After having a night to digest and cogitate the information from yesterday's attendance at Blogcamp, I think I have at last got my head around the facts that affect me (and therefore possibly you too!)
1: Never, ever do do-follow links on anything that you have been rewarded for. If you add do-follow links to sponsored posts or reviews you may incur the wrath of Google, the all seeing God of the Internet. If you have used follow links on past review posts...change them. Paid for posts are slightly more complicated if you have previously agreed to provide a follow link for money. Do what is right for you in this instance but be aware that it is risky to leave them in, but you may have to refund payment if you change them. Rock and hard place springs to mind!!
2: We, as bloggers, have been taken advantage of, by some unscrupulous practices carried out by some PRs and SEO experts who should have known better. It is never an option to fail to disclose payment (this is against the law and you could be fined) and we are risking our site's visibility, credibility and possible existence by posting do-follow links to brands' websites for an incentive (goods or cash). My light hearted take on this compares the relationship between us and those who took advantage of the situation to buy their way up the Google rankings to a sleazy romance.
3: Links back to your own relevant blog posts and to other bloggers are deemed good by Google. Links to other bloggers with relevant posts or reviews is a really positive thing to do for you both. We are not competing, we should stand together and support each other, share our authority and relevance and we'll receive mutual benefits! Here is Lou from Bloggomy's thoughts from Blogcamp 2012. (See what I did there!)
4: There is no code of conduct or best practice in place for blogging or PRs. We must stand strong against those who want us to break the law or go against Google's terms and conditions. If we do, something will have to change...for the better. Some PRs already understand the implications and will offer disclosed sponsored posts with no-follow links which are completely above board. This will recreate the buzz and word of mouth promotion of products and services, put good content over cheap keyword placement and preserve the integrity of our community.
5: We can improve our own SEO ranking by using keywords that are used regularly throughout our post, highlighted with bold or italic text and used in titles and subheadings. However, sometimes Google just finds something you have written in passing and makes you the number one authority on it. For months, my post that mentioned Japanese Snow Monkeys was receiving hit after hit from people searching for the warm spring bathing primates on Google. If only you could deliberately recreate that phenomena at will you would be a millionaire!! In the meantime, follow those simple SEO tips to improve your visibility online.
6: Google likes blog posts that are over 500 words long. This surprised me as I thought 200-300 words was optimum. It also pleased me as I enjoy a good ramble! It also likes rich content including photos (tagged of course!!)
7: Sally Whittle is an utter legend and we are all extremely lucky to have her.
8: My husband is amazing as he managed a fretful toddler, Ella's very well attended 16th birthday lunch party, a house viewing, a press photographer's appointment to photograph Kizzy with a cupcake and a tree planting event at Kizzy's school. Then, when I got home he still cooked me dinner!
9: The innocence of the blogging phenomena has been stripped away somewhat. We have to approach what was once just a fun hobby with a more professional mindset. Registering as self-employed if you receive any form of remuneration in cash or in kind is really vital. Maintaining a full and honest disclosure policy is a legal requirement. Adhering to Google's t&c's is something we all need to do if we want to protect our blog's visibility online.
10: Although initially my brain has wanted to implode under this new information, I now feel that this could be the start of a new era of more honest, transparent relations with PRs and an opportunity for better quality content and a community that can be regarded with more respect and integrity. The wonderful, colourful, rich world of blogging on the internet will come out stronger if we all stand together and help shape its future against unscrupulous practices!