Google has outlined three key rules for any blogger who trades coverage on their site for a free product.
The practice of native ads on YouTube channels is becoming increasingly popular, with many brands using key influencers to make recommendations
However, several high profile bloggers and brand have fallen foul of the UK ad standard body by failing to sufficiently disclose paid-for endoresements (either though money or free products).
In a blog post, the YouTube owner set out three things bloggers must do to ensure their content isn’t penalised:
1. Use nofollow tags for links
2. Disclose the commercial nature of the post
3. Ensure their content is unique
The first two could see some serious penalties for bloggers that fail to state the brief terms of the exchange.
Google will often serve manual penalties to those neglecting best practice following a notice.
In its guidelines, Google suggests bloggers tag those links as nofollow because “these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide a free good or service in exchange for a link).”
“Companies, or the marketing firms they’re working with, can do their part by reminding bloggers to use nofollow on these links,” the Google blog post continued.”The most successful blogs offer their visitors a compelling reason to come back,” the blog post reads.
Regulators have been active in this space for a long time. Guy Parker, chief executive of the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is clear about the importance of transparency for consumers: “Content in these spaces that is paid for and controlled by a marketer must be clearly labelled as advertising. Consumers shouldn’t have to play detective in working out what is and isn’t commercially paid-for material. We’ve taken the lead in the UK in making sure that vloggers, bloggers, brands and other online content creators are aware of and understand how and when the advertising rules apply to them.”
Parker believes Google’s influence will help move the agenda forwards, but that this should be echoed across the digital landscape: “We welcome moves by any operators in this space, from individual bloggers to social media platform owners, to increase transparency and be upfront with consumers. It helps stop people being misled which in turn promotes trust. Research tells us people are happy to engage with content even when they know it’s advertising. It’s finding out too late (or not at all) that they don’t like.”
The full advice from the Google blog post is pasted below:
Use the nofollow tag where appropriate
Companies sometimes urge bloggers to link back to:
Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on all such links because these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide a free good or service in exchange for a link). Companies, or the marketing firms they’re working with, can do their part by reminding bloggers to use nofollow on these links.
Disclose the relationship
Users want to know when they’re viewing sponsored content. Also, there are laws in some countries that make disclosure of sponsorship mandatory. A disclosure can appear anywhere in the post; however, the most useful placement is at the top in case users don’t read the entire post.
Create compelling, unique content
The most successful blogs offer their visitors a compelling reason to come back. If you’re a blogger you might try to become the go-to source of information in your topic area, cover a useful niche that few others are looking at, or provide exclusive content that only you can create due to your unique expertise or resources.
View the blog post here
Key ASA rulings, guidance from the Committee of Advertising Practice for marketers and publishers on sticking to the rules can be found here.