Search engine optimization is a necessary skill for any communicator who wants to earn a spot on page one of Google search, but it's often less of a cross-organizational best practice and instead siloed into a niche function. Because of this, certain content decisions might be cause for rethinking your organization's SEO strategy.
Influencer marketing is one of those cases, according to the website Search Engine Journal. In this week's column of SEJ's "Ask An SEO", contributor Jenny Halasz answers the question: Can influencer marketing hurt your SEO?
In the column, a user in Denmark wrote Halasz to clarify an issue she had heard about from multiple sources—whether "sponsored" links from influencers can negatively impact your site's page ranking.
Google has long taxed websites stuffed with links that are not naturally earned, after all. Now, it seems to be just ignoring those links, which is a little bit less severe but still adversely affects brands that work with influencers who use their individual pages to promote those brands' products or services.
"You are absolutely correct that Google considers links gained from influencer marketing to be 'paid' and expects you to have the influencer place nofollow on them," replied Halasz. In SEO speak, a "nofollow" refers to a piece of HTML code (<rel=”nofollow”>) that can be attributed to a link in order to let Google know not to count the link toward its evaluation of your site's inbound link performance.
Knowing when to add a nofollow remains crucial, given that Google still taxes domains for using too many links, as the practice of link stuffing is seen by the search engine as a way to artificially inflate a site's ability to rank. Halasz's recommendation to treat sponsored influencer links with a "nofollow" adopts the same approach to links that an influencer might share as part of a sponsored partnership.
Halasz went on to urge content marketers to observe the FTC's comprehensive rules for disclosure when working with influencers, pointing out that Google's guidelines do not observe a key distinction: whether or not an influencer has been asked to write a review for a product on their website, or has purchased and endorsed that product by their own doing.
"If you post on your website that people can have the product for free if they write a five-star review for it, that’s a different story," Halasz said. "But if you’re doing real influencer marketing—where expanding the audience of your product is your first goal and links or reviews are secondary—then there’s really no way for Google to penalize you for that."
Halasz concluded that all any brand can do is ask the influencers it works with to comply, and educate those influencers on the benefits of a "nofollow" cue. In the end, what an influencer decides to post on their own site or their own channels is wholly up to them. Nonetheless, making your influencer network mindful of how linking back to your site can negatively impact your site's rankings should be a top priority for any communicator.
Follow Justin: @Joffaloff