Google Guidelines on Blogger Product Reviews – Follow Up and Implications on eCommerce


Pleasing Google has become obligatory and it is no wonder all eyes are constantly fixed into Webmasters tools blog and other relevant sources for latest updates.

It seems it was long time ago when everything stopped being easy, and especially now, with algorithm updates becoming a constant, store owners and bloggers – are likely beggining to feel as infantry in their minds, combating something far more larger than themselves.

Google positioned as an authority, directing each and every one of our actions when it comes to doing business, or simply – appearing online.

And with so many updates and adjustments, it seems like everything has become an even harder struggle to reach the top.

Climbing the rope

We already know how Google can be loud when certain behaviour shows intention to possibly scale in future. We also know what happens next – it becomes penalised as Google rushes to prevent this kind of behaviour.

And that is exactly what happened – not only to online store owners, but to bloggers on the other end of this widely popular way to collaborate.

When you have in mind that including a link in your content is supposed to back up a certain statement, offer different perspective, more information on the subject, or point something out – it only seems logical that you will use it.

After all, reviewing a product and not mentioning or linking where or who it came from, would seem rather odd, wouldn’t it?

Not collaborating with an influencer, even more so.

So what can possibly happen after Google’s request to bloggers to add a nofollow tag to these links?

Judging by the noise coming from all over the place – the end of the world.

Both bloggers and online store owners rushed to presume that such link will fail to reach the visitor, fail to generate engagement and simply hang out there being shamelessly pointless.

Making the entire collaboration – useless.

So, the question indeed is – is everyone a spammer now?

What was the road bloggers/influencers/store owners have taken? What has changed? What are the possible repercussions when it comes to eCommerce and small businesses so far?

Let’s recap

Beginning 2016, Google announced on their Google Webmaster Central Blog that bloggers should add noffollow tag to links they included when reviewing products sent out to them by companies.

Here is what they wrote:

“Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on all such links because these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide a free good or service in exchange for a link). Companies, or the marketing firms they’re working with, can do their part by reminding bloggers to use nofollow on these links.”

Comments such as “What is next? No linking?“, and “Google does not own the internet!”, followed by “They are a self proclaimed internet police!” – echoed all over the place creating a turmoil among avid bloggers and eCommerce business owners used to rely on guest posts or product reviews to drive traffic to their websites and instill a fair dose of trust in their buyers.

It is only natural that you will need a helping hand in terms of providing visibility for you online store, and not only if you are a beginner.

There are so many relevant articles out there advising you to collaborate, exchange, do guest posts, share, interact and team up.

So what in earth could go wrong?

What happened next?

Next, everything started to seem as if the links between bloggers and online store owners are about to be broken. Literally.

And figuratively.

In minds of store owners or webmasters adding a nofollow tag to links means admitting that the link is irrelevant or spammy. For Google on the other hand – it only suggests its origin is not “natural“, emphasizing that bloggers received some sort of retribution in order to link to the online store.

So, with one of latest updates, Google decided to start controlling everything a bit more.

That implies that links produced as a result of money changing hands will become a reason for penalty unless everything is properly disclosed.

Blogger disclosing ads

Once more, Google reflects on these updates using the sentence we often hear – the only goal is to ensure impeccable experience for the end user and offer relevant results only, completely ignoring content that might be, in any way or form, deceptive for the reader.

As far as implications on online store owners, latest update shouldn’t be something to worry excessively about.

Adding nofollow tag to your links will continue to bring value to both sides involved, and prevent your online store/blog get caught in Google’s eye. In a bad way.

On the other hand, exploiting this tactic for a chance to get a higher ranking will definitely be something that will cause a red alert.

That is something that should definitely worry you, as it can largely affect your rankings, thus affecting your business.

But, as long as your collaboration with blogger results in high quality content, nofollow link cannot be harmful to your business in any way.

In future, as always, everyone needs to stay tuned as further down the road, there might be new updates, rules, methods or requests that could completely devalue this sort of collaboration.

For now – there is no reason to panic, as high quality content, whether in form of a recommendation, product review, or something third – will continue to engage, bring visitors, ensure higher ranking and bring benefit for your SEO strategy in general?

What can you do?

Firstly, check your Google analytics account and inspect carefully whether something changed in terms of traffic on your online store.

Also, check for notifications and make sure you haven’t received a manual penalty.

For now, the important thing is not to turn a blind eye to these warnings.

Many forums are filled with “conspiracy theories” and advice on how Google’s announcements on disclosing should be largely ignored.

The fact is that there is no way for Google to find out what exactly happened in blogger-store owner relationship.

But there is a way to issue a penalty if in doubt.

So, make sure to remind bloggers to add nofollow tag to links and disclose everything properly.

Also, use social media to increase visibility of these posts and reduce potential negative affect of nofollow tag being added to your links.

No matter which social media platform you opt in for, you will succeed in reaching your audience if your content is high quality one.

Collaborating with bloggers is a must, so make sure you do not abandon this strategy.

Have in mind though, that you shouldn’t use it solely as part of your link building strategy.

Instead – remind yourself of what it used to present in its purest form, and use it to increase visibility of your products and reach new audiences.

To sum up

No one can argue that behind Google’s intention to penalize bloggers is their goal to ensure impeccable experience to the world browsing the web daily. And although we can argue the method, we certainly cannot argue the intention.

Today, we know short term implications Google’s decision has had on bloggers/influencers as well as eCommerce businesses. Following the topic closely will reveal what will change in blogger-company relationship in future, and whether they will be something both parties should be worried about.

But for now, the only thing left to do is simply – play by the rules.

After all, we got used to Caffeine haven’t we?