I wanted to talk to you, today, for a little while, about advertorials, Native advertising and editorial content.
Let’s start with the easiest stuff, editorial content. That’s the meat and potatoes of whatever you’re writing. If you’re a blogger, it’s the primary stuff you’re writing about. If you’re a newspaper, it’s the news articles that you publish, online or in your newspaper. I think people have a pretty good sense about what editorial content is.
How about advertorial content or native advertising? Well, it’s advertising. But it’s often the sort of advertising that looks a little closer to editorial. But it, basically, means that someone gave you some money, rather than you writing about this, naturally, because you thought it was interesting or because you wanted to. So why do I care about this? Why are we making a video about this at all? Well, the reason is, certainly within the Web Spam team, we’ve seen a little bit of problems, where there’s been advertorial or native advertising content or paid content that hasn’t really been disclosed adequately, so that people realize that what they were looking at was paid. So that’s a problem. We have had longstanding guidance, since at least 2005, I think, that says, look, if you pay for links, those links should not pass PageRank. And the reason is that Google, for a very long time, and, in fact, everywhere on the web, people have mostly treated links as editorial votes. They link to something because it’s inspires passion in them. It’s something that’s interesting. They want to share it with friends. There’s some reason why they want to highlight that particular link. Now, if someone were to come to a newspaper reporter and say, I’m going to give you some money, can you link within your editorial story that you’re writing, your news article? That would be deceptive. People would not realize that there was payment involved. And it would really not be fair. So paid links, that pass PageRank, change the landscape. It makes it uneven, so that people can’t compete on a level playing field. And that’s what we want to ensure that we have on the web and, certainly, within Google’s web index.
Well there’s two-fold things that you should think about. The first is on the search engine thing side of things. And search engine wise, you should make sure that, if the links are paid, that is if money changed hands in order for a link to be placed on a website, that it should not flow PageRank. In essence, it shouldn’t affect search engine’s rankings. That’s no different than the guidance we’ve had for years and years and years. Likewise, if you are doing disclosure, you need to make sure that it’s clear to people. So a good rule of thumb is there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure. It shouldn’t be the case that people have to dig around, buried in small print, or have to click and look around a long time to find out, oh, this content, that I’m reading, was actually paid.
Why we’re talking about this now. This isn’t a change in our search engine policies, certainly not in the Web Spam team. Well, the reason is that we’ve seen some people who have not been doing it correctly. So we’ve seen, for example, in the United Kingdom, a few sites that have been taking money and writing articles that were paid, including keyword rich anchor text in those articles, that flowed PageRank, and then not telling anybody that those were paid articles. And that’s the sort of thing where, if a regular user happened to be reading your website and didn’t know that it was paid, they’d really be pretty frustrated and pretty angry when they found out that it was paid.
We’ve taken action on this sort of thing for years and years. And we’re going to keep taking strong action. We do think it’s important to be able to figure out whether something is paid or not on the web. And it’s not just the Web Spam team. It’s not just Search quality and the Web Search results. The Google News team recently published on their blog and said that, if you don’t provide adequate disclosure of paid content, whether it be native advertising, advertorials, whatever, whenever there’s money changing hands, if users don’t realize that sufficiently, because there’s not adequate disclosure, the Google News team mentioned that they might not only remove the paid content, but we’re willing to go up to and including removing the publication from Google News.
I think, if you look at Google and you look at our policy on advertorials, it’s been constant for the last several years. But we just want to reiterate and make sure that people realize that this can be an issue. If you are taking money and posting content that people don’t realize is paid or it’s not adequately disclosed, both to people and to search engines, we are willing to take action on that, not just in Google Search results, not just in the Web Spam team, but also in Google News. And so that’s why it would behoove people to have an abundance of caution whenever they’re considering these things, to just make sure that they do provide adequate disclosure and then it’s abundantly clear to users what’s paid and what’s not paid.
by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team