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Interflora UK’s petals plucked by Google

by Mark Tyson on 28 February 2013, 15:45

Tags: Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Bing

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Interflora UK has been removed from search Google search results. Apparently the flower selling firm fell foul to a Google rule concerning the buying of links upon other sites to boost its own Page Rank. Google representatives have not yet commented upon the move, which follows aggressive promotion by Interflora UK around the Valentine’s Day period. Now it looks like Interflora UK will lose a lot of business with Mother’s Day and Easter on the horizon.

What happened?

It seems to be down to “advertorial” content not being flagged as such with a “no follow” attribute. That is in effect “buying PageRank” which is a big Google no-no. In the run up to Valentine’s Day, SEO analysts say that Interflora were “exceptionally aggressive throughout January... placing we estimate 150+ Advertorials on Regional News Sites all over the UK”.

Advertorial stories appeared in a very large selection of the UK’s regional media publications online and didn’t use the “no follow” attribute to signal to Google that this content was advertorial. So as well as Interflora UK getting penalised regional news media up and down the UK, about 65 titles, all had their PageRank reduced from 5 or 6 to zero. In addition big daily newspapers The Independent and The Scotsman had their PageRanks drastically cut.

Google search traffic is very important to online businesses; it’s the most popular search engine by a long shot, used in over 66 per cent of web searches across all platforms. Now if you search Google for send flowersin the UK there will be no Interflora link to be seen. Even when I searched for “Interflora” on Google UK there was not a direct link to the Interflora UK website in the results until the very bottom of page 4! On Bing these two searches present a direct link to Interflora UK in spot #2 and spot #1 respectively.

Heavy handed penalty

I understand there must be some kind of penalty for sneaky “black hat” SEO techniques to keep Google’s search results clear from manipulation. That’s OK; there are lots of other competitive companies who are probably equally good at the “send flowers” task. However it seems to be actually unhelpful of Google to respond to a search for “Interflora” on its UK site by not presenting a direct Interflora link straight away. In that way Google is going a bit beyond its job as a search result provider.

HEXUS Forums :: 23 Comments

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I`d love to know how hard their profits have been hit by this.
It's interesting how a search for “Interflora” doesn't yield their website in search results, but it does appear in the sponsored ads at the top. Google appears to be saying “we don't approve of your aggressive SEO, but we're happy to take your ad money”. Of course, ads and results are two separate things, so maybe there'll eventually be repercussions for Interflora in ads… wait and see.
Google has to take a hard line against SEO, afterall many people suggest SEO is better value than adwords, because some people are tuned to ignore the adwords.

If google don't stomp people paying money to get a higher rating, how will they make money?
No I completely agree in that sense - paid-for SEO, beyond having well marked up content etc, is a joke.
Fair enough, Google are basically saying “If you try to manipulate our search engine then we'll take you off it, play by the rules of inclusion or don't be included”.

Trust in search results is pretty important.