Google Reminds Bloggers to Disclose Sponsored Content

Google and Sponsored Content

On March 11, 2016, Google reminded bloggers that disclosing sponsored content is a must — and that’s not only to abide to the many international laws, but also to keep your blog in good standing with search engines (that by all means need to offer trustworthy content to their users). In the post, Google added a list of best practices for bloggers to follow.

How to disclose the relationship, though? Are nofollow attributes on sponsored links enough?

There’s actually more to that — you have to display a visible disclosure for the reader and make sure your genuine content can’t absolutely be mistaken for sponsored ads or reviews-for-freebie (the specific case Google mentions).

The reader (and search user) is the center of the problem and, in this post, you will find a few guidelines to ensure you only accept the right kind of sponsored opportunities and that both readers and Google will trust your content.

How to deal with advertisers who try to ‘cheat’?

“You need to draw the line with sponsored content to advertisers,” says Christopher Jan Benitez. “They must abide by your rules and ask them to respect the conditions that you are implementing on your blog through sponsored content.”

That’s when things get tough — many advertisers still contact bloggers to try to manipulate search engines instead of promoting their or their client’s brand.

Christopher shares more advice in that sense:

Christopher Jan Benitez

Christopher Jan Benitez

The challenge now is actually implementing your own rules on a consistent basis – there will be times that advertisers are willing to splurge on getting their content on your blog by turning those nofollow links into dofollows. A solution I can think of at the moment is to offer an alternative to your sponsored content. For example, if you are receiving multiple queries for links in your blog content, refer them to a link builder instead and ask for a referral fee from the link builder. Be creative with your approach while keeping in line with your sponsored content guidelines.

Is the sponsored link editorially relevant?

David Leonhardt recommends you think about the difference:

David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt

If it’s an ad, follow Google’s guidelines (sigh); if it’s your opinion then let your conscience be your guide.  NoFollow is supposed to send robots a message that you can’t vouch for a link.  Here is how it works:

A) If you trust a link, it’s OK to place on your website.  No need to add a NoFollow attribute.

B) If you don’t trust a link, what fool would put it on their website? Seriously, don’t even think about it.

C) If somebody else places the link, such as in a blog comment or in some other form of user-generated content, then you cannot vouch for the link (some you might trust, others not), so you automatically add a NoFollow attribute. That’s what NoFollow was created for in the first place.

If it’s an ad, that’s a whole other matter.  Personally, if the link is not one I would trust anyway, I would not accept money for it.

And what about keeping in Google’s good book?

Either way there is a huge risk.  If Google decides that you have a pile of ads or “paid links” without NoFollow attributes, it can slap you silly.  If, on the other hand, Google sees a ton of NoFollow links, they’ll know that your website is a crappy site that just publishes ads (Think of the difference between the Wall Street Journal and a local shoppers tabloid) and can adjust your authority accordingly. Here is how I described it at this post on the dangers of NoFollow:

Google will also have data on which websites NoFollow their links.  Ah, let’s follow the logic trail.  Google tells websites to NoFollow crappy links.  Website A has 300 NoFollow links on its site.  Website B has 3 NoFollow links on its site.  In Google’s mind, NoFollow means crappy links.  Hmmm.  Which site will Google consider more trustworthy?  Which site will Google see as less trustworthy?

Either way, the real solution is to publish lots of great content and keep ads to a minimum.  NoFollow is not really the main issue.

Sometimes sponsored content just doesn’t suit your blog

Irina Weber of SE Ranking shares her skepticism about hosting sponsored content on a blog:

Irina WeberFor me, advertising doesn’t work well for bloggers. You should focus on improving your brand name reputation and building long-term relationships rather than buying paid links and traffic. As a blogger, you should try to hold users’ attention with creation of quality content.

How to makey money from a blog, then? She offers some insight:

There are lots of other places that help you improve your brand name without paying a lot. Guest posting and blogger outreach networks are still working very well. Be clear, open-minded and creative with your partners. I bet you will find great blogging options if you shine a spotlight on maintaining long-term relationships.


Unless you care more about revenue than your readership, you will want to make sure that:

  • Both your readers and Google see that you are constantly producing genuine, insightful content for your audience
  • Your content outnumbers sponsored content by at least 3:1 (3 editorial posts and 1 sponsored piece)
  • The sponsored content your write follows Google’s guidelines for paid links and a mandatory disclosure for your readers to distinguish between ads and editorial content
  • Your blog is well suited to host sponsored content (e.g. your brand’s blog might not be suitable, but your personal blog might do)

How do you handle sponsored content and reviews-for-freebie? What kind of disclosure do you implement?

Share in the comments.

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About Luana Spinetti

Luana Spinetti is a freelance blogger and copywriter based in Italy. When she's not writing, she will be drawing artwork and making websites. Web Marketing and SEO are in her basket for work-enhancement and for fun (but it still earned her a gig as a SEO consultant in 2012). Find her at or at her Twitter account @LuanaSpinetti.

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