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What Google Says About Sponsored Content on Your Blog

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By Lindsay Valdez

Whether your audience is on social media or a via website traffic, sponsored content is very likely on your brain. I, myself, am fascinated with brands, their messaging and how they reach their audience!

There are multiple forms of sponsored content, but today I want to talk about sponsored blog posts. The kind where you would write an article for your website that a brand pays you to sponsor. 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! Check out the answers below to our most commonly asked questions on the safely of branded content.

Is Google against sponsored content?

No!! 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. Google must understand the relationship between publisher sites and sponsored content as a more natural way for a brand to reach their audience.

Now. They may not be fully against sponsored content, but 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. You must mark your content as sponsored before the user clicks on the link, as well as on the actual landing page.

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, infograph 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 goes for all content technically, 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. Not useful or useable to your readers. Most brands have a very involved hand in this these days, they help with the headline and approve the copy ahead of time. But regardless, avoid thin content on your site at all times to avoid penalty.

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 paid-for story is in their organic search results, but fact is, if it’s written extremely well and by an expert, then Google will rank the content in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Tips to improve the chances of your sponsored content performing in Google organic results:

1. Fight for a unique angle!! Sometimes you’ll see a brand come in with a post angle already in mind. If it’s interesting and unique to anything else they’re running, that’s fine but often we will see brands running campaigns across multiple outlets, all with the exact same post headline. Google will get to the point where they stop even indexing the content because they’ve seen the same angle covered in a short amount of time.

2. Follow all the standard on-page SEO best practices. Sponsored content should still have SEO optimized title tags, meta descriptions, image alt texts, tags and URL.

3. Make sure the content is spectacular!! Does it actually help someone learn more about a product? Does it give them accurate and insightful information that will teach them something? Is it more interesting than other content covering the same topic? If not, it likely won’t appear in Google’s organic search results. The way I see it, if there is a search query and the general quality of the content available for ranking between a sponsored post and non-sponsored posts is the same, Google will likely choose to put an unpaid piece of content in the search results.

If there’s a topic you would like us to cover here at BlogHer U, we would love to hear about it! You can reach me at lindsay.valdez@shemedia.com.

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