Choosing not to listen

Google Speaks – But Are Florists Listening?

Last week Google’s Webmaster Central blog, which exists as an information channel for website owners, published a post entitled Affiliate programs and added value.

Whenever Google posts some information (usually a nicely-couched edict) about web quality, search optimization, or their beloved “guidelines” it’s natural for many in the SEO community to react with skepticism. However, as much as there are times when Google appears to be running their own FUD (Fear Uncertainty & Doubt) campaigns, there are also times when Google speaks clearly and the message needs to be read and understood at face value.

Choosing not to listen
Sometimes we happily choose not to listen – even when the message is clear

At first glance most florists are likely to disregard the article entirely. After all, affiliate programs are primarily the realm of OGs and big-budget marketers, not smaller local florists. In order to see the relevance here we need to examine the two paragraphs that Google published in the context of a local florist’s website and business. To do this I’m going to address each important phrase on its own.

First Paragraph

Our quality guidelines warn against running a site with thin or scraped content without adding substantial added value to the user. Recently, we’ve seen this behavior on many video sites, particularly in the adult industry, but also elsewhere. These sites display content provided by an affiliate program—the same content that is available across hundreds or even thousands of other sites.

Key items:

  • “Quality guidelines”: The rules Google publishes, and updates at will, that justify any penalties or actions taken against a website. Also, a clear indication as to what Google wants to see from your site.
  • “Thin / Scraped Content”: Scraped Content is any text or images published on your website that were originally published on another site. Thin content refers to minimal text, whether original or scraped, that adds little or no value to the reader.
  • “Affiliate Program”: An arrangement where a manufacturer or service provider agrees to pay a 3rd party (Affiliate) a set commission for each sale or lead generated by that Affiliate on behalf of the original company. This is effectively outsourcing the sales aspect of a business, either to complement or replace in-house sales. The is provided product images, descriptions, and other marketing materials produced by the original company.


Google is very clearly saying: “We do not want to see lots of websites with the same content, same products, same images, same product descriptions.” They view affiliate programs as a key contributor to the problem.

While you may not be involved in an affiliate program, consider how your website looks from an outside perspective:

  1. Do you have the same products as thousands of other websites?
  2. Do you have any unique content on your site?
  3. Would a non-florist look at your site and reasonably assume that you are part of an affiliate program, selling the same products as everyone else?

Did you catch that bit about “particularly in the adult industry”? Congratulations – your flower shop just got lumped in with the worst of the porn sites. Anyone feeling proud right now? (I think I need a shower!)

Second Paragraph

The post by Google is only two paragraphs long, but the news gets worse for florists!

If your site syndicates content that’s available elsewhere, a good question to ask is: “Does this site provide significant added benefits that would make a user want to visit this site in search results instead of the original source of the content?” If the answer is “No,” the site may frustrate searchers and violate our quality guidelines. As with any violation of our quality guidelines, we may take action, including removal from our index, in order to maintain the quality of our users’ search results. If you have any questions about our guidelines, you can ask them in our Webmaster Help Forum.

Be honest and ask yourself: Does slapping my logo on a template website with a standard product catalogue really add any value to the world? Remember, answer honestly.

Don’t miss Google’s repeated use of the term “violation”. Google’s #1 priority has to be search quality, otherwise people will switch to another search engine that gives better answers. Having 18 florists in the same city with the same website (yes, I’m looking at you, Houston) is not adding value, and truly is frustrating to the customer.

The Worst News of All

Choose to listen
Make the choice to listen to Google and real customers.

If you don’t believe me, consider the examples in this recent post from Florists For Change: Are you local? Then look local!. Every florist needs to read this! The post discusses a message from a customer looking for a local florist in New York.

I have come across [florist name] I am pretty sure that this is a legit brick and mortar local florist however when I joined the site I received a welcome email from a Teleflora email address. Looking further [florist] on their website indicates that they are a member of Teleflora.

And later on:

That is what confused me. In addition several of the seemingly brick and mortar florists … have almost identical websites that appear to have used the same template … That’s confusing to the consumer in my opinion.

These comments are from a reasonably educated customer looking for a local florist, local phone number, and actively trying to avoid the 800s. Even she wound up taking the time to contact FFC to verify the legitimacy of the florist in question.

We spend so much time talking about educating the customers, and yet we give them so little to work with! Shame on us as an industry for driving away the too most important resources we need to survive: The search engine that sends real customers our way, and the customers themselves when they see our boring, cookie-cutter web stores.

