Big Brands Hit with Google Penalties…. and What We Can Learn from Them

In the last year alone there has been what appears to be large Google penalties handed out to some big brands. In today’s post we take a look at some of the brands that suffered, what they were up to and what we can all learn from their mistakes. Interflora Around a year ago Interflora were subject to a Google penalty. The penalty was so severe that even for brand searches (e.g. “interflora”) their site was nowhere to be seen in Google’s results, and this was the case for around 10 days! Being absent from Google’s natural listings for this period of time would have undoubtedly hit their bottom line hard. Although Google declined to comment on the disappearance of the brand from its search results, it is widely understood that Interflora received the penalty because they were using advertorials as a means of gaining links. Paying for links, in any shape or form, is against Google’s policy. Expedia In January of this year Google hit Expedia with a penalty that saw them lose an estimated 25% of their search visibility, with rankings reportedly being lost on keywords like “hotels” and “airline tickets”. Although both Google and Expedia refused to comment on the situation, research suggests the penalty was imposed due to unnatural linking activity. Underhand techniques, including links appearing in WordPress theme footers and Expedia being present as part of link networks, appeared to have been at play. Halifax Even more recently (around a couple of weeks ago) Halifax appeared to have received a Google penalty too. This looked to have cost them key rankings on what are probably some of the most important phrases to their business: “loans”, “personal loans”, “ISA”. Reports on industry blogs suggest that again unnatural linking behaviour was the cause of their penalty, and that tactics such as paid posts and unnatural link acquisition were in use. What can we learn from their mistakes? With all of the examples above unnatural linking activity was at the root of the brands’ problems. Any link building activity that involves exchanging goods or money for links is bad, and also so are any activities where links are built very quickly for no apparent reason – this is normally representative of being part of a link network. Instead, if you want to build a good back-link profile you should concentrate efforts on:
  • Competitor research as a means of finding good link sources
  • Mix up anchor text and use both your brand name and keywords
  • Have a good and active social media presence in the channels that are most suitable to your business
  • Create excellent content that makes others want to link to it and share it
Today’s post serves as a reminder that anyone, including the huge brands that spend millions with Google, can be hit with a penalty if they don’t abide by the rules. If you’d like some advice on link building, or you think you may have been subject to a Google penalty then get in touch, as we can help you.  

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