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Blackhole SEO: Has Google’s Hegemony Spilled into Twitter?

Hegemony (from Wikipedia): is a concept that has been used to describe and explain the dominance of one social group over another, such that the ruling group or hegemon acquires some degree of consent from the subordinate, as opposed to dominance purely by force.

Have the forces of blackhole SEO spread beyond the reaches of Wikipedia and eBay to dig it’s claws into Twitter, as Sugarrae has asserted?

Though Rae mentioned the issue last September, SEO specialist Todd Malicoat AKA Stuntdubl tweeted about it yesterday, together with some choice thoughts:

i mean – do you really believe that twitter links are passing NO credibility, NO juice, NO nothing…?? just like wikipedia ….riiiiiiight.

maybe implement a sandbox for new users
certain threshhold until they are trusted enough to get into a non-robots.txt directory

why not utilize robots.txt solution…instead of nofollow?
i guess nofollow in general just gets me riled up and pissed off

What would happen if twitter got rid of the nofollow on all links? How would it affect the web?


So why’re we revisiting this issue?

Blackhole SEO is where an inherently social site like eBay or Twitter decides to shut it’s doors and stick “nofollow” tags to outgoing links. So in SEO speak, you won’t get any “link juice” or benefit to your Google PageRank from the PR you’ve built at the site.

Taking a survey, Twitter profile pages (the page that is twitter.com/[your username]) does garner pagerank over time.

A rough survey with either the Google toolbar or the search status firefox plugin yields:

Google PageRank (PR) 4

PR 5

PR 6

PR 7

PR 8

How do these profile pages build up PR?

It’s unlikely that many twitter users would link build to their user profile, especially since Twitter resides on a public network (ie you don’t own this piece of virtual turf). So it’s likely that these could be links might have resulted from links pointing to your profile page from other twitter users’ profiles, or high authority blogs including blogroll or blog post links to your twitter profile, etc.

If the weight of inbound links is high enough, your twitter profile will earn pagerank. If that’s the case, labelling all outgoing links from your twitter page with the “nofollow” basically tells Google (whom “nofollow” most clearly influences) that the content you’re pointing at does not merit much weight/authority/value…

So given that a PR 5 backlink or 2-way link would be beneficial, the “nofollow” tag may put a downer on twitter users perception of their value to the community, especially since the “blackhole” structure favors twitters own efforts to increase its pagerank.

Granted, there may be some logic in preventing spammers from sqeezing twitter for link juice, but a blanket “nofollow” on links within tweets and on the user profile page (use “view source” to verify the nofollow flag), puts a dampener on things.

As Todd mentions, this blanket approach could be remedied by either a temporary sandbox/holding area for new accounts, or handled via a robots.txt file.

If sites like Squidoo can be effectively managed, and pass link juice to external sites, couldn’t twitter do the same with a little additional intelligence?

If users are spending 1-2 hours each day on your site, why this continued distrust of sites that users are linking to?

If users pointing to poor quality content is an issue, couldn’t the whiz kids at Twitter use some suitable metric to filter the social scammers out?


Followup post: “DoFollow or NoFollow: The I Can Has Backlink Dilemma

19 comments on Blackhole SEO: Has Google’s Hegemony Spilled into Twitter?

  1. Evan
    March 3, 2009 at 12:43 pm (4260 days ago)

    It benefits Google to count links from Twitter. If a lot of Twitter users are linking to a certain page, it seems likely that page would be useful to Google users searching for similar content.

    It also benefits Google for everyone to think links from Twitter don’t count. If spammers begin tweeting up a storm, it will make it much more difficult to sift out the good stuff from the sea of spam.

    So it seems we have a good thing going and it would be best not to mess it up, so shhhhh :)

    That said, I think the most interesting piece of this is anchor text. With most links going through URL shortening services, does Google determine relevancy through the tweet (in other words the content around the link) rather than the link anchor text? What other factors might be used to determine keyword relevancy?

    P.S. I found this through Twitter – seems like I found it useful, maybe the link I used should pass some juice :)

  2. joshua
    March 3, 2009 at 12:53 pm (4260 days ago)

    @strebel = PR5


  3. Kashif
    March 4, 2009 at 3:30 pm (4259 days ago)

    That’s pretty interesting concept. Just checked PR of my profile and it shows 4, which is not too bad I guess. Wondering how we can benefit from it.

  4. proson
    March 5, 2009 at 1:11 am (4259 days ago)

    Well Andrew you have the point. Perhaps those people are selfish and/or afraid of being punished by Google. But to me I’ll go to sites that give me link juice. If facebook, myspace, twitter is going to hard on marketers, than sooner or later there are other platforms that will be marketer friendly.

    That’s what I think and hope…

  5. Steve Plunkett
    March 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm (4258 days ago)

    Thank you for sharing your detailed thoughts on the matter.

  6. Brad West
    June 4, 2009 at 7:52 am (4167 days ago)

    Hi Andrew,
    As one that is so pissed about rel=”no follow” your site follows the same with all no follow.

    Since this is a poll http://twitter.com/BradWest has a PR of 4.

    Yhe rel=”no follow” on twitter really doesn’t mean that much since most everything is sent through a URL shortener the shortener is getting all the credit not the site anyway.

    According to Matt Cutts at the SMX conference in Seattle that is happening right now. no follow means very little don’t waste your time sweating it. To me that means that the abuse of the rel=”no follow” is so excessive that they may have loosened up the algorithm. Of course google won’t really hand out all the info, but the Google crew that was With Matt Cutts got real quiet after that question.

    Now here is a thought for you, there is no harm in using a follow link as long as the link is to relevant information in the post. We have proven this with Sheryl and Cait’s blogs. The girls are able to select weather or no to use a no follow link on every post on their sites most links leading out are follow links PR keeps on growing and growing every quarter. Since the system we built concentrates on deep or inside links the inside of the blogs have allot of PR.

    If you get everything indexed on the inside the PR takes care of itself.
    From what I got all no follow is a big no, no.
    Brad West ~ onomoney

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