How to Run Advertorials and Not Get Penalized

Search Engine Optimization
| Posted on | Google

SEO is all about driving traffic to your website, but what do you do once you’ve built up that larger audience? You’re going to want to start making that website do work for you. For some people, that means monetizing your site with advertorials. There’s nothing wrong with this, and plenty of people make their livings off of advertorials on popular websites, but you have to make sure you go about it the right way. You need to optimize for Google’s search engine optimization best practices AND customer experience to be truly successful.

The first thing we should do is clarify what an advertorial is, because many people aren’t clear. An advertorial is an advertisement in the form of an editorial, essentially a sponsored post that is made to look organic. You can see a sample of one below from the satirical news site The Onion.

The big question is how does Google look at advertorials? The answer is not too kindly, especially if you don’t make it very, very obvious that it’s a paid spot. Matt Cutts recently spoke on this issue in his Webmaster Help series, and he laid out a few guidelines to follow if you want to successfully run advertorials on your site.

1. Inform the reader that the content is indeed an advertorial. Sites constantly try and sneak advertorial content into the mix as just another regular post, but that has become pure blackhat. Sure, you may get away with it for awhile, but if Google catches it, you’ll be hammered. Just like any other blackhat technique you need to decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth the risk. You’re better off just writing “Sponsored Content” at the top of the post and playing it safe.

2. Make sure the content is actually relevant to your regular readers. If you post a paid advertorial from a source that is only peripherally related to your usual posts, not only will Google hate it, your readers will be confused as well. Don’t lose sight of your carefully cultivated audience in the search for making a buck.

3. No-follow the links that point to the website of whoever is sponsoring the advertorial. This seems like a small thing but it’s incredibly important. If you don’t no-follow the links (which presumably have very rich anchor text) Google will penalize both your site, and the targeted site.

So there you have it, three very simple rules from Matt Cutts himself. Are any of you out there currently running advertorials? Let us know what techniques you’ve been implementing to maximize their effectiveness for both Google and your readers!

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