Bloggers Get Flowers… Interflora Gets Slapped!

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There is a good chance that you’ve already heard about all of the drama recently with Google slapping all the search rankings away from Interflora, one of the top floral web sites on the internet, after they sent a bunch of bloggers free flowers in exchange for hopefully getting some nice mentions on these bloggers sites.  If you haven’t, here’s the full story.

If someone sent you flowers out of no where for Valentine’s day… would you blog about it (if you were a blogger)? Of course you would, especially with Valentine’s day right around the corner (at the time) and if you had a blog that was focused on flowers and gifts or about your everyday life and blogging occurrences.

Well, that is exactly what Interflora did and also getting what they expected… a bunch of bloggers thanking them and linking back to their site.  What they also got and DIDN’T expect, was Google giving them the smack down for their “unethical” link building methods.


When it comes to building links on the internet, we all have a good idea of what’s ethical in Google’s eyes and what isn’t… so to many it was surprising to see Interflora get nailed so badly in the search rankings for their little promotional stunt. The problem wasn’t that Interflora was providing bloggers with free gifts, the issue was that the links weren’t set as “nofollow”. Had all of the bloggers linked to Interflora using this simple tag, no one would be talking about this today.

Here we are now a week later and it looks like Google is giving back some love to the Interflora site and letting them rank in the search results once again.  Even if you’ve never heard of Interflora, they are still a massively huge site and have ranked in the top three for very highly sought after terms like “flowers”, “mothers day flowers”, “flower delivery” and even “roses”.  In other words… they had some pretty amazing organic rankings that are nearly priceless!

Now after the Google slap, Interflora is starting to appear in the results again, but not where they used to be. At one point the site wasn’t even ranking for “Interflora” in the organic search results, and only their paid advertisements were appearing.

Even with Interflora back in the search results, many SEO and online marketers have had their say on the situation and we’ve highlighted a few of the best ones below.

There’s millions of sites on the internet, and many of them are already established and talking about products that Interflora already sells. goes into detail on 101 different ways that Interflora could have focused on building links without getting penalized by Google.

With all of the Google slapping going on, SEOBook is letting everyone know that Google should start following their own rules. Aaron Wall points out that Google is currently buying links and running advertorials of their own!

The Independant brings up an interesting point, which is that Interflora was extremely lucky that their site wasn’t slapped before Valentine’s Day… but with the current damages in place they are definitely going to be hit hard during the massive flowers and gifts that will be purchased during Mother’s Day.

Yes, Interflora is back in the search results and Google is on the prowl and looking for others to make examples of… the big question is “who and what is next!?

So what are your thoughts on the whole Interflora link building and Google smack down situation?

Zac Johnson
Zac Johnson is a online marketer with 18 years of experience and currently blogs at and
Zac Johnson
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  • Aaron Jones

    I am confused about why a NoFollow link would be allowed? Because it doesn’t provide any or marginal link strength and hence Google regularly ignores them? So Google is essentially saying that my actions as a webmaster and how I decide who and who I do not reward with a DoFollow link can harm them? So does INTERFLORA receive the right to sue these webmasters for their blatant abuse of power in harming their ranking? Why not just stop counting links?

    I have half a mind to develop a wordpress script that flags every link as “DoFollow”. Could you imagine if a million blogs suddenly became DoFollow at once? Total Google anarchy?

    • Sabino

      It would be interesting to know how many flowers Interflora had sent out…over a thousand perhaps? I’m guessing they were penalized automatically, not manually. I must say I actually already hate Google’s “new” algorithm. Do-follow links are DEFAULT. It’s not like everyone in the online world actually knows the different. You’re right; if someone sends me flowers on Valentine’s day, I’ll definitely thank them and tell my readers to buy flowers from them because they’re nice. That’s what many people would do. Google needs to fix their algo. Obviously, that’s where the errors are coming from. Ultimately, they dictate how they want things to run on their own website, so the best thing to do is to just pretend they do not exist. For most of my websites, I am now concentrating on referral and direct traffic. We simply cannot rely on one search engine for a large percentage of traffic. Google is already sending out the message that we shouldn’t give free flowers/gifts to bloggers or we will suffer the negative repercussions of blogger gratitude.. What’s next?

  • Richard Giles

    I don’t understand why the links need to have been nofollowed to avoid a penalty. Can someone explain this?

    The whole link building saga is becoming a joke. Even a recent Google advert promoted a small business sending products to bloggers.

  • Brandon Rhodes

    I think it comes down to what an “advertorial” actually is. The way that the Guardian article you link to makes it sound like they sponsored content–probably not stellar practice. Yet, this article makes it sound like Interflora was “relationship building” with bloggers, and got attention as a result–any two-bit white hat SEO would be ok with that.

    I think there’s a lot of suspicion around the fact that the rules apply in some places and not in others–“what is Google trying to do?” and all this. I still strongly believe that they don’t fully know what they’re doing, and the scope of their service has outpaced their ability to manage it. That’s why so many of these updates swing back and forth, they slash away at supposed spam, and yet their listings are consistently losing quality.

