Can Influencer Marketing Hurt Your SEO?

Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO expert Jenny Halasz. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

Welcome to another edition of Ask an SEO! Today, we’ve got a question from Line in Denmark who asks:

I have a question regarding Influencer Marketing and SEO. I’ve heard various statements that ‘sponsored’ links from influencers (e.g. if they write a blog post about you and your product) can hurt your SEO negatively, since Google can see that it is not a naturally earned link.

Thus, I would really like to know if this is true? If so, what can you do in order to not have influencer marketing hurt your SEO?

This is a very frustrating area of SEO and Google’s guidelines.

You are absolutely correct that Google considers links gained from influencer marketing to be “paid” and expects you to have the influencer place nofollow on them.

But I think this is ridiculous.

Influencer marketing is a great way to drive additional views to your site. “Paying” influencers by offering them your product or service for free is a strategy that pre-dates the internet.

That said, there are now FTC guidelines about giving away products to be reviewed or promoted. So make sure to read these guidelines before embarking on any influencer marketing campaigns.

Not all influencers will link to your site and not all influencers will like your product and tell their followers about it.

Offering them a product to try in the hope that they will review it, make a video about it, or use it in an upcoming project is no different than if they had purchased the product in a store and decided to use it on their own.

The reason the “guideline” is stupid is that Google has no way to know which scenario it is.

Now if you post on your website that people can have the product for free if they write a five-star review for it, that’s a different story.

But if you’re doing real influencer marketing – where expanding the audience of your product is your first goal and links or reviews are secondary – then there’s really no way for Google to penalize you for that.

Also, in the new era of links just not counting instead of counting against you (which is how it always should have been), if Google decides not to count a link, you’ll never really know it anyway.

As long as you’re not obviously flouting that you’re breaking the guideline or getting manual actions in Google Search Console, go ahead and do your influencer marketing however you want to.

If you’re more comfortable with it, follow the guideline and ask your influencers to nofollow their links. Many may insist on using nofollow anyway, and others may not even know nofollow is a thing.

Ultimately all you can do is ask – the website belongs to the influencer, and therefore you cannot be expected to control it.

But again, if the goal is truly to expand your sphere of influence rather than just to get links, you’ll probably be fine.

I want to stress that this is my opinion. In my experience, I haven’t seen clients who do influencer marketing have negative SEO effects as a result.

As with all things in SEO, your mileage may vary.

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Paulo Bobita