What Google Says About Sponsored Content on Your Blog
By Lindsay Valdez
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In recent years sponsored content has become a 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.
When it comes to writing sponsored content on your blog, what does the almighty Google have to say? I’ve been involved with branded campaigns at SHE Media for over five 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?
I have never found anything to support that Google “is against” sponsored articles on your blog. 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. Though they may not be fully against sponsored content, they do have some rules around it, which leads me to the next question.
How can I avoid being penalized for posting branded content on my blog?
Three simple rules will prevent you from being penalized by Google for posting branded content to your site:
1. Sponsored content must be disclosed as such. 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. I believe 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).