Key Issues Summary:
- In a lengthy and detailed investigation, The Outline exposed the badly-kept secret that “journalists” accepted payments to include company and brand mentions in articles they were writing.
- The names mentioned in the article were of no surprise. They tended to be the content-churn publications trading off good names to publish significant amounts of dross.
- The article does not mention SEO directly, but handily outlines the Domain Authority of the sites it “outed” – callously ignoring Domain Authority being an entertainment value metric.
- We’ve covered some of the sites on this list before with articles like these: Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc NoFollow External Links, Google Ignores or Penalises Guest Post Link Spam
- Google was not happy and reiterated that publishers should not accept bribes for links, which are specifically against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Key Actions To Take:
- If you are paying journalists to promote your brand or company for SEO benefit, stop it.
- If you have not promoted companies, but like them and have mentioned them often, expect your work to come under scrutiny.
- If you are a PR looking to promote companies or brand, expect it to get harder to slip pay-to-play content under editor’s noses.
- If you have been relying on these links, then whilst Google has previously ignored those links, it may take a different view and actively penalise egregious linking.
- Expect one or two companies to be punished as a result of this. Pour encourager les autres.
- Companies hit by this may get a silent penalty, or they may get a Manual Action.
- It will be interesting to see if a Disavow will work to negate the poison of these links.
- Click here to contact me to discuss this further.
Insights & Discussion:
Sigh. On the one hand, pay to play is obviously bad (mmmkay). But on the other, it goes on regularly and people can be paid in other ways.
I do wonder what Google and others make of journalists being ferried to glamorous product launches, or feted with a nice dinner to explain the finer points of a product; or even being chosen to accept advance review copies.
In my book, even though the editors have gotten all huffy and flounced about declaring their lack of awareness, and adherence to utterly altruistic principles, I would be very surprised if none of them have not been the recipient of some company’s largesse and if that largesse has not given them a more favourable view of the company and its products.
“Shilling” products has a history longer than the internet, although it has become more prevalent since we are not able to see the person typing their shill into the phone or browser.
While I’m pleased these publishers will be taken to task. They should be taken to task more for polluting the web with reams of rubbish content with no use beyond generating clicks. That’s generated a race to the bottom. Still, don;t hate the playa, and all that.
Now, click 19 times to see these funny cat pics taken with my wonderful XYZ brand camera….
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