Users searching for Interflora in the last few days will have been surprised to find that the florist is no longer the first organic result. Neither is it the second, third, fourth or fifth hundredth. It’s nowhere. Interflora’s online presence hasn’t so much wilted as it has been uprooted and ripped to shreds.
Why? Well, all the talk online relates to paid and incentivised link schemes; things that Google explicitly state violate their quality guidelines. In addition to receiving links from 150+ regional news sites all over the UK, Interflora also sent bouquets to bloggers in return for follow links. The SEO’s behind the strategy have acted quickly, requesting that the links be removed but early signs on twitter suggests the confused bloggers think it’s more hassle than it’s worth.
While I’m sure the penalty was for these link schemes, one look at the site itself reveals that it could have just as easily been a panda issue. The site (which has a surprisingly outdated design) has keyword stuffed links on almost every page, not only for location specific pages but right down to the postcode!
This high profile case will serve as a reminder to webmasters that the guidelines are not to be taken lightly, although it also raises questions over the extent of the penalties Google is prepared to enforce. One could not reasonably argue that a user who searches for “Interflora” could be looking for anything other than Interflora. If Google’s primary concern is user experience (and not, heaven forbid, increasing click throughs on the paid listings) then the words “baby” and “bathwater” spring to mind.