What is an Advertorial and Why Doesn’t Google Like it?

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Have you ever been reading a magazine (a real, printed magazine with paper and everything) and you start reading an article that is talking about – oh, let’s say spaghetti. It’s telling you how to cook a particular dish and it’s got a recipe and instructions. The only thing is, it recommends a particular brand of spaghetti for this dish.

You look up at the top of the page and there’s a little word there: “advertorial.” You would probably intuitively realize that this means that the spaghetti company bought this page and created an ad that would look like another page of the magazine. You were just tricked into reading it because you thought it was the next article in your favorite magazine on entertaining.

Google on Advertorials

Google doesn’t like them much. When Google is offering up search results, it does not particularly want to offer up advertorials. When a person is searching for advice on why their baby has a diaper rash, Google doesn’t want to offer up ads for diapers. They want to offer up informative, educational pages that answer the question.

Now, this is a sensible goal. Google is essentially doing a pretty good job of reading the minds of those searching for data. The slightly scary part is that they have done their job so well that they have generated enormous power.

The British company Interflora found out how much power Google has when they set up paid advertorials with news services and other websites. For a while, if you were in the UK and searched for “Interflora” and “flowers” and “delivery” or some similar search, you might find in your results some of their advertorials created on third party websites. Like the Yorkshire Times, for example.

Google shut Interflora down entirely for eleven days. In other words, even if you searched for “Interflora flower delivery in the UK,” you would not see any of their sites. You can imagine what that cost Interflora.

“Content Marketing, Please”

Google wants to serve up “content marketing.” If you have a dental practice, Google wants to offer your useful educational content on dental health, not the page that says how wonderful you are and not a page that you paid for that appears on the website of a local newspaper.

One More Thing…

There is a way to have advertorials and not be penalized. Links in an advertorial must be set up so they do not enhance your page’s ranking in search results. Google describes this kind of link as a “nofollow” link. There must also be disclosure of the nature of the page. The advertorial should say “Advertisement” or “Sponsored.”

Google follows this procedure themselves in their search results. I just did a search for men’s clothes” and at the top of the page of search results, it says “Ads related to men’s clothes.” The top three search results are surrounded by a lightly shaded box.

In fact, they’ve gotten clearer as they insist that other people become clearer. I believe it used to just say “Sponsored results” in this location – a bit more ambiguous.

So what is the sum total of this subject? Quality content rules now and is going to rule for a long time. Add informative, useful information to your website and Google will be your new best friend.

Grant Boshoff