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26 February 2013 - 12:37pm | posted by | 7 comments

Brand owners should heed Google action on Interflora and take steps to come up smelling of roses

Interflora has fallen foul of GoogleInterflora has fallen foul of Google

As reported by The Drum, floristry brand Interflora has been effectively wiped from the internet by Google after the company was deemed to have breached the search engine’s strict SEO policy.

The measure was imposed by Google after it found that Interflora had over 150+ recent links in regional news sites all over the UK, in the form of online advertisements, which worked to influence its search page rankings.

Generic, ‘story-based’ advertorial has been overused by brand owners a great deal in recent years, leading to Google publishing a warning last week to brand owners that paying for links or advertorial that passes its PageRank violates guidelines and will be penalised.

Both steps by the search giant are a clear deterrent to other brand owners, but to some it is a lack of awareness rather than deliberate rule breaking which can lead to this kind of direct action by Google. So what are the key steps brand owners can take to avoid being penalised:

Step 1 - Consider utilising PR and social media instead of paid-for advertorial. These disciplines once seemed unrelated, but have fast become a more integrated and cost-effective approach to generating quality earned links to support online brand performance. Creating unique, independent content, which has been curated by a journalist, is far more valued by Google and consumers.

Step 2 - Brand owners simply can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach by producing static content. Ensure that copy is tailored for each publication and that its placement on the website is relevant, after all, offline advertorials are placed next to relevant stories and themes. It’s therefore well worth investigating regular and relevant online columns, topics and features to ensure there’s a natural fit.

Step 3 - Make sure content is flexible and varied. Consider using a range of online platforms such as video and images, in order to create a more eye-catching, as well as unique, online offering.

Step 4 - Use branded links, as well as no-follow links, as these can still count towards online brand equity by triggering readers to conduct manual searches. In generating referral traffic as opposed to specific rankings via do-follow links this will, if done properly, eventually drive positive online positioning. After all, those who take the time to use these as a way of searching manually are naturally going to be more serious about making a purchase, creating long-term interest in an offering as a result.

The days of generic link building are long gone and for those willing to work harder, this is a good thing. After all, creating unique content that is tailored around a destination, as well as potential customers, creates longevity and most importantly, trust – something which Google and consumers alike appreciate.

Alex Wares is managing director at search marketing agency Mediarun


27 Feb 2013 - 14:22's picture

So the 4,170,000 entries you get when you Google "interflora" means what exactly??? And if you google "flower delivery" you get

27 Feb 2013 - 15:09
paulw18611's picture

Those 4,170,000 entries are the pages on the internet that mention the word "interflora". The entry is a paid Adwords ad by Interflora. They are bidding on the phrase "flower delivery".

27 Feb 2013 - 16:25's picture

Sorry to sound thick, so what exactly has been "wiped" from Google? What's the penalty?

27 Feb 2013 - 16:53
paulw18611's picture

Ah, I think the article using the phrase "wiped from the internet" is the problem as it's not the case. Specifically, Google have all but removed Interflora's website from their search results because they judged the company to be trying to unfairly manipulating their position in them.

27 Feb 2013 - 17:06
carri72431's picture

The natural ranking has been "wiped" from Google so if anyone is searching for the company's website they will only find the paid for link. This means the majority (a fair amount will come from the 'independent' florists that link to their site) of their traffic will go through the this link costing the company tens of thousands of pounds (all money going to Google of course).

Luckily for Interflora they, more than likely, have the funds to cover this until they can recover their natural listings. Sadly for any smaller companies, they won't have the ability to do this and could easily go bust if customers can't find their websites when doing a branded search.

27 Feb 2013 - 17:58
christopherwoods's picture

I just googled Interflora (having not done so before, so getting 'pure' Google results) -- their site appears on the first page, not far below Tesco's #1 Flowers from Interflora entry. Their Twitter profile is also well up the rankings.

The results are arguably inaccurate for the moment as several of the spots are occupied by entries discussing this SEO penalty. When they disappear, Interflora's own site will be fourth on the page, below their Twitter and a vouchercodes web site.

I wouldn't consider this a major penalty, people don't automatically just click on the top result. I would wager most people just bash in automatically anyway, it's such a ubiquitous brand.

If this happened to a more generic brand, it would hurt them far more. Interflora shouldn't have taken out the advertorial with links in the first place as IMHO it's an outmoded and slightly grey hat method of advertising. Their organic listings are still pretty strong anyway, they'll recover fast.

28 Feb 2013 - 15:52
proac43960's picture

We have seen this before, BMW got hit a few years ago for similar activities. Whilst I do have sympathy with the smaller companies that are Interflora agents (who I am sure can demand refunds from their fees), all I can say is, good on Google, lets have more of the same penalising the companies that try to "game" the natural search positions.

We are a small, independent business insurance broker, we are constantly frustrated with the bigger single insurers (therefore not independent) and comparison sites (no advice offered) who effectively buy their way to page one, say for the search term "business insurance". Just because they have deeper pockets to pay for this manipulation, why is this right? The only thing Google gets wrong is that it automatically (appears) to give weight to big, established, household names, it does not favour the smaller, entrepreneurial companies (that may turn into the big companies of tomorrow).

All I want is a level playing field and Googles actions here do not surprise me and are not new, it is just that when it is a big company that gets hit, it makes the news.


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