Techcrunch Now Nofollow Sponsor Links

I would like to congratulate the Techcrunch team for finally coming to the realization that linking to sponsors within posts, without using nofollow on the links might be in violation of Google’s Webmaster guidelines.

This was previously written about by Ted Murphy of Izea, and vehemently defended by Techcrunch, so it is surprising that they have made a significant change in their stance without also making a public statement about it.

I also wrote about this situation in a previous article on paid links and the PageRank update (round 5).

Here is their previous links to sponsors post from back in November 2007

Techcrunch November 2007 Sponsors

Here is Techcrunch’s most recent post thanking their sponsors in December 2007

Techcrunch December 2007 Sponsors

Precautionary Or Suggested By Google?

Techcrunch was frequently being highlighted as a site that might be abusing Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, but somehow immune from a penalty, and also had a reputation for being critical of paid links in content (though one of their advertisers is Text Link Ads, and I believe they have also had advertising from sister service ReviewMe)

I can think of 3 reasons Techcrunch have made this change:-

  • They have made a unilateral decision that linking to sponsors without nofollow was in some way hypocritical and frowned upon by their readers
  • Precautionary based upon analysis of the Google Webmaster Guidelines
  • Suggested or advised by Google

The reason Techcrunch has made a change is extremely important, because hundreds, maybe 1000s of bloggers currently link through to their sponsors on a weekly or monthly basis, effectively copying the Techcrunch model, and most do not include nofollow on the links.

I think it is also important to point out that Techcrunch hasn’t made this change retroactively. To have a clean slate they should go through all previous content and add nofollow to all links to sponsors, possibly even in editorial content.

I honestly don’t think it is the first option – Techcrunch after all are still accepting advertising dollars from Text Link Ads who offer various in-post advertising, not just sidebar linking, and unlike Izea (PayPerPost), have given no indication of supporting nofollow on the advertising links they sell.

If Google did contact Techcrunch, shouldn’t they also make an official statement on the webmaster central blog giving advice to all bloggers that this practice is looked on as paid links, and could be subject to a penalty?

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Comments

  1. says

    Imagine what the notification to the sponsors must have looked like: Dear Sponsor, due to a change in a policy, we will no longer link to your landing page in the manner previously agreed upon, but will now include a special attribute so as to not not give link credit to your site… We look forward to your continued advertising with us.

    • says

      That might be giving them too much credit – can you imagine what someone like Patrick from TLA would say to Techcrunch sticking a nofollow on their links and “buckling” from their previous stance?

      Michael Arrington has stated in the past he sees no problem with paid links, and looks on them as advertising.

      • says

        Do you think he may have also accepted money at some point of time or the other for a review, directly or indirectly. (Indirectly – as in they probably bought an ad spot and so he wrote about them)

        • says

          Does advertising with a site also generate a certain amount of goodwill? Possibly

          Does mentioning a service such as a feedreader generate a certain amount of goodwill (default subscriptions)? Possibly

          Then again linking to people generally get you more links in return, that is how the blogosphere tends to work, but Google seem to think the only currency that affects them is $$$

  2. says

    Patrick Gavin confirmed on my blog that TLA have no intention of using nofollow on any of their links or changing their business model. Adding nofollow would be against TLA TOS so it would be interesting to see if Pat and the guys pulled Arrington up.

    I have to say that I was shocked when Patrick said that they weren’t looking to make any changes. As I pointed out, they have a duty to protect both advertiser and publisher but it seems he disagrees…

  3. says

    Argh. I’d really prefer they NOT no-follow.
    Not because I’m planning on advertising there or anything, but rather because I feel like some of the big boys need to stand up on this matter.
    If their paid link penalizations started DECREASING the quality of the index, then they’d have incentive to stop, or[if they didn't] users would have incentive to migrate, as their favorite sites were no longer found.

