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interflora-logoAfter their spectacular fall from grace, due to the purchase of too many paid-link advertorials, it seems Google has lifted much of the penalty they applied to No doubt eyebrows within the SEO community will be raised at the speed of their recovery.

As you can see from my analysis below, kindly supplied by Searchmetrics, the domain has not only bounced-back on their main brand terms, “interflora” and “interflora UK” but across many high-volume generics, such as “florist”, “funeral flowers” and “hampers”.


The only terms they have made zero progress on, languishing on the 13th page, are the broad generics “valentines day” and “mothers day”, the former keyword term being targeted in the advertorials that caused the ban. Maybe an indication of a lasting SERP-level penalty. However I imagine Interflora are fairly happy coming into Mother’s Day at 9th position, than their 50+ position of last week; with a prospect of further improvements.

The recovery of has been significantly faster than most would expect, for such a serious ban in Google. In 2011, J.C. Penney got called out by the New York Times for their linking scheme, and banned by Google, only recovering after 3 months.

However when and got banned on 8th February 2006 for using doorway pages, they were forgiven by Google only 4 days later. As Matt Cutts wrote, “I appreciate BMW’s quick response on removing JavaScript-redirecting pages from BMW properties.” Senior involvement with the Google web spam team is certainly one of the advantages of being a well-known brand.

Another factor to benefit brands, is that users expect their websites to be present in searches, blaming the search engine if they fail to appear. As Bing Director Stefan Weitz explained in relation to the J.C. Penney case.

Google initially responded by blocking the entire JC Penney domain for a few days. We thought that hurt the users because we did the same thing in a test. We blocked all JC Penney internally and asked our human ranking systems “does this result for the search phrase “comforters” look better or worse after this change?” Everyone said it looked worse because they expected to see JC Penney there.

So should we be suprised that Interflora made such a quick recovery? In a relatively small niche, their absence would be keenly felt by users and regulators alike. Or did Google relent once the advertorials were taken down, having made their point. Your thoughts are welcome below.

Hat tip to Chris Gilchrist for spotting the update and Scott Polk for bringing it to my attention.

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Lead SEO, Group Optimisation at Vodafone. Founder at E3 Business Incubator, a consultancy group helping enterprises and start-ups. Digital strategist and veteran SEO/SEM. Views are my own and not representative of my employer (more).

5 Responses to Interflora Back in Google Recovering From Ban

  1. @Tad

    Very interesting – trust Yousaf to have spotted it first. I noticed in Searchmetrics that many of the keyword terms had already jumped upwards between 40-60 positions before that last weekly sweep, so suspected the bounce-back started well before Sunday. Good to get that confirmed, thanks.

  2. This beggars belief.

    While Google will happily ban and destroy sites for less, for brands nothing sticks to them. There’s so much spam in their backlink profile that link penalties should be affecting the domain full force, they also have a history of being penalised several times.

    I think Google should explain this one, because it’s not in line with what they tell us to do.

    • Whilst I agree with you Jack, it’s not going to happen.

      The important thing here is Interflora have operated in their market for over 100 years, their level of expertise and service area/cover is surely enough to merit very high if not top SERPs. I’m speaking in an ideal world, of course.

      I refuse to believe that level of business scale and expertise (clout) doesn’t have sway ‘offline’ with Google, i.e. a few strong words exchanged over cold coffee and red faces.

      • Hi Jack/Ed,

        Thanks for commenting. My own impression is that the Google web spam team is very much independant from the commercial workings of the business. Knowing how principled the team are, I don’t believe advertising spend is a factor.

        I see the real conflict being around the user experience. Focus groups have shown that users expect certain websites to be present in the listings when they carry out a search. If they are not there, as the Bing research confirmed, they tend to think the search engine is broken. This presents a unique problem for Google and the other SEs. Imagine keeping Waitrose or Tesco out of searches for ‘supermarkets’, especially for local searches. It just wouldn’t be practical, the search engine would cease to be functional.

        In this way big brands do have an advantage, when it comes to search, they are simply too big to fail.

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