What is an Advertorial and How Can It Be Used?
An advertorial is, simply put, an advertisement under the guise of an editorial piece. They are designed to promote and advertise a product/service/brand, whilst doing so in the layout of other content on the website.
Advertorials have been around for quite some time, originally used in newspapers/print media, dating back to the 1940’s, eventually transitioning over to the web. This post will look into why advertorials are used, past controversies and what should be taken into account if you plan on running an advertorial campaign.
Benefits of Advertorials
A key purpose of advertorials is to drive traffic to your website. Their purpose isn’t to increase search visibility (I’ll speak more about that later), but if your advertorial is engaging and generally well done, it can prove to be a huge boon for your site traffic-wise, which has the potential for further conversions/sales.
A big positive of advertorials is that they are much more extensive and informational than other forms of commonly used advertisements, such as banner ads. The editorial piece can provide a plentiful amount of information about what you’re offering, giving the reader a greater idea of what you can provide for them.
It is well known how beneficial it can be for your business if you have a community/strong social following, and advertorials can help you build these. If you have done proper research and have specified a target audience who will be interested in what you offer, you can increase your overall following with ease.
What to Remember
There has been a fair amount of negativity towards advertorials, most of which stems from Google’s punishment of sites that have ran paid link/advertorial campaigns in the past.
The most notable of these would be the recent Interflora saga. To sum it up, UK flower delivery company Interflora were punished by Google due their mass amount of advertorials put out during the Valentine’s Day/Mother’s Day period. On top of this, the sites who hosted the advertorials saw their PageRank plummet to zero.
This was seen by many as Google making an example out of a large site, as head of the web spam team Matt Cutts took the time during this to reiterate Google’s staunch stance against paid links which pass PageRank, saying this:
“Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or “advertorial” pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations.”
More recently, in a recent video uploaded by Matt Cutts about the upcoming Google Penguin update, he spoke about advertorials:
“If a link in a paid post would affect search engines, that link should not pass PageRank (e.g. by using the nofollow attribute).”
The key point of all of this is of course PageRank. If you have paid for a link which hasn’t been attributed as a nofollow link, thus passing PageRank, Google certainly won’t be too pleased. Advertorials aren’t there to increase search visibility, and using them to garner dofollow/natural links to your site will see your site pay the price.
Another key part of Matt Cutts mention of advertorials is that there has to be a clear disclosure. This means that there must be some part of your advertorial designated to letting the reader know that it is indeed a paid-for post.
It would be great to get your thoughts on advertorials. Have you used them before? Are they still a viable part of an SEO strategy, or should we steer away from them? Feel free to leave your comments below.