SEO Guidelines: Sponsored Content vs. Ecommerce Partnerships vs. Partner Links


Following SEO guidelines is incredibly important if you want your website to remain on the web and away from search engine penalties; however it isn’t easy as search engines continue to develop. It’s important that you follow specific guidelines for specific aspects of your company, and there are a few things that aren’t talked about nearly enough: sponsored content, ecommerce partnerships, and partner links.

SEO Guidelines: Sponsored Content

Sponsored content is something that has been in the news more and more as companies continue to grow their online presence. The idea here is that companies pay for content; no longer just ads. This helps to keep things flowing and helps to create targeted content. Flashing banner ads are no longer because the advertising is in the content. This helps the company advertising most obviously, but also helps create relevant content for readers, and helps give quality content to websites.

There are several SEO rules you will need to follow if you want to offer sponsored content on your website and remain penalty-free:

  • NoFollow. Any links within sponsored content must be nofollow. Google and other search engines do not want content that is paid for to rank on a SERP because they want links to be earned. A nofollow link will ensure that.
  • Google News. You always want to make sure that sponsored content is not in your Google News sitemap. Google News allows articles that have a mention of a sponsor, but it does not want articles written specifically for a sponsor.

Sponsored content has been in the news quite a bit as it becomes more and more popular. You can learn about a few recent offenders in our previous blog post.

SEO Guidelines: Partner Links

Partner links differ from sponsored links because they are not paid for; however the links might be there because the company is a partner of the website. In other words, these links aren’t earned either, so Google isn’t going to be overly happy. Partner links work well when it comes to finding new customers and creating an audience, but you have to be careful when using these links (whether it’s in the sidebar, above the footer, etc.) so as not to get penalized by Google.

There are a few steps you need to take to make this happen:

  1. Decide what is a partner link. Having a link to another company on your page might not necessarily be a partner link. A partner link has to be fairly constant, and you have to be talking to the owner of that website where you’re linking (in most cases, you’re getting something back). It’s essentially a link exchange.
  2. Consider enabling a nofollow. Google isn’t overly strict with these types of links, but there is no denying that these links are not really “earned,” so they will surely be devalued. In the future, this practice could become more common, so it’s a good idea to start preparing now and putting a nofollow tag on the links.
  3. Talk with your partners. If you decide to either decrease your number of partner links or set them to nofollow, you’re going to need to let your partners know. You might be surprised at just how many partners understand your explanation and are still interested in the partnership for visibility.

SEO Guidelines: Ecommerce Partnerships

Ecommerce content (and links within that content) is typically found in the form of reviews and guides for a specific product. Partnering with an ecommerce site means that you will be using affiliate links within your content, which again, just won’t work for Google. So what’s the solution? Treat these links like you would sponsored content and use a nofollow. You can never go wrong with a nofollow tag.

SEO Guidelines: What to Consider when Outsourcing

If you don’t have the time or bandwidth to build links yourself, you should probably hire a reputable link building service. How do you know if they are reputable?

  1. Ask them about their link building philosophy. If they aren’t talking about outreach or earning links, that isn’t a good sign.
  2. Ask them for samples of their work. See what he links look like. If it doesn’t look like it would take much effort to get the link, it probably didn’t.
  3. If they are promising you hundreds of links for not a whole lot of money, there is a problem. Quality link building takes time and effort. Your mindset should always be quality over quantity.

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