Giving away products to high-profile bloggers can be an excellent way to let people know about your business and what you have to offer. However, if you go about things in the wrong way it can be a minefield full of potential disasters. This guide will show you the various ways you can run such promotions and the risks you might face along the way.
Let’s start with the worst possible scenario.
Ugly blogger giveaways
Earlier in 2013, flower delivery company Interflora was removed from Google searches completely. Although we can’t be entirely certain about why this happened, the overwhelming suspicion is that it was at least partly to do with the blogger giveaways it was running.
For a closer look at what the company was up to, you can read this piece – but generally the problem was this: It was sending products to bloggers and in exchange asking for an article with a link back to its website.
This in itself is a breach of Google’s webmaster guidelines and would have been enough for the company to penalise the Interflora site. However, things were compounded by the fact the bloggers were asked to use exact match anchor text and were often cramming three links into very short posts.
When the penalty hit, Interflora was put in the awkward position of having to contact bloggers to remove or no-follow the links they had put in their posts – something that can often lead to a negative reaction.
This kind of promotion is far more trouble than it’s worth.
The “bad” blogger give-away
Of course, it is possible to run a giveaway that breaches Google’s guidelines without getting caught. You just have to be more subtle about it than Interflora was. Not asking bloggers to use exact match anchor text is a good start, as would be specifying a minimum word length for each post.
However, even if you manage to slip under Google’s radar while doing your giveaway, you could fall foul of the government, depending on their rules on promotions. In the UK, all advertising has to be clearly disclosed and similar rules apply in the USA.
This means that your subtle link building campaign may land you in hot water with regulators, even if Google doesn’t catch you.
It’s also important to remember that bloggers themselves are covered by these regulations, so they may insert “sponsored post” at the top of the article whether you want them to or not. If they then include a followed link back to your site, your tracks become almost impossible to cover and you may end up in trouble with Google anyway.
The “good” blogger giveaway
So how can you run a giveaway that won’t incur the wrath of Google, advertising regulators, or both? The only real answer to this is not to use giveaways as a link building technique and instead focus on PR and traffic generation.
The only truly safe giveaway post is one that is clearly marked as sponsored and features no-follow links. That means your rankings won’t benefit, but if you target high-traffic blogs then you can expect people to click through to your site and they might even become customers.
Offering something for the blogger’s audience, such as a special discount, will help encourage this behaviour.
Of course, you can still run a giveaway as a link building campaign, but it’s important that you understand and accept the risks that go along with doing so. For many firms, playing it safe is increasingly attractive.
The best alternative
If you do want to build links through bloggers and have a budget to spend, then you should also consider running a meet-up. Invite along key bloggers from your niche, show them a good time and maybe make a product announcement. That way, the posts they write afterwards won’t be considered sponsored and neither will any links they might choose to include.