Now Google have changed their wording for reconsideration requests (formerly reinclusion requests), I have filed one for this domain.
(note to Google, why isn’t Michael’s permalink ranking?)
I am not going to call this a perfect example of a reconsideration request, but I decided that it was better to be 100% honest about my thought process for both now and in the future, because whilst I am now blocking paid reviews with robots.txt, there are so many things still not specified within the webmaster guidelines that it is a potential minefield, especially for someone who has previously been the target of a manual penalty.
Here is exactly what I sent to the Google webmaster team.
I honestly still believe I didn’t break the spirit of the webmaster guidelines, the webmaster guidelines as most frequently described by Google employees on official duties in regards to paid links and reviews, and even the “letter of the law”.
I have a very high rejection rate on paid reviews, approaching 80% – that shows editorial discretion far beyond many if not all paid directories.
Content was always highly targeted to my audience
I retained editorial control of links – in all my blogging I give good search engine friendly links that are descriptive of the target – such practice is effectively law in the UK and Europe, though who is responsible for regulation isn’t certain.
Almost a year ago, when Google first made it possible to report a site for paid links, I reported myself with a request for clarification – at that time how my reviews were regarded by Google was not clearly specified, in many ways it still isn’t.
Adam Lasnik previously suggested multiple times that sites which were predominately high quality content were not your target for penalties – paid reviews content currently represents less than 3% of my original content – just 9 reviews
I strive to provide an example of paid review content that is benefiting readers in general, and has a reason to be indexed and counted as editorial content.
The compensation I receive is more a token gesture, like a box of chocolates to say thanks, as the time I spend on them means I would earn more flipping burgers in McDs – how could that class as paid links? It doesn’t even cover my time.
Penalties have not been handed out evenly, I know Googlers read blogs that have written paid reviews where the links were not blocked in any way, and have even commented on the specific reviews. Those sites remain unpunished.
Googlers continually promote Google services from their private blogs, and certainly gain financial compensation from increased stock prices. Just today Matt wrote the following post without a specific disclaimer that he is a Google employee.
Surely such posts should have a nofollow to Google – it has purely promotional (though helpful) intent.
All that being said, I had no intention to break the Google guidelines, and if what is required for the Google Toolbar to truthfully depict the authority of my website is for my editorial links in paid reviews to be blocked from Google in some way, I am going to comply.
All permalinks to my paid reviews are now blocked using robots.txt – I have checked that this is the case within webmaster tools
Where excerpts of my articles appear on duplicate content pages, all links are nofollowed, such as on tags pages http://andybeard.eu/tag/volusion_review
Ultimately the Google search results will be poorer quality, because a good paid review is a better result than an article based upon a press release, or a SEO optimized press release itself. I would argue that the links are of higher value as well.
There are still going to be cases where what I write will be within the grey area not defined by your webmaster guidelines.
I earn money from Google through Adsense – should I nofollow every link to Google and Google services now?
I have paid advertisers, many are purchased by my regular readers or services I frequently write about in an editorial manner. Do I now need to nofollow every past current and future link to them because I have accepted a small amount of money for display advertising?
Do I need to nofollow affiliate links? I can’t see an automatic way that Google can tell the difference between an affiliate link, and a paid link that has a tracking parameter.
It is somewhat strange that Google has provided help for merchants in cleaning up search results with affiliate links using redirects, and thus gaining an SEO benefit from them. Affiliate links very frequently are not editorial endorsements.
My content gets syndicated often on authority sites such as Webpronews and Searchnewz, and many lesser sites – I trust that if they choose to publish my syndicated content as an editorial decision, that the fact that content was originally a paid review is no longer a problem.
Before filing it I checked that the changes I previously made had taken effect and the pages were actually blocked.
I also made changes to my disclosure policy to make sure that it was 100% clear to anyone from Google performing a manual inspection that all links in paid reviews from my domain will not affect search results.
This was important based on the discussion regarding Donna’s reconsideration request.
Something For The Naysayers
There were people who for some reason thought that blocking my paid reviews using robots.txt would for some reason be extremely harmful to my search traffic.
It is true that a document that can’t be indexed cannot rank for long-tail phrases within it, but pages blocked with robots.txt can still rank in Google.
That is just a snapshot of a SERP, it is certainly bouncing around a little and the position is changing daily.
That being said, that page was previously ranking 12th, and whilst it isn’t a high traffic term, it is quite competitive with lots of theme and plugin authors also attracting lots of links.
I haven’t done as much as I could do to promote the page because it is a paid review.
In addition I have flattened my internal linking structure over the last week – frequent detractors obviously wouldn’t look on that as a major search ranking factor.