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The well known flower selling website Interflora appears to have been penalised by Google. They no longer rank for their own name nor do they rank for their main terms for example; Flower delivery, flowers and similar terms.

Whilst nothing has been confirmed by Google or Interflora, it’s most likely the firm has received a link penalty, i.e. Interflora may have purchased links – which is against Google Guidelines.

 

Interflora Google Penalty

 

At the moment, Interflora still appear in search thanks to their Google AdWords campaign but the traffic Interflora has lost from organic searches is really going to hurt them. A link penalty to a website as large as this would certainly represent a substantial loss in organic traffic.

 

 

How does a big brand recover?

 

 

It’s a difficult situation. Imagine how used to this traffic a leading brand would be. They’ve invested in staff, stock and systems to cope with a certain level of custom and then one day, its instantly gone leaving them only with more expensive PPC traffic.

The immediate priority should be to understand why a penalty has been applied and decide on a course of action to reverse the problem which would consist of cleaning up the site and submitting a reconsideration request – but this could take months.

One possibility would be to re-launch on a new domain and start afresh with a clean slate, even removing the offending links and having the penalty lifted may still cause problems as there potentially could be a sharpe reduction in links passing page rank. A fresh start might be the least painful but either way Interflora are going to be hurting.

 

 

A new Interflora website?

 

 

On this note, as the above screenshot shows, there is a PPC advert for www.interfloraflowers.com which only has a handful of backlinks. The domain isn’t new, it was registered a few years ago but the lack of links to it suggest it could have just been brought out of storage although I can’t be certain of this.

 

 

There’s more!

 

Google has also downgraded the Page Rank of a number of UK Newspapers for selling Advertorial Links. Sites such as the Independent have found their Page Rank reduced considerably ultimately meaning reduced visibility in search.

There is connection though, a number of paid for “advertorial” links are pointing towards interflora, here’s an example: http://www.worcesterstandard.co.uk/directory/Other/florists/Interflora/

To comply with Google Guidelines, any links that are purchased must be “No Follow”. No Follow is a snippet of code added to a link that tells Google not to pass Page Rank to the site – in other words it has little SEO value. The fact this isn’t happening means Google consider it a breach of their guidelines, hence prime candidate for a penalty.

 

 

Why the Penalties?

 

In a nutshell, Page Rank is a number given by Google to a website that indicates its standing within Google: the higher the number, the higher the site is regarded by the search engine. Links pass Page Rank to other sites and this is fine, if it’s happening in a natural way (e.g. such as the links in this blog).

However, when a website buys a link it is not natural and Google does not like this. Equally, sites selling links are effectively selling Page Rank – something that is not theirs to sell. Hence why Google has demoted many local and national news websites Page Ranks to zero.

Page Rank is a vote from one website to another, buying votes is clearly not a true indication of popularity.

 

 

You are never to big to be slapped down by Google

 

The thing I find so ridiculous about this situation is that none of this is new. Google have said for a long time this type of back linking could get you into trouble and yet we’re seeing business small and large continue to engage in unnatural link practices.

Newspaper websites have been selling advertorials for a long time and businesses such as Interflora have been buying them in part due to the “SEO value” for a long time too. No matter how you spin it, this is buying / selling Page Rank (aka links) which every SEO worth their salt knows is against Google’s Guidelines.

Yes, some of it still works, but if your doing it, you’re on borrowed time. So if your reading this and you’re a small firm or a large corporation then please take note of the below:

Content Driven SEO is designed to create great content that people will WANT to link to you thus increasing your popularity.

Back Link obsessed SEO is designed to bypass the above and manipulate Google’s Page Rank system, essentially you are buying popularity.

Guess which one Google will reward the most and which one is sustainable?

Brett Dixon
Brett Dixon
Brett is a Director and Co-Founder of DP Online Marketing and is Google Qualified in Search, Display, Mobile, Shopping, Video and Analytics. Brett regularly writes for industry magazines and also a guest lecturer at Lincoln University. He is also a member of the prestigious Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM.)
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