News hit the SEO world that Interflora has been given a Google penalty and been removed from organic search results.
When you Google the keywords “Interflora” they do not appear for their own brand name organically which can be seen above. This term was approximately 20% of the overall traffic for the florist sector and the fact that it was a brand name shows how well-known and influencial Interflora is within the industry.
Interflora’s brand name is known world wide and this effect will have a huge impact on the business.
Interflora has had a huge market share in the Flower industry. This stretched through to the online domain as if you searched in Google the keywords “Flowers”, “Florist” and “Flower Delivery” you would find Interflora in top spots.
We did some investigation work and found that they also ranked very well for terms like “valentines day flowers”, valentines day”, “valentines gifts”, “flower delivery UK”, “flower delivery”, “wedding flowers”, etc.
So what went wrong for Interflora?
Well, Google work hard to ensure that companies follow guidelines to ensure that the results consumers are presented with in their searches are the most relevant and therefore shows Google to be providing a good service. It doesn’t matter how big you might be, the rules and penalties are the same for all companies, as highlighted by the Interflora predicament. When something like this happens it sends a signal to everyone doing similar things to stop.
In 2006 BMW got hit by Google and as a result the page rank for the BMW website went to zero. GoCompare also got a Google penalty in 2008.
In all cases, the websites were penalised due to an unnatural increase in the number of banklinks to their site. Google detected a similar increase in Interflora and given a penalty to them.
What is also worth noting is that the backlinks were from well-known UK Newspapers which has resulted in them being penalised also. The Independent, which had a page rank of 8, and now has a page rank of 4. This has a knock-on effect for all other sites linked to The Independent as the links will now bring less power as they no longer have a high page authority.
Interflora Google Penalty Analysis
Now looking at Interflora to understand how they got the Google Penalty you need to look at the backlinking profile.
This graph shows the backlinks that have been built to Interflora over the years and the volumes involved.
You may notice that in 2008 they had approximately 175,000 backlinks built to them and wonder why they were not penalised for this, but have been in 2013 for 60,000. Well, in 2008 Google did not consider large numbers of backlinks to be a negative influence on the reliability of their search results. However, through the years they have realised that a site paying for unrelated backlinks to get volume rather than quality actually negatively affected the quality of their search results and therefore made changes to the algorithms used to rank sites. These changes were implemented in 2012 under the Penguin and Panda updates.
Even though everyone in the world of SEO was aware of these updates and the resulting influence on unnatural backlinks, Interflora continued to build large numbers of links in a very short space of time; this is shown below.
If you look recently you can see that they have a huge volume generated daily and this gives us an overall amount of:-
There is no ethical way that a company can generate nearly 60,000 backlinks in this time, or even over 12 months.
This profile was the effect of trying too hard for valentines related keywords which seems a little foolish as the company Interflora was already on page one of Google for the relevant terms and in most cases top.
We have been informed that in January 2013 the company Interflora purchased links from News Papers using stories in order to capture the Valentine market.
Matt Cutts has put an article on the Webmaster Central Blog titled “A reminder about selling links that pass PageRank” and this article explains that Google has said for years not to buy links in order to achieve Google Page Rank as this violates Googles terms and conditions. He also explains that if you buy links for traffic then ensure that they are “nofollow” links.
So what can Interflora do now?
The question now is what can Interflora do now? This is a question that will be asked over and over in their marketing meetings as the task ahead of them is huge.
Officially they should remove all the links and then submit a reconsideration request and then a manual webspam team will check and review the request at Google.
They could change the domain name to something else they have like www.interfloraflowers.com and redirect the domain to the new name. This is a huge step to take but in the short term it is the fastest recovery option.
The key here is to follow Google guidelines and this means that the marketing team need to understand what they did wrong and why, and then think how they can rebuild confidence. However, this is not going to happen over night.
It was only back in 2011 when Interflora took Marks & Spencers to court for using the “Interflora” keywords in Google Adwords. The court ruled that Google had not broken any laws allowing a trademark word to be used in this way. But they did find Marks and Spencers guilty of trademark infringement.
Now in these events their is one company that has won and that is Google. They have sent a message to all website owners and web companies that their rules are not to be broken as there are consequences. Also, as Interflora are now no longer able to appear in organic search results, their only option to appear in Google is using Google Adwords. This means that they will be paying Google for each click and piece of traffic they receive, lining Google’s pockets and no doubt increasing their Adwords daily budget!