Interflora penalised by Google: how to avoid their SEO mistakes

Flower delivery service Interflora got into a spot of bother last week when it was revealed that it had been using some rather underhanded SEO tactics to promote its brand in time for Valentine’s Day. Not only had Interflora been investing in heavy advertorial press, without using the ‘no follow’ tag that should accompany any links in this type of article, they’d also been sending products to bloggers to encourage backlinks – techniques which are about as black as the hat gets when it comes to SEO.

As a result, Interflora’s Google ranking was completely obliterated, with the brand’s website invisible even when its own name was used as the search term. This screenshot shows the first result for “Interflora” after the penalty: a VoucherCodes page!

Google not only penalised Interflora, but also the newspaper that published the offending advertorials, and whilst most of the ratings have since be re-instigated, the amount of attention that the demotions received will certainly have had an impact on the reputation of both companies.

Hell hath no fury like a search engine scorned, it would seem, so how can you avoid your website falling into the same trap? Here are some simple tips that you can use today to help boost your ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages without getting sent to internet exile.

  • Lead by social example

    Interflora previously had an extremely successful social media campaign known as “Random Acts of Kindness,” where they would monitor blogs and Twitter feeds and send bunches of flowers to users who appeared to be having a bad day. As well as the obvious reputation boost, this campaign created an online buzz for the brand that helped them to reach the top spot for several categories. We know that not all business models lend themselves to giving away freebies, but the gifts are not the key point – the authentic approach and attention to detail are the causes of their social success. Simply stuffing your Twitter feed with promotional links isn’t going to cut it – you need to interact with your audience and find out what makes them tick.
  • Develop genuinely helpful backlinks

    Whilst Interflora has provided a very bad example, link building can actually be a useful part of your SEO strategy when implemented correctly. Writing guest blogs and contributing to other sites can boost your online presence, as long as you’re providing genuinely helpful information when you do so. It’s not the links that caused the problem with Interflora’s campaign – it’s the fact that they paid for a ‘do follow’ instead of a ‘no follow’ link. Developing organic and genuine links, on the other hand, will make your SEO hat whiter than snow.
  • Focus on creating innovative content

    There are countless ways to make your content work hard for you, but none of them are possible unless your content is well written, user friendly and genuinely valuable in the first place. Whether you’re putting together a simple tweet or a 1000 word article, take as much time as you need to tailor it to your target audience. Always ask yourself “Would I respond to this?” when you’re creating content for your blog or social media pages. Being a publisher of high quality, engaging content is the best way to achieve SEO success, not to mention the best way to generate a community of fans who will advocate your brand to their friends.