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The “Interflora” case – new penalties from Google for paid links and advertorials

What exactly happened with Interflora?

For those of you who haven't heard about it yet, Interflora is a popular UK online shop for flowers and bouquets. Not long time ago it was on top positions in Google for keywords and phrases like 'flowers', 'flower delivery' etc. At the end of February the site lost its positions not only for these keywords, but for its brand name too.

Google said that they won't comment on the case, and SEO community started guessing what may have caused the penalty.

In the meantime Matt Cutts from Google's Web Spam team tweeted this:


See here for more information.

St. Valentine, flowers and too much links

As you can guess, most online stores start aggressive promotions before Holidays to attract more customers. Interflora also did this, but it seems like they overdid it. According to some analysis, links pointing to Interflora appeared in more than 150 advertorials only in one month. The interesting fact is that the sites where the advertorials were published also received penalties like PageRank drop and lost positions in big G.

Here's how the advertorials look in the SERPs:

interflora advertorials

Most of the links have already been removed, but the penalty stays.

More bad links

LinkResearchTools did a deep backlink analysis of the whole link profile of Interflora and the results showed that the advertorials are not the only source of bad links.

From 11 thousand links, 65% are marked as suspicious, and nearly 6% as toxic. These groups include links from:

  • Blog networks, supported by spam 2nd and 3rd tier links
  • Paid blog posts in blogs made only for selling links
  • Domains which are not indexed in Google, probably because of a penalty
  • Domains registered to one and the same person
  • Web directories with links pointing to internal pages of Interflora's website

The analysis also showed that Interflora or the SEO agency that they have used, have been doing unnatural link building for more than two years, but somehow they have managed to stay away from Google's spam radar.

How to protect our sites?

  • Don't be too aggressive with your link building campaigns
  • Choose carefully your backlink sources. Build links only in relevant sites.
  • Don't use same anchor text for all of your links.
  • Avoid publishing low quality articles with the only aim to get a link. The articles must have some value and be helpful to the readers
  • If you are using seo services from web agency, make sure that the techniques they use are white hat and won't harm your website

Back on the scene

According to some new information, 11 days after the penalty Interflora is in the SERPs again, though its positions are not so good. At the moment Interflora is taking the following places:

  • 9 for "flowers"
  • 7 for "mothers day flowers
  • 8 for "flower delivery
  • 9 for "flowers delivered
  • 10 for "roses"

It seems that they will still have some customers for Mother's Day, but the number would be much larger if they haven't received a penalty.

And you? What kind of techniques are you using to protect your sites from penalties? Share in the comments below.

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SEO expert at Devseon
Svetoslav Stoyanov is an SEO expert at Devseon. He has worked for many companies in USA and Europe and has gained a vast experience in optimizing web sites and reaching top positions in the major search engines.

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