In the last week, Google has twice made clear threats against web sites that run “native” ads or sponsored content that isn’t properly disclosed to readers and that appears to be regular news content.
The search engine’s web spam chief, Matt Cutts, says Google will ultimately remove publications from Google News if its rules aren’t followed.
The threat was repeated on the Google News blog, which said:
If a site mixes news content with affiliate, promotional, advertorial, or marketing materials (for your company or another party), we strongly recommend that you separate non-news content on a different host or directory, block it from being crawled with robots.txt, or create a Google News Sitemap for your news articles only. Otherwise, if we learn of promotional content mixed with news content, we may exclude your entire publication from Google News.
The threats will strike fear into the hearts of many publishers who run sponsored content. Generally, news sites who run sponsored content label it clearly so that readers can form their own opinion about the usefulness of the information. (Business Insider discloses sponsored content at the top of each story, for instance.)
It’s less clear whether all sites block those pages from being crawled by Google’s search engines, however. In general, publishers and their advertisers want as much exposure as possible and would be loathe to “switch off” Google on their content.
Generally, web publishers have regarded “native” ads — or sponsored content — as a saviour of their business. Native advertising, and sponsored content, are one of the huge success stories of web publishing.
And Google is now waving an ax at much of it.
Cutts said Google had seen a couple of sites in the U.K. that were running advertorial without any disclosure.
Here’s what Cutts said in a YouTube video on May 29:
We have had longstanding guidance since 2005, I think, that says, hey if you pay for links those links should not pass pagerank.
If someone were to come to a newspaper reporter and say, I’m going to give you money, can you link somewhere within your article? That would be deceptive.
We’ve taken action on this sort of thing for years and years and were going to keep on taking strong action … up to and including removing the publication from Google News.
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