Interflora – What Really Happened?

by Anthony Shapley
Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency

Update 23:00:

It seems that we were on the money today with the newspaper links being the cause of Google handing down a link based penalty to Interflora :

matt

So I think we can close the whole Interflora debacle, read more on http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/a-reminder-about-selling-links.html
( If you’re wondering why I nofollowed the Google links it’s because it’s on blogspot ;) )

Dave

Over the course of this morning we’ve been investigating the cause of the recent Interflora crisis that has had us all interested at one level or another, however we are now confident we have got to the bottom of what has caused this massive global brand to be hit by Google’s hammer. There has been widespread debate about whether Interflora’s Blogger Outreach programme was the cause of the issue. Before revealing the true cause of this penalty, lets take a look at why it isn’t the blogger outreach, or anchor text distribution and has nothing to do with gateway pages that have been created for local targeted flower delivery services.

Whilst we can only speculate on what the exact agreement is between individual bloggers and Interflora, when Flowers are sent out for Bloggers to review, Google is also unlikely to be aware of the exact agreements being made. Unless by coincidence Interflora’s team or agency has managed to upset a blogger inside or connected to a Google Employee in some way. Which we think is extremely unlikely.

More specifically, we recently wrote about Google Chrome’s TV advert, in which they showed The Satchel Company, sending out free Satchels for Review to Fashion Bloggers:

Where it actually went wrong..

Any good SEO Agency knows, when you’re preparing for a Seasonal Event, such as Valentines or Mothers Day (in this instance, Valentines Day), the build up begins months before the event, to ensure a good placement has been achieved with plenty of time to spare. Interflora were exceptionally aggressive throughout January, preparing for Valentines, placing we estimate 150+ Advertorials on Regional News Sites all over the UK. These can be seen (now with the links removed), in the screenshot below:

advertorial

We are confident after analysis these links are the cause of Interflora’s current situation and in addition the recent flurry of Webmaster Tools messages reported across our industry in various open and closed forums:

warning-message

The biggest indicator (other than matching lots of links in common with newly penalised sites) is the huge PageRank drop that occured late last week across virtually all Regional and some National Newspaper websites, see the table below for some examples:

URL PR Now PR Before Change
www.bordertelegraph.com 0 6 -6
www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.thisisexeter.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.lutontoday.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.chesterchronicle.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.worthingherald.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.hounslowchronicle.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.harrowobserver.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.southportvisiter.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.granthamjournal.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.wirralnews.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.uxbridgegazette.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.thisissussex.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.wscountytimes.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.thisistamworth.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.flintshirechronicle.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.eastlothiancourier.com 0 5 -5
www.crawleyobserver.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.leamingtonobserver.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.driffieldtoday.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.hamiltonadvertiser.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.loughboroughecho.net 0 5 -5
www.northwalesweeklynews.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.hinckleytimes.net 0 5 -5
www.donegaldemocrat.ie 0 5 -5
www.milngavieherald.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.pendletoday.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.mearnsleader.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.shinystyle.tv 0 5 -5
www.barnstaplepeople.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.caernarfonherald.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.leitrimobserver.ie 0 5 -5
www.formbytimes.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.deesidepiper.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.montrosereview.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.brechinadvertiser.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.linlithgowgazette.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.falmouthpeople.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.bidefordpeople.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.forfardispatch.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.motherwelltimes.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.inverurieherald.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.haylingtoday.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.kirriemuirherald.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.buchanobserver.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.kincardineshireobserver.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.ellontimes.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.fifeweddingguide.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.dundalkdemocrat.ie 0 5 -5
www.donsidepiper.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.guideandgazette.co.uk 0 5 -5
www.independent.co.uk 4 8 -4
www.scotsman.com 3 7 -4

In-House we monitor the homepage PageRank of over 4 Million Websites which is where this data has been taken from.

If you have your own ideas which don’t match up, we are interested to hear them – but are completely confident that this is the reason Interflora have been penalised. The big questions we are now asking ourselves are:

  • Will Google now ever Trust Links from Newspaper Websites again in the UK?
  • Was Interflora warned? And has Google intentionally made an example of them because of how aggressive they were? (Lots of other sites place Advertorials)
  • When will Google let Interflora back and does it make a mockery of Google’s spam fighting if they are re-released in the next couple of weeks? Should they be forced to clean up all unnatural links?
  • Should Interflora at least be put back for their Brand Term only? (We think they should be put back immediately)

We don’t believe that this was the work of the SEO agency, but looks like a media buy gone wrong.

Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency
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