I just happened to glance down at my Search status toolbar in the status window of Firefox, and noticed that Techmeme’s Google Toolbar PageRank had been reduced to PR-4:
Techmeme Sell Links
Techmeme has very clear advertising with sponsored posts:
The links they use are redirects.
If you check the Http Status Codes:
Current Date and Time: 2008-01-31T03:10:07-0700
User IP Address: 213.158.xxx.xx
#1 Server Response: http://www.techmeme.com/goto/onair.adobe.com/blogs/onair/2008/01/30/businessweek-on-air-applications-at-demo/?sdid=BQUCI
HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2008 11:10:06 GMT
Server: Apache/2.2.3 (Red Hat)
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1
Redirect Target: http://onair.adobe.com/blogs/onair/2008/01/30/businessweek-on-air-applications-at-demo/?sdid=BQUCI
#2 Server Response: http://onair.adobe.com/blogs/onair/2008/01/30/businessweek-on-air-applications-at-demo/?sdid=BQUCI
HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2008 11:09:22 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
You discover that it is a 301 redirect used for tracking, and in theory could pass “Google Juice” – the link could be counted as a real link by search engines.
However, you then need to look at the Techmeme robots.txt file
User-Agent: MSIECrawler Disallow: / User-agent: Googlebot Noindex: /goto/ User-agent: * Disallow: /goto/ Disallow: /do/
Traditional SEO thinking is that robots.txt blocks the passing of Google Juice and PageRank.
That, however, isn’t how it has been confirmed by Matt Cutts to operate.
As I discussed in my SEO Linking Gotcha’s post, Robots.txt does not prevent a page from accumulating PageRank, it purely stops a page from being crawled most of the time, though that is fallible (There was further discussion on Sphinn).
Confused? So Am I
I can remember seeing Techmeme as a PR6, maybe even as high as a PR7. Robert Scoble seems to have removed his blogroll link to them, but they don’t honestly need the juice anymore. Techmeme honestly has tons of links.
I can’t believe as some might suggest that there is less PageRank in the technology sector, as has been suggested about the SEO sector in the past.
Techmeme hasn’t really changed its internal linking structure. From an SEO perspective, it’s not really ideal in my way of thinking, but that again would be highly contested as many people believe you can’t benefit from controlling internal linking.
So Why A Penalty?
If those redirects were actually linking to a static page, they would still accumulate PageRank, even if blocked with robots.txt and could still appear in search results based upon whatever data Google derives from the pages linking to it.
Linking again to my SEO linking Gotchas just in case you ignored the first link.
It is possible that for a period of time Techmeme didn’t have a robots.txt file, mistakes happen, though when I last checked back in October, the robots.txt was exactly the same as it is now.
The page is blocked with robots.txt, so the Googlebot shouldn’t crawl the page unless for some reason it did.
It seems to me, relying on robots.txt for paid links isn’t safe.
2 safe options:
- Nofollow all links
- Use meta nofollow on the redirect page
The only people who can confirm that Techmeme has some kind of penalty one way or the other are Google
If Techmeme has been given a penalty, they are not the only ones to have been given a PageRank penalty unfairly.
It seems that whatever caused this has been fixed by Google or maybe hand edited. I wonder whether we will ever find out the cause.
I am not yet seeing the change on my Search Status toolbar, but a quick check on Pagerank reveals that Techmeme is back to PR7.