    The rules are fuzzy because Google can’t figure out what they want to enforce, and how to enforce it once they do.

    • Richard Giles

      This article says that they got busted for followed links in blog posts. Not advertorials. This is why I’m so confused.

  • Ansh

    I guess this is great way to harm the competitors. Just give them some dofollow links from other blogs of different niche and google will decrease the rank of your competitor. Lol. Google has gone crazy. There is now an urgent need of its strong rival to show Google its real face.

  • Paul

    101 Great Links for Interflora – link is broken

  • Stacey Clermont

    I think their PR stunt was clever and they got unfairly slapped. Their publicity stunt naturally got them links because they sparked interest, If they didn’t explicitly ask for links or how they wanted to be linked to then it’s natural. It’s like Xbox getting penalized after a conference on their new console because a bunch of bloggers linked to them. Or a software creators giving free trials looking for reviews. The goal wasn’t links the goal was to bring attention to their services.

    • Steve Morgan

      Precisely – being held to account for the knowledge of bloggers and good, traditional, marketing.

  • Steve Morgan

    I wouldn’t usually comment on this type of post, but in this instance I feel compelled to.

    This is utterly absurd. If the gift was given with the intention of driving brand exposure and not building links then I don’t see why Interflora should be held accountable for the technical knowledge of individual bloggers. It would be far more unethical to include in the note on the flowers that “any thanks must include a no-follow”.

    The irony is that Google is actively promoting sending gifts to bloggers for promotional purposes through their UK TV advertising at the moment.

  • Matt Roney

    The whole thing is ridiculous. Is there any clear indication that Interflora’s goal was linkbuilding? Because it sounds like a pretty basic promotion. How is this different from, say, a music label alerting industry publications about an upcoming tour? Bloggers are the new press in many ways, and since when has it been a problem for a company to interact with the press?

    The requirement for nofollow links is equally absurd. Until I actually started WORKING in SEO, I had no idea that such a thing even exists, and I’d been a blogger for a long time. When I learned html, I learned a href=”[URL]”. End of story.

  • Richard Giles

    This article is BS. They got penalised because of advertorials, not followed links in blog posts.

  • Will Stevens

    The Interflora thing was a huge mess on many, many levels. Their blogger outreach wasn’t bad because they didn’t use no follow links. It was bad because they were seemingly asking for up to three exact match anchor text links in a 200 word post. Which is just insane. If they’d used just one branded link, it would have looked pretty much fine.

    The advertorials, something commenters on this thread seem a little confused about, were something different to the (bad) outreach they were doing. They were basically paid links in content on local newspaper sites that were in classic advertorial form. Those links should have been no followed as selling/buying links to pass pagerank is prohibited.

    I also think the debate on what exactly it was that got Interflora punished slightly misses the point – the real issue is exactly what they had to clean up in order to get back in Google’s good books.

  • Absurd

    It s just absurd.. Google says to use no follow but we all know that no follow no longer has value (we find no followed links from Wikipedia in Google Webmaster Tools, don t we??). Google says links must be natural. Well Interflora sent some nice flowers and bloggers wrote about it. Why is that un-natural? and How come they would even know what ‘no follow’ is?

  • Susan

    What an interesting blog post. I thought if bloggers note that it’s a sponsored post or something of that nature that would be okay on both sides. If the intent of Interflora was to build links and they should have made all of the bloggers they sent flowers to make each link a nofollow, how does that build links, and why is Google penalizing them for it. Very confused about how link building is supposed to work now.

    So if they have paid results and then organic results thats wrong? There’s no way anyone could control that besides Google.

  • Jos

    What if a lot of (other) bloggers are writing about this now (they are)? Should they also use Nofolow when they link to Interflora? That would be ridiculous. Therefore I don’t beleive they were punished via an algorithem because of the Follow links. I agree with Will.

  • David Robinson

    Google are becoming ridiculous. The ways to get links are diminishing quickly and looking at the above you can no longer build links OR let anyone know about your product in case they link to you, so what can you do??

    What if a company had an outrageous TV ad which caused a huge stir online and in social media, would the company be punished for this due to the sudden ‘spike’ in links? What if everyone who linked used a branded anchor text and this caused the link profile to be slightly out of Googles ‘natural’ range??

  • Richard Giles

    I’ll say this one more time.

    This article is BS. They got penalised because of advertorials (that pass PageRank), not followed links in blog posts.

  • Ric Pollock

    Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that the control Google has exercised in the online world … appears to have been extended and is now being applied to marketer’s activities in the offline world.

    If a company can’t supply a market influencer (a Maven) with their product to try out, without worrying about a Google slap … hasn’t our entire basis of doing business changed … probably for the worse? Are we headed for a day where every marketing decision, online or off, must first be filtered through the “What Will Google Think” department?