Google Warns Against Sponsored Content

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McDonalds ad in Italy

Photo credit: Peter Clarke

Hawking products is not something that you’ll commonly consider doing on your law firm’s legal blog. Writing about products and things to buy in a blog tends to stay in the realm of lifestyle blogging.

However, the use of technology in the law is increasing rapidly. There are numerous players and companies out there with a new program that they claim will “revolutionize” how attorneys cope with the stress and the complicated logistics of their day-to-day work. It’s just a matter of time before some of these companies reach out to their customers in the legal field and ask for a mention in their firm’s blog about how great their product is, in return a discount or a free trial.

Just last week, however, Google issued a warning against this practice. Worse, they insinuated that a blog could face search engine optimization (SEO) penalties if this warning was disregarded.

Why Has Google Issued This Warning?

Remember that Google’s business model is based on internet users trusting its search engine to give relevant and important results for their queries. One way for Google to lose that trust is to list content that is somehow biased in its search results. Sponsored content is one form of bias: It appears to be purely informational, but is really nothing more than marketing material.

What Can You Do To Avoid an SEO Penalty?

The first and most obvious way to avoid an SEO penalty on your blog is to not post sponsored content. You might really like your new service processor, and it might be really tempting to cut costs and get some freebies from them for a shout out in your firm’s blog. However, Google’s new statement is a warning that you might pay for those free services with a hit on your blog’s online prominence. And as we all know, lower rankings in search results means fewer website visits, which means fewer leads, which hurts your bottom line.

But what if you haven’t gotten a kickback, and were genuinely interested in mentioning a new piece of legal tech on your firm’s blog? There are plenty of reasons you might want to do this. Luckily, Google has provided workarounds that makes it possible to do, without incurring an SEO penalty.

One way is to put a “nofollow” tag alongside any hyperlinks you include in your blog that refer to the product. This includes links to the company’s site or their social media, as well as reviews of the product or pages that sell the product. These tags tell search engines to ignore the particular link they’re associated with.

Another way is to disclose the relationship between your blog and the product you’re discussing. Making it abundantly clear that the post is sponsored content, Google claims, will prevent your blog from getting hit with an SEO penalty. However, practically speaking, it seems difficult for them to be able to follow through on this claim. Checking thousands of potentially infringement blog posts for adequate disclosures seems inefficient, and prone to error.

Myers Freelance: The Professional Legal Blog Writers

Myers Freelance is a group of professional legal blog writers. By keeping track of all of the developments in search engine and online marketing, they make sure your blog is working to maximize your firm’s online prominence, all while you focus on what lawyers should be focusing on: Practicing the law.

Contact us today to get started, and follow our Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ pages for regular updates.

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