Google to bloggers: return gifted products or face manual action

Google to bloggers: return gifted products or face manual action

On 11th March, Google published an updated set of guidelines on Webmaster Central for bloggers who receive free/gifted products from brands or manufacturers. These “best practice” rules provided suggestions on how to avoid being penalised by Google for reviewing a free product gift and then linking to the associated website.

Search Engine Land were quick to cover the article, with Barry Schwartz even warning of potential manual actions following the best practice update:

Often, when Google publishes best practices around nofollow usage, weeks later, Google sends out manual actions penalties for those who do not practice them. So be warned.

Today, in a bizarre twist of fate, Google have started to send out warnings to bloggers that they should not only follow the updated guidelines, but also return gifted products to the supplier within 14 days or face manual action. This could ultimately see their websites lose visibility or result in them being removed from search engines entirely.

If you're a blogger and have accepted/reviewed product gifts in the past, should you be worried? One way to tell if you've been impacted or are at risk is to keep an eye on your Search Console messages for an alert - see below:

Search Console product gifting alert

We've had reports from multiple bloggers who have received warnings similar to the above. Have you already received this notification? Do you have any thoughts as to how Google are targeting impacted bloggers?

Final Thoughts

With bloggers now facing a manual action from Google, is this the end of an era for gifted products as a link building tactic? One thing's for sure - bloggers should act quickly after receiving the alert in Search Console. Questions still remain over who will pay the return postage and what to do with products that have already been used/assembled such as flat pack furniture!

About the author

Gareth Allen

Gareth Allen, Managing Director

Gareth launched Herd in June 2013 and is our resident commerce guru, specialising in Shopify Plus and SEO.
With over 18 years' industry experience, he has worked with a wide range of brands, from local businesses to large corporates and global eCommerce retailers helping to drive performance and business growth.

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