How Did Interflora Resurrect Their Rankings?

Following some nasty backlinks and some finger wagging from Google, Interflora have managed to claw their back up the search rankings.

Written by Kaye Neylon

What Happened to the flower folk?

Tried ordering flowers recently? If so, you may have noticed that one of the UK’s biggest florists – Interflora – was handed with a massive Google penalty and had all but disappeared from the organic search results for key phrases such as “florists”, “flowers” and even their own brand name!

What was to blame for such misfortune? I hear you all ask, well Interflora was victim of some pretty appalling backlinking which consisted of more cloak and dagger link building techniques than you can shake a stick at. The future of Interflora certainly looked bleak as they were almost destined to be remembered but for all the wrong reasons.

Miraculously only 11 days had passed before the brand was noticed to be lurking in the organic search rankings again for some competitive industry keywords. Such recoveries from a Google manual penalty are rare, any site owner that’s been caught out by Google’s Penguin and Panda updates will testify this but how did Interflora manage to regain some of their most valuable rankings right before one of the most lucrative days in the florist industry, Mother’s Day?

1. They Removed Paid Advertorials

Although paid advertorials were not the sole reason for Interflora’s SEO demise, they were definitely a contributing factor. Matt Cutt, head of web spam at Google HQ, released a video detailing just how much Google dislikes paid advertorials so ignoring this vital piece of information was the start of a downward spiral on a very slippery slope! Interflora have removed a large number of these ‘spammy’ advertorials on regional news sites which has had a possitive impact to improving their backlink profile, 70% of which were classed as potentially toxic.

2. They Used The Disavow Link Tool

We’ll eat our hats if we’re wrong on this, but Interflora definitely used the Link Disavow Tool along with Google Analytics to clean up their dodgy backlinks. Any digital marketing agency or SEO manager who has used the Disavlow Tool will know that Google’s process for backlink removal requests can take a while and in some cases even months to recrawl all the pages. But how did Interflora manage to make it work so quickly?

Google Webmaster may have sent Interflora some warnings regarding their backlink profile which seems highly likely as they quickly managed to respond to the penalty and submitted any toxic links to disavow requests prior to the penalty taking effect. Or maybe….

3. They Had A Little Help From Google

As fast as Interflora’s response was to Google’s penalty notice and as fast as they clawed their way back up the search rankings, there’s a good chance Interflora may have had a helping hand from Google itself. Why? Because the recovery was so quick, too quick in fact!

Traditionally, recovering from a Google manual penalty can take months so an 11 day recovery suggests the powers that be at Google stepped in to help. You’d be forgiven for sounding cynical when asking why would they help? Well our theory is that Google are committed to providing quality results and people expect to see certain brands when they search for certain things.

A search for “Interflora” which didn’t bring up the brand’s website was never going to be a permanent thing.

4. They Made A Noise Via Blogger Outreach

Following the Google penalty, it went viral via Twitter as bloggers were being contacted by Interflora with requests to remove links from their site. Many were happy to remove them because the articles were of such a poor quality in the first place.

If you thought Interflora were hoping to keep these link removal requests quiet then think again! After a penalty, Google likes to see a brand making a concerted effort to clean up their link profile and it seems the more public they make their efforts, the more effective they could be!

What Does That Teach The Rest Of Us?

Interflora’s quick recovery has not sat well with the SEO industry, as you can imagine, and this is for a couple of reasons.

Firstly and foremost, Google’s algorithm updates have all but annihilated some websites, with many site owners still struggling to regain the traffic and rankings they once possessed before the updates. But despite Interflora submitting tens of link disavow requests, cleaning up their backlink profiles and working hard to obey the Google Webmaster Guidelines…. then Interflora comes along, gets penalised and recovers in just 11 days – hardly seems fair does it?!

Secondly, timing. Google hit Interflora with a penalty immediately after Valentine’s Day and they recovered just in time for Mother’s Day.

Is this a coincidence? Two of the busiest times of year for the brand with a Google penalty in between both? The timing and duration of Interflora’s penalty has led many to wonder if this was all one big publicity stunt for Google. Google have manages to get their message across and Interflora haven’t lost much in terms of revenue or SEO.

One thing’s for sure, being a big brand certainly helps should a Google penalty come knocking butt maybe it’s time Google reviewed their “Don’t Be Evil” mantra…

Was it all one big publicity stunt?

Have your say in the comment box below!


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