The practice of brands and companies sending bloggers free products to review or give away as part of a competition is becoming an increasingly popular method of online marketing. And Google’s caught onto this…

Changes to Google’s Blogger Guidelines suggests that Google has become aware of bloggers receiving free products in exchange for a mention in a blogpost. These mentions are now categorised by Google as ‘unnatural links’ and seen to pass PageRank. The guidelines now forbid:

‘Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link’

So, any link included by a blogger to link back to the company’s site, social pages and sites selling or reviewing the product in question in return for a free product must now be nofollowed because they haven’t occurred organically. The nofollow tag will instruct the crawlbot that the quantity of people clicking the link should not influence the rank of that page.

Google also adds that the the relationship between the blogger and the brand should be disclosed in the post. This means that content should be stated as sponsored, supported or in collaboration with the brand.

These new guidelines will encourage a focus on better quality content and natural links rather than content created from the product supplier and sent to multiple popular bloggers or taken directly from a product brochure.