There is a largely overlooked, darker side to native advertising in the realm of SEO that could lead to devastating results for Publishers and Advertisers if not handled correctly. During the past summer, Google updated their Search Quality Guidelines to include “Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank” as link scheme that should be avoided. Over the summer Matt Cutts, the head of the web spam team at Google, also hinted in a video that the Penguin 2.0 Google Algorithm update targets advertorials and native advertisements that pass page rank. This means that a sponsored story, like some posted in The Atlantic and The Business Insider, that includes a link that does not have a no-follow tag (a code in the html of a link that prevents the flow of PageRank) could result in negative search engine rankings for both the sponsor’s and the publisher’s website.

Even worse, if the practice continues for a long period of time, both parties could end up getting a manual action placed on them by Google which would hamper their ranking even further. Publishers and Advertisers can avoid these negative SEO effects by ensuring that every link pointing from a sponsored story has the no-follow code within it.