The “advertorial” — you know, that big, lame advertisement disguised as an article — has made a comeback thanks to content marketing and Google isn’t happy about it. Companies are attracted to advertorials because they are essentially articles, reviews and write-ups created to look like they were written by someone who has used the product or service. But according to Google’s Matt Cutts, this digital engagement practice is a deceptive one and could get marketers in hot water with the world’s No. 1 search engine.
The inherent lack of transparency in advertorials is Google’s big issue. By not disclosing to readers that they are in fact reading paid content, Google feels advertorials mislead audiences. There are thousands of informational articles on the Internet, and a great many of them are sponsored content. But Google’s problem comes in when these articles are masquerading like legitimate news or feature articles put out by reporters and not companies. Google has recently penalized businesses that use advertorials to trick consumers, and Cutts says the company will continue to crack down on the practice. Most recently, Google penalized InterFlora after a massive advertorial campaign with links slipped by PageRank.
But this isn’t to say marketers should shy away from article and blog marketing. Google just wants us to be honest.
“If you are doing disclosure, you need to make sure that it’s clear to people,” Cutts said in a video released this week. “So a good rule of thumb is there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure. It shouldn’t be the case where people have to dig around buried in small print or have to click and look around a long time to find out, ‘Oh, this content that I am reading was actually paid.’”