    • says

      That’s the point though, we need a lot of the big boys to join Andy and others in taking a stand. Unfortunately it usually comes down to who can kiss the rear end of Google or whoever else is in charge.
      Will Textlinkbrokers take a stand if tomorrow Google lets the hammer come down on them? What do you think would happen if tomorrow Google changes things and Matt Cutts announces that google is cracking down on text link ads completely. Anyone that has them ( like the nice code from textlinkbrokers that so many have) all get 0 pagerank immediately.
      What would be the result? Would every site that uses the links pull these ads or will they stand firm?
      Sorry to say but I think if people like Arrington and Andy and others with influence don’t all stand up at the same time, the end result is the same. Payperposties slammed, the others not targeted stay still.
      Next week textlinkbrokers gets hit and who stands with them?
      Seems to me the ranks need some organizing.

  4. says

    I noticed your previous posts on this issue Andy (unless someone else was pointing out TC’s following links to sponsors). Personally, when there’s full disclosure of the relationship, I see no problem letting the links be follow – if even you subscribe to the whole, moronic idea of follow/nofollow. I personally don’t care beyond the fact it affects my rankings (I don’t sell or buy, so why should I care).

    Anyways, keep up the good news coverage! (And maybe keep an eye for my editorial on “Why Google Is Broken.”)

  5. says

    Andy, I would like to agree with you on this one. Techcrunch must really go through all previous content and add nofollow to all links to sponsors, possibly even in editorial content.

    I guess they have realized that by following sponsor links the big G can kick them in the teeth and consequently they would descend to the deadpool just like the many startups that they usually like to to “kill”.

  6. says

    Ted, thank you for standing up to Google on behalf of the bloggers and Webmasters.

    It would be nice if Mr. Arrington would do the same, because this concerns him as well.

  7. says

    I hope Barry and Danny would join our cause instead of playing hit and run away! I do understand their concern for their business, but if we do not stand up together against Google today, what business will they have left?

    Igor

  8. says

    Did Google really think this through?

    I wrote a post today about this:
    More thoughts on the Google Slap, no follow and a Slap Back

    Quick synopsis: I got “slapped” from a PR6 to a PR3.

    My site is a very legit, value packed Unix/Linux resource website. I did sell text links, but more for advertising, not PR, so I added “nofollow” to those. I also have a large “Unix/Linux Consultants” list – free listing, no money in it for me, so that SHOULD be “organic” but I don’t like being “slapped” so I added “nofollow” to all that..

    Then I thought, sheesh, I do book and product reviews too, and Google could think those are fishy, so I better add “nofollow” to any links there too..

    And then, since I have no idea what Google might dislike, the heck with it, I’ll just add “nofollow EVERYWHERE!

    And then realized this: if everyone started doing that, it would kill Google’s PR algorithm – definitely NOT good for them or us..

    So what’s the answer? I don’t know.. Google feels it can’t tell us how it decides these things because people would use that knowledge against them.. I don’t want to be penalized, so I overreact and use “nofollow” everywhere.. this is NOT good.

  9. says

    I realize this is a bit tinfoil but do you think there is any chance Google paid TC to make this switch? I mean changing because of Google pressure is one thing, but to then spout off about how it’s the “responsible” thing to do (as Arrington does in an email to Shoemoney about the nofollow), is just over the top. I’m wondering if G didn’t make it worth their while hoping the rest of the ‘sphere follows suit?

    • says

      Probably pushing the envelope of probability a little far.

      I can believe that a Techcrunch employee had no direct contact, but I expect somehow the word got through to them, maybe through someone like ACS.

      • says

        I agree, but their complete reversal and their subsequent discussions about it seem so far apart from their previous stance that it sort of leaves the door open for theories like that. I really don’t understand why they wouldn’t just say, to protect our rankings we’re doing this. I mean everyone would understand that and it wouldn’t have this mysterious dishonest aspect to it. IMO, TC may keep their rankings but lose some credibility on this one.

    • says

      Google paid TC? Are you Astroturfing? But even if Google pays someone to desiminate their propoganda, a consultant pretending to be a user on a blog os user net group, how relevent is this to this post?

