If you work with publishers, influencers or affiliates and you give them free product (or service, etc.) in exchange for a post, you need to know that their site could get hit with a Google penalty if they are not “nofollow”-ing their links to your product/service.
Sites with free product reviews use outbound links to link to the product page/brand site/etc. that they are reviewing. Those outbound links can be affiliate links, direct links to product pages, brand pages or social media profiles.
If you’re a publisher, influencer, affiliate, etc. and you get a free product or service in exchange for a post, then it’s now essential that you make sure the links you use are “nofollowed”— be it to the original product page, a sales page or an affiliate link on a site like Amazon or to their social media profiles.
This doesn’t mean you need to “nofollow” everything on your blog, just the links that are involved in an exchange for a product or service. And due to the FTC’s disclosure rules, it’s also important to disclose this kind of relationship to your readers as well—ideally at the top of your post.
Here’s what a “nofollow” HTML tag looks like, using “awesome product” as the text that is being linked to the product page:
<a href=”http://www.brand.com/outbound-link.html” rel=”nofollow”>awesome product</a>
Another important note. If you’re an affiliate and you receive a freebie in exchange for a review, don’t rely on your affiliate network to automatically include the “nofollow” tag within affiliate links because most do not. The onus is on you to apply the “nofollow” HTML tags to your outbound links in order to avoid getting hit with penalty.
Lastly, make sure you are writing posts with original and useful content, especially as it relates to the product you’re reviewing.
Why this sudden crack down? Our speculation is that it’s probably related to Google’s Penguin update. The search engine is really trying to guard against spammy links, which are used to boost a site’s search rankings. While there are many ways this can be done legitimately, there has been a lot of abuse as of late, especially with regard to free product reviews.
So, Google is saying enough is enough and has begun to bring down their penalty hammer.
If you have any questions about Google’s warning over free product reviews that are not nofollowed or need additional SEO guidance, please reach out to our SEO and Digital Strategy team.