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Can you use Influencer Marketing for SEO Backlinks? Yes.
Should you… no.
Even though Influencer Marketing is an emerging strategy and may be something new to your promotional lineup, it has been around long enough for search engines (Google specifically) to develop rules and guidelines for you (brands and advertisers) and the influencers you work with.
Before the new rules and regulations kicked in, link building was a great little side benefit of influencer marketing. Not only would a blogger share your brand with their audience, but they’d share their link juice with you with a backlink attached to your choice of anchor text.
Brilliant – right?!
Well… Google doesn’t think so. Just like with advertisements, affiliate links and other paid promotions, the search engine wants to know which backlinks are organically placed on sites that just really, really like you and which backlinks exist because you paid for their existence.
Now, before you start thinking, “That’s not fair. If I have budget to pay for backlinks, that should count for something.” Please consider these two points:
1 – It is actually pretty fair, it’s just not heavily weighted in your favor… that’s why you don’t like it. If you feel completely slighted, go ahead and create your own search engine and get half the world to instinctively use it. Then you can make your own rules.
2 – Google does give you way to put your budget behind higher search results – they call it AdWords, maybe you’ve heard of it?
Google wants their organic search results to be affected by organic links only. They want paid results to be managed through their paid search platform.
Official Guidance from Google on
Influencer Marketing for SEO Backlinks
On March 11, 2016, Google issued guidance specifically targeted to those of using influencer marketing. You can read the full list of best practices and reasons on the Google Webmaster Blog. Here’s a summary:
1 – Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on links pointing to an advertiser/brand in a sponsored post because these links didn’t come about organically.
2 – Bloggers should let readers know that they were or could receive compensation for the post/link. Google says the blogger can do that anywhere in the post, but the FTC says it needs to be at the beginning and has further (strong) suggestions on how the disclosures should be worded and formatted.
3 – Bloggers should create unique content.
Are there Consequences?
Google doesn’t specify “or else…” in their best practices, but we’ve all seen what they can do if they don’t think a website is playing by their rules.
We’ve been advising the Fresh Press Media influencers to follow these guidelines any time they work with an advertiser. They are quick to spot and report brands that ask them to skip the disclosure or request they leave links in do_follow mode.
They don’t want to feel Google’s slap, and we certainly don’t want them losing their power to generate quality traffic and influence.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Influencer Marketing for SEO Backlinks
You may have noticed that all three guidelines Google suggested were directed at bloggers, not brands or advertisers. So, what’s stopping you from asking an influencer to ignore Google’s rules in exchange for placement fees?
Well… we are going to actively try to stop you. As I mentioned, our influencers know they shouldn’t work with advertisers who ask them to bend the rules.
If that’s not enough, the fear of a Google slap of your own should stop you. These best practices outline a clear pattern that the search engine does NOT want to see. If they do see links to your site matching this pattern, you can be sure they’ll start slapping on the penalties, which makes the whole thing counterintuitive. If you intended on using influencer marketing for SEO backlinks, but those links could result in penalties… is there any point in investing time, resources and budget into it? I think not.
Don’t worry… you’ll find that Influencer marketing comes with plenty of benefits outside of link building.