  10. says

    If I’m understanding the conversation, Google is opposed to paid links and is demanding nofollow on links. Yet Google is not quite sure what a paid link looks like on a web page alongside valid links.

    Isn’t Google wanting websites to have one-way inbound links to build relevancy? If Google isn’t sure what’s valid and webmasters use nofollow on all outbound links, doesn’t this kill relevancy?

    I’m wondering if Google figures people are over posting to all sites that allow posts and paid links thus creating an unnatural relevancy to their web site. In essence, Web 2.0 sites are becoming link farms.

  11. says

    I’ve seen SEG, cre8, and now Techcrunch cave in. Using nofollow on paid links is selling out, plain and simple.

    If your site is big enough you aren’t going to get banned. If deranking forbes.com harms relevance Google will not follow through. Google is not interested in upholding its TOS; its interested in protecting its SERP. How is its SERP being protected if the big dogs disappear from its index? Google is only interested in penalizing crap. We don’t have and will never have a level playing field.

  12. says

    Yea I totally agree with you Handeck and u r 100% rite that google is not interested in upholding its TOS..So I think we have some crunch situations ahead

  13. says

    Honestly, I think you guys are making too much of a big deal out of this. Whether you practice no-nofollow or nofollow it doesn’t really matter, because none of it has any real bearings on the serps. You may argue that it does, but why is it that for the last few years, when I get “nofollow” tagged links, I still get some pretty hefty link love and authority power from it back to my sites? Sometimes I don’t, but eventually I seem to get it. So how can anyone continue to argue??

    — I originally wrote a pretty long comment, but I think I’m just going to make the rest of it into a blog post on my blog (since I’m serious lacking in the new posts dept).

  14. says

    Andy,
    I am studying the decisions you make throughout your blog regarding Do and NoFollow. Please, what is your thinking when you make a)internal links to other posts from within posts? b) links like: “written about by Ted Murphy of Izea.”

    • says

      Marty,

      I think your question could be answered by using good SEO practices of when you link to other posts, it is best practice to create the link with the title in it. Example being if you are linking to a story entitled “How to effectively No Follow”, then you would want to have the anchor text be the same as the title of the post.

      As for the Nofollow portion of it, I don’t use nofollow on any links except for paid reviews.

  15. says

    The backlash has really hurt the PR of blogs if they do not follow the directive of Google. Webmasters should take this into account.

    So far,what’s the latest buzz about all this?

  16. says

    I honestly do not pay attention to page rank anymore, I quite frankly dont care about it. The fact is traffic is and always will be more important than pr. Plus pr data is 3-4 months old and is never a true indicator.

    If your still getting traffic and making money who cares what your page rank is. Yes it makes your site maybe look that little bit more attractive but if you have been building your links adding good content and your traffic is growing why would you care about your sites page rank?

    The sooner more people dont pay attention to it the sooner it will no longer become an issue. Ive been online for nearly 5 years and was around when pr did have some sort of meaning it doesnt anymore

  17. says

    I don’t think Google paid for them, they are just come to realize that they violates the Goolge’s Webmaster guidelines. Is using nofollow on the links a big deal?

  18. says

    Follows the same theme as People only see what they are prepared to see. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

    If you ask what does Google think? Sounds alot like 24 (not the tv show but)

    There 24 hours in a day, There is 24 cans of beer in a box. Do you believe in coincidences?

    Easy to follow or is that a no follow?

  19. says

    I don’t have any paid links at all on my site but I really enjoy reading about these sorts of things. It seems like things are contsantly changing with staying good with Google.

  20. says

    I would agree that what Google may have done to/for one (Techcrunch) they should do for others. If that’s going to garner penalties, put that up somewhere. I must admit to not really understanding the full reasoning behind a lot of that since I don’t have paid links on any of my sites. I am starting to rethink some of that however. I just keep reading and just when I think I have a bit of a grasp on things, Google does some change-ups and there goes what I thought I understood.

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