The over-publicized Google ban on the site Interflora was removed on 3rd March. It is very strange that Google has not yet commented on this particular ban. Usually, they have been outspoken and upfront about previous public penalties, such as the ones imposed on JCPenny, BuildMyRank, BMW.de and Ricoh.de. A ban so big as the one imposed on Interflora deserves few comments from Google, as Interflora was missing from branded search queries for almost eleven days.
Google on 22nd February restated their policy on paid links, “Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or "advertorial" pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations. The consequences for a linkselling site start with losing trust in Google's search results, as well as reduction of the site's visible PageRank in the Google Toolbar. The consequences can also include lower rankings for that site in Google's search results.”
Although Google has not directly mentioned Interflora. But it is pretty clear that the 'advertorial pages' they are referring to are indirectly the advertorial pages published by various news sites for Interflora. Also, it is rumored, that Interflora was giving free gifts to bloggers for providing them with links.
Much more than Advertorials
According to Link Detox 70% links for InterFlora were toxic.
If you checkout the examples of Tiered backlink structures or the large number of low Power*Trust links it will get you thinking that why Interflora was not penalized at the time of Google Penguin updates.
Interflora had lot of single page blogs with a link to their own site or another free blog on the keyword roses. This is an unusual link building tactic. It is astonishing that the ban has been removed so fast, right before Mother's Day.
Speedy Link Removal by Interflora
We all know for sure that the penalty imposed on Interflora was manual as it had lost rankings for its brand name. Also, the fact that Matt Cutts indirectly spoke about paid links on his blog indicates manual action by Google. Interflora was fast in getting the advertorial links from newspaper sies removed. However, some of the advertorial links that damaged the reputation of Interflora are still present.
Interflora only managed to remove 122 links since the penalty was imposed. The number of links disavowed cannot be known.
Google says that every penalized website should get rid of every bad link as well as disavow the ones that cannot be removed. Disavowing of links can be done by uploading a text file with the links that Google should ignore.
We assume that the blogger outreach by Interflora was so wide-spread that they themselves had no idea about unnatural links. After the ban, Interflora quickly disavowed most of its bad links is again an assumption. The unfairness is expected that many webmasters feel when the ban on Interflora is lifted so fast. On the other hand, many smaller websites take months to get back on the feet. That is the charm of being a big brand. This is not good news for smaller brands. However, it is a good lesson for everyone to be careful with paid advertorials and be prepared for link risk management.Interflora ban lifted: What exactly happened?,