Using sponsored content is becoming increasingly popular in the online marketing world. Google is pretty weary when it comes to sponsored content though. According to their guidelines, links in sponsored content cannot pass PageRank to the website that’s being linked to, and they also don’t want sponsored content – if it is actually created by the sponsor – to be indexed in Google News.
There are two different kinds of sponsored content. There is the sponsored content that’s entirely created by the sponsor, which is usually visually separated from regular content. We also speak of sponsored content if an article or a section on an online news site is being sponsored by a company, but is not written by the sponsor.
Sponsored Content: How to Keep Yourself Out of SEO Trouble
In order to comply with search engine guidelines and not get penalized for your sponsored content you need to adhere to the following:
- Use Nofollow: If you include links in sponsored content, make sure to ad the nofollow tag so Google’s web crawlers don’t pass link juice through them. This guideline should be applied for any type of sponsored content whether it’s created by the sponsor or it’s a regular news article that’s being sponsored.
- Separate Sponsored Content for Google News: If your news website accepts sponsored content that’s created by the sponsor, you want to make sure that this content is separated from your regular articles for Google News. Put this content in a separate folder on your server, use a “noindex” metatag (for Googlebot-News) to exclude it from Google News and make sure that you don’t include sponsored items in your Google News sitemap.Regular news articles which are sponsored but not created by the sponsor can still be included in your Google News sitemap.
What About Partner Links?
Many websites display links to partner websites. These links are normally not paid for, but they are usually part of a sort of link exchange partnership between websites. It’s not really clear whether Google sees these links as a type of sponsored links. These links are not really “earned” links, but can’t really be put in the category of “excessive link exchanges” either (see Google’s link schemes definitions).
It’s possible that Google devalues partner links’ link juice, but there don’t seem to be any indications that they would penalize an entire website for not using the nofollow tag on partner links. Eventually it’s up to you to decide how to define partner links on your site, and how you want your partners to code your links. If you want to be extra careful, just use nofollow tags, the links themselves should still be valuable for generating traffic from a relevant audience if you partner with the right websites.
Sponsored content and partner links can provide great value for your business. While things may change in the future, knowing how quirky Google can be sometimes, right now you shouldn’t be afraid to display sponsored content on your website. As long as you keep to Google’s guidelines you should be completely safe SEO-wise.
Zane Schwarzlose writes for the Loewy Law Firm, a personal injury practice in Austin, Texas. Zane thinks there needs to be a sponsored-follow tag to disclose to Google that a link is sponsored.