Blogging Guidelines for Reviewing Free Products
Product reviews in exchange for free products provides a somewhat skewed perspective of credibility for online store owners; which is why Google has updated their blogging guidelines for reviewing free products.
It’s not uncommon for companies to offer bloggers free products in exchange for an online review and/or testimonial. For instance, a t-shirt company may hand out shirts to bloggers who post reviews on their websites. The company benefits from the increased exposure and recognition, whereas the blogger benefits from the free shirt. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. While this tactic may seem harmless enough, Google has just released new guidelines for bloggers reviewing free products.
According to Google’s new guidelines, bloggers should use the nofollow HTML attribute when linking to products or services that they’ve been for free. Originally introduced back in the mid 2000s, the nofollow attribute essentially tells search engines not to follow the link; thus, it doesn’t pass “link juice” to the linked page.
Here’s an example of how to create a nofollow link:
<a href=”http://www.yoursite.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Your Site</a>
The Mountain View company says that nofollow links should be used when the links are artificial and not organic. If a company gives you a free product in exchange for a review, for instance, it was artificially created. But if you created the link on your behalf without receiving any type of incentive, it’s a natural link.
“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),” explained Google. “Companies, or the marketing firms they’re working with, can do their part by reminding bloggers to use nofollow on these links.”
In addition to using nofollow links, Google also recommends bloggers disclose any relationships they have with product manufacturers or other associated third-party entities. Basically, if you have any relationship with a product manufacturer, service provider, or other company that is being mentioned in your blog or website, you’ll need to disclose the nature of this relationship. By creating greater transparency, you’ll instill trust amongst your site’s readers while also complying with Google’s guidelines.
Of course, disclosing relationships is something that bloggers (and webmasters in general) should be doing already. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has cracked down on sponsored web content in recent years. To learn more about the FTC’s stance on product endorsements, visit its official website here.