine rankings and David Naylor’s site published an article pointing out that it appears that advertorials are responsible for the action that has been taken against the site.

News sites got busted too..

I have also received information that many of the sites that have been selling advertorials have dropped in PageRank and search engine rankings have plummeted.

A quick look at SearchMetrics organic visibility chart confirms this and shows that The Telegraph, Guardian and The Independent have all significantly all lost SEO visibility and probably traffic as a result, the thing all these sites have in common is that they all sell advertorials (paid links).

You’re next to get busted..

I hate to say this, but let this be a warning to all of you that guest post, or allow spammy guest posts on your site – you are next in line for a massive kick up the arse from Google!

I’ve heard the argument several times that it would be impossible for Google to determine guest posting algorithmically, this is reminiscent of an argument I heard years ago that Google would not be unable to detect blog networks. There is one massive thing that doubters are forgetting – guests post are blatantly advertised as such and it would be easy to devalue the links from guest posts and penalise sites with too many inbound links from them.

Another argument that I hear is that signature links are natural in guest posts and everybody does it. This might be the case, but from Google’s perspective these are not editorial links and should be no followed.

Believe me, I’m saying this for your own good..

Don’t believe me? Here it is from the horse’s mouth “Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and link-based analysis has greatly improved the quality of web search.” – Matt Cutts.

I was lucky to escape the lure of advertorials

A few months ago I received a phone call from a company trying to sell me advertorials on large media sites. It seemed like a really good offer at the time, especially after Penguin considering the trouble that you now have to go to get decent high-authority links.

I withdrew

After nearly going through with the deal I pulled out and the reason for that is that every link they were offering had one thing in common, they all contained the word ‘advertorial’ somewhere on the page. This immediately set alarm bells ringing.

I’m not talking about guest posts on high authority sites that are selective about the content that they publish. I’m talking about the types of sites that you find on MyBlogGuest that allow anyone to publish any old rubbish in exchange for a link. These types of sites usually leave a massive footprint as they have the words ‘guest posts’ plastered everywhere which is very similar to sites that sell advertorials.

Look Google, I’m gaming you! Come and get me.

This is a massive tell-tale signal to Google that you have not been given a link editorially but instead have been given a link because you decided to post probably low quality content in exchange for a backlink.

If in doubt just listen advice from Rand Fishkin

If you are a publisher that allows guest posting on your site, don’t have too many of them especially if the quality is terrible and minimise the use of the words ‘guest posts’ send a signal  to Google that people are posting on your site in exchange for links. If you are a link builder publishing content to generate links, make sure you are selective about the sites you publish on. If in doubt, listen to Rand Fishkin he always tells us what nice white hat stuff we should be doing.


Having a small amount of guest post style links in your backlink profile won’t cause any significant damage, but especially if you are a commercial site and have shed-loads of guest posts with links pointing to your site, then you are definitely going to run into trouble at some point.


Since this post was written there has been a lot of talk relating to whether or not guest posting can hurt your site. There is still much debate but more people are coming to the conclusion that guest posting does indeed pose a real risk.

Here are a few related posts…

Is guest blogging becoming risky – Econsultancy

How Guest Bloggers are Sleepwalking Their Way into Penalties – SEOmoz

Further Updates..

Google has now confirmed that they don’t like large-scale guest posting on their link scheme page.

Matt Cutts has eluded that Interflora may have disavowed all links over a long period of time and then filed a reconsideration request, which as a result, got Google to lift a penalty in 7 days. Video below.


Daniel February 22, 2013

I don't know who the guy is in your memes, but I bet he likes crystal meth and conspiracy theories.

Gor February 23, 2013

Haha! It's Francis Begbie from Trainspotting :)

Hayden Sutherland February 24, 2013

Gordon Gordon An interesting post and its never a bad thing to quote Rand. However I think you're overlooking one important thing when you talk about being penalised for paid links / advertorials and possible guest postings... You're assuming that the recent Newspaper & Interflora downgrade was an automated process. Google has a number of staff who manually check these sorts of things and a reduction on this scale would not have been made lightly (in fact a timely reminder posting by Matt Cutts indicates that this penalty may well have been comminicated internally to some pretty senior people there). Until this process is foolproof, I think it will continue to have humans making the decision on what is and isn't black hat activity. Note: that's not to say that humans are infallible or immune from other factors such as politics

Gor February 24, 2013

That's a fair point Hayden but I'm not assuming that at all, I actually know what happened on this occasion:P However, it would be impossible for Google to stamp down on this type of thing properly on a manual basis, especially when it comes to guest posting, so it is likely that when they go after guest posting it will be built into their algorithm.

Christoph C. Cemper February 24, 2013

Hi Gordon, thanks for this post - I would like to add, that it's not just the advertorials alone, but rather those triggering a manual review. As you can read here I found a lot of other outdated link building issues that add to the mix. 70% toxic+suspicious links says it all. See also Cheers Christoph

Gor February 24, 2013

Thanks for sharing Christoph! That looks like a really good tool, would love a shot of it, I tried the 'pay with a tweet' feature last night but it didn't work.

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