Lately one of the world’s most famous flower retailers, Interflora have been all over the news – and not really for the right reasons. Earlier last week there were signs that Interflora had fallen from Google’s grace. By the end of the week it was apparent that Google had dropped Interflora from its top listings. For all of the main search terms that Interflora previously ranked number 1 for, they were dropped down to the fourth or fifth pages in Google.
What Went Wrong?
So, what did go wrong? Well, some top SEO’s looked at the problem. First, Martin Macdonald reported that Interflora had been giving out flowers to bloggers in exchange for reviews. They had certainly contacted some bloggers to request that they remove the links. This seemed a little harsh, but it is indeed against Google’s search quality guidelines.
However, the following day we learned from David Naylor’s blog that that the real problem may have been Interflora’s pre-Valentine’s Day promotion. They had bought many advertorials in newspapers all over the UK, and it seems that in many of the online versions of these newspapers there were links to Interflora – and these links passed Google PageRank.
Now, at the moment all we know is that:
- Interflora has lost almost all their rankings. It does not even rank for its brand name.
- Interflora / their marketing department have been contacting bloggers to request the removal of links. Some SEO specialists commented that they may be removing the wrong links though!
- The online newspapers have mostly all removed the links already.
- The online newspapers have also experienced a fall in Google PageRank since the incident.
Such a dramatic penalty is certainly manual intervention from Google. They have obviously investigated Interflora and its link building practices and found that they have been buying links.
Here’s Matt Cutt’s (head of webspam at Google) view on the topic:
Reminder: Google’s guidelines on paid links that pass PageRank also apply to “advertorial” pages. See goo.gl/PhwsY for more info.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) February 22, 2013
Did Interflora Know?
The big question is, should Interflora have know better?
All the articles were labelled as an ‘advertorial’. Is it up to the advertiser to specify that links are “no followed” to prevent PageRank passing from the publisher site to the advertiser site? It could have been an error on the part of the publishers – maybe they have not read Google’s guidelines?
It will be interesting to see if Interflora recovers. Many analysts say that they will. The speed at which they have had all their bought links removed is astounding! One of the benefits of working with mainstream media and newspapers is that they will act fast for a client, unlike smaller and part-time web masters who publish a few articles a week in between other jobs.
Interflora have certainly learned a valuable lesson during these last few weeks: If you buy advertorials make sure those links are set to nofollow!
Interflora Discussion On Twitter
Here are some selected tweets about Interflora’s online problems:
— Wired UK (@WiredUK) February 27, 2013
Interflora’s former social media agency We Are Social’s Robin Grant criticises SEO ‘paid link’ strategy thedrum.com/bmd
— The Drum (@TheDrum) February 22, 2013
BBC News – Interflora sues Marks & Spencer over Google ad links bbc.in/146P02W
— Kris Olin (@KrisOlin) March 1, 2013
Have a look at this related article about Google’s notorious contract killers, Panda and Penguin: Syndicating Your Own Content? Why don’t you just shoot yourself in the leg while doing it!