In recent years sponsored content has become an increasingly profitable revenue stream for digital publishers, bloggers and Instagram influencers. Sponsored content, branded content, native, advertorial, #sponcon—whatever you tend to call it—can be created for just about every platform and medium you reach your audience.
But what does Google have to say? I’ve been involved with branded campaigns at SHE Media for over 6 years now and in that time, we’ve learned a thing or two about sponsored content. These are four of the most frequently asked questions about sponsored content on your blog and Google.
Is google against sponsored content?
Not necessarily! Google may be a black box, but I like to remind myself that they employ some of the smartest humans on the planet—humans who know business. We have to believe that Google gets the affiliate game, gets the idea of partnerships and traffic, as well as gets that another form of content marketing is sponsored content. This isn’t a bad thing and there is a lot of money to be made from working with brands in this way. So they aren’t against it, per se, but they do have some recommended guidelines to follow.
How can you avoid being penalized for sponsored content?
Three simple rules will prevent you from being penalized by Google for posting branded content to your site:
1. Sponsored content must be disclosed. Content should have a disclosure message that clearly conveys to the reader that they are reading and engaging with content that was produced with or for a partner.
2. Any outbound links from the sponsored post need to be nofollow. Google wants to make sure that the advertiser isn’t gaining any natural link authority from content that was paid for. You might be linking to the client via a static link, an image, infographic or logo. Any and all of these links should be nofollow. We happen to know first-hand that Google will penalize your site if you aren’t following this major guideline. If you do receive notification of a penalty through Google Search Console, fix the issue and then submit a reconsideration request to Google.
3. Avoid posting thin content. This should be a rule of thumb you already follow when creating any piece of content, but creating thin content for a brand will potentially cost you more than organic search traffic. Thin content is another way of saying insubstantial or low quality content. In short, Google doesn’t deem it useful or useable to your readers. Most brands have a very involved hand in sponsored content these days. They may advise on the headline and approve the copy ahead of time.
Can you get into Google News if you have sponsored content on your site?
Yes, but you need to keep your sponsored content separate from your editorial content in the XML sitemaps. Google has clear rules about branded content being submitted for News consideration and requests that you exclude from the feed you’re submitting to their news platform. They also recommend having a separate area of your website that houses all of the trending news or new content for them to easily access.
Will your sponsored content appear in organic search results?
Although I’ve never seen Google directly comment on this, our own data shows that yes, sponsored content can in fact get traffic from organic search results. Google probably isn’t exactly thrilled to hear that a sponsored story is in their organic search results, but if it’s well written well and provides a service and authority on the subject, then Google will rank the content in the SERPs (search engine results pages).