If Google and real customers are expressing their frustration can we really wait any longer to take action? The time has long past to take ownership of your online storefront, to make it as personal online as your retail store is in person, and to give customers confidence – not fear – when they deal with real florists.

15 thoughts on “Google Speaks – But Are Florists Listening?”

  1. The order gatherers discovered a great ruse some time ago, not dissimilar to a pyramid scheme. They offered websites for their members that they would host and control. These websites would, save for a few text changes here and there, be all almost identical. Having provided the sites they would then encourage the users to promote them, build links and so on. The clever part was they would always put a link to their own websites on the homepage. Thus all the florist while building links to their own sites would also be creating trusted links to the order gatherer’s sites. A whole troop of unwitting florists paying through the nose for poor websites while unwittingly link building for their masters. Hopefully these templates sites will be hit and have a knock on effect on the order gatherers. Time to ditch these overpriced sites and create your own.

  2. I have been trying to promote the importance of good-quality UNIQUE content for what seems like years. Google really is trying to make the search process a better one for users, and clamping down on repeated content is just one of the ways.

    Florists should take a good, hard look at their website — even if it is a template — and see if there is anything they can do to make their content unique. I’m fairly positive that even if your site is a template, you should be able to go in and change the copy — ask the site manager for sure, it’s definitely worth a try.

    I have actually never heard of affiliate programs before, but I’m not surprised they are in existence. As a copywriter, it is extremely frustrating to me when other companies charge top dollar for copy that isn’t even fresh or unique to each client.

  3. I like them cracking down on the affiliate sites that are out there that are cluttering up search results. But I just can’t agree with cracking down on content. Not everyone is a wiz with producing content whether it be text, graphics or video. And not everyone can afford to produce “quality” content. The Internet may have been invented by scientists, but now it is run by the average joe (and jane).

  4. theRKF: Wow. I am a bit shocked … not surprised, but definitely a shock. Perhaps a niche I can take advantage of? (If it isn’t obvious, I’m a writer by trade.)

    rijndael: Content doesn’t have to be hard. I usually have a series of four or five questions that I ask my clients to come up with their content … it’s all about providing engaging content … speak as if the person who is reading is in front of you. 🙂

  5. This is great advice for any type of website, not just the floral industry. You have to offer something unique. Imagine if news websites all used the AP for their news stories? Why would anyone go to over if the stories were all the same? That doesn’t mean websites can’t offer the same products. Both and have a lot of the same products, but they offer add-ons for large purchase, have different prices and some unique items as well.

  6. Yes, so many sites looking. Almost similar very difficult to guess which. One is real and which is fake.

  7. For those who didn’t read it, or can’t interpret it, it means Google is telling you “If your website is produced by FTD or Teleflora, then you are dead to us.”

  8. In my opinion, what makes a website unique is its content. So no matter how close websites may look, the content differentiates it from others.

  9. Very informative write up. I think is relevant in marketing online. Although I think they won’t be for long but for the short term, they should.

  10. You are quite right to say that site owners do not pay enough attention to distinguishing themselves from their competitors. They think a lot about making their site “good”, but lose perspective and forget about the different sites.

    1. I completely agree. There are so many different site builders, cookie cutter web designers, content writers whom really use robots to rehash prewritten content and so much more around the web and it only hurts the florist’s business whom doesn’t take the time to think outside of the box. How easy is it to buy a premade template, change the colors, purchase PLR content and just throw a site up? Those are the individuals whom get upset when they are not able to rank or gain no recognition locally because their business is another fade or resource of pure laziness.

  11. As Google constantly changes and updates algorithms it is importatnt that bloggers pay special attention to what is happening if they want to stay on the top when it comes to Google rankings.

    Although some things Google does may seem unnecessary at times, they are just trying to better their service and create a more user freindly search experience.

    While I don’t think we should be entirely focused on pleasing Google, I think that we should stick to the rules they lay down as much as possible if we want to see a continued stream of traffic coming from this giant of a search engine!

  12. Good on Google for pushing individuality and uniqueness across sites! It is kind of boring and confusing when a lot of websites are extremely similar, and even the average consumer can notice when different websites use the same templates! There is a large variety of website designers and website templates, I don’t understand why so many people would use the same one!

  13. Having the same boring content will obviously hurt your ranking. This is the most basic thing in SEO and a lot of people just never get it. If you cant produce the content yourself then just outsource.

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