In March, UK’s flower delivery company Interflora was making headlines online and off- with its infamous status as Google’s most recent link scheme penalization victim. The whole debacle took place right around Valentine’s Day, which must have been a rather big blow to the company’s revenue, as Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year when flower delivery companies sell, sell, sell. In brief, the company wasn’t even showing up in search results by its own name (save for the sponsored links). Now, some months later, it seems they are back on the top wrung of the SERPs and many are wondering what it is they did to score such a quick comeback. In fact, just as many are still wondering what had happened to get them penalized in the first place. Here’s a brief overview of the scandal and a few takeaway points to consider in this matter.
Interflora goes AWOL in the SERPs
Around mid-February, the company was nowhere to be found in Google queries that would have normally placed them right at the top. Prior to the incident, Interflora had been a top ranking domain for such competitive keywords and phrases as ‘flowers’, ‘flower delivery’ and other related terms. Speculations on the reason behind their penalization started cropping up, right after Google reps came out to say that they will not comment on their corrective actions, nor do they usually disclose their reasons for taking such action. This, of course, is untrue, in light of other link scheme fiascos, such as the one that featured US clothing company JC Penney.
Meanwhile, a host of webmasters and bloggers started speaking forth, with a couple of interesting disclosures of their own. Apparently, several website admins had received emails from the British company, asking them to remove links. Bloggers also confirmed having previously received gifts from Interflora, in exchange for writing and publishing advertorials about their products and services. Eventually, back link profile analyses from experts in the field revealed much more was rotten at Interflora, aside from paid blog posts. Some 70 per cent of their links ranked low in the Power*Trust index, which essentially means they had URLs on anchors placed on highly dubious, single-page blogs and sites.
More Bad Practices Follow
An in-depth analysis of Interflora’s back link profile prior to the penalization revealed their use of a tactic called ‘compound keyword phrases’. This means the brand was paying for content very low in quality, which contained several money keywords, linking to sales pages on the Interflora site. Other links were from obviously ‘spammy’ sites, which Interflora should have known better than to post content on. The analysis in question only counted a maximum number of five links per domain and did not take site-wide counts into consideration. In the meantime, Interflora has removed a number of toxic links and amped up its number of good links, but the overall ratio still stands at 70 per cent suspicious and toxic, and 29 per cent healthy.
To conclude, it’s rather clear that Interflora had created a buzz around the web, by asking webmasters to remove links. This drew Google’s attention and they acted on the matter, by making an example of the British flower delivery company. While, at the moment, the site’s back link profile is still far from perfect, it’s worth following this ‘exemplary’ case onward, if for no other reason, then at least to see how long it takes them to work their way back to complete back link health.