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