The Perils of Advertorials — or Native Advertising — for Subscription Sites
Trend-jumping, while almost universally endorsed by marketing gurus, is a risky business tactic. Just look at The Atlantic and their foray into native advertising.
The legacy publication generated tremendous blowback a few weeks ago when it ran “Sponsored” content about Scientology, although the bright-sided piece was not seen as egregious as the marketing department’s ability to edit/delete comments, especially any ones critical of the piece.
Of course, it’s also worth noting that the exact definition of native advertising remains murky at best, and some may just say that the negative response was simply because The Atlantic’s audience was in no way primed to expect or discern advertorial content. Alternate forms of native advertising — affiliate links, sponsored Webinars or video, or free whitepapers available through the site — may have met less resistance.
But publishers and content sites are more vulnerable to the negative effects of native advertising precisely because they specialize in content creation (and verification). Ecommerce sites are not known for producing content, so consumers are naturally skeptical when they come across long articles or professional-looking content. Consumer are less wary when perusing news and information sites.
This difference in consumer behavior may be why Google reiterated its warning that “Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations.”
Note: PageRank is a link analysis algorithm, named after Larry Page, that assigns a numerical weighting to each element of a hyperlinked set of documents, with the purpose of “measuring” its relative importance within the set.
In other words, native advertising can sink your SEO.
The one way to avoid this is to “disclose” paid links to Google’s Search bots through a rel=”nofollow” code reference at the end of a URL, which tells Google not to assign any PageRank to the page on the other side of that link.
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