Linkspam latest: Guardian to make text ads 'nofollow'

In reporting yesterday on the linkspam story covered here last week (*cough*), The Guardian appeared to have opened something of a can of worms, with commenters quickly pointing out that The Guardian itself is publishing text ads without ‘nofollow’ tags.

Media hypocrisy? Almost. The newspaper’s SEO expert Paul Roach eventually chipped in to clarify:

“We are in the process of updating our no follows across the whole of the site. The links you mention are do follow at the moment, but have only been so for a short period of time. Our policy of using no follow is for all commercial links and UGC, and we’re aware that the no follow tag isn’t on the links you mention. It will be added to those links very soon.”

The comment thread as a whole is worth reading for an insight into the difficulties of this area. Sarah Hartley mentioned a recent meeting of the Digital Editors’ Network where:

“A few regional and local newspapers had already been approached by advertisers keen to benefit from the page rank such bona fide websites earn.
“The general feeling at the meeting was that this would be a move which, would not only be detrimental to the organsations’ page rank, but could also compromise, or at lease confuse, the difference between editorial and commercial content.”

And Martin Belam and others pointed out that Google’s own guidelines appear to be rather inconsistent on the matter (although their actions, it has to be said, are less ambiguous).

The sad fact is that many publishers are not in a position to take any judgement at all – it’s short term money or bust – and they’re willing to risk the PageRank penalty and resultant drop is ad revenue in the longer term.

(h/t to Malcolm Coles for pointing me to the comment thread early on)

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9 thoughts on “Linkspam latest: Guardian to make text ads 'nofollow'

  1. malcolm coles

    I’m sure this was a bug as the Guardian says – they used to have nofollow on loads of their internal links on navigation pages (some sort of pagerank directing plan probably) but they’ve taken the nofollow off now. At a guess, they accidentally stripped the nofollows off the commercial links at the same time.

    Reply
  2. Jonathan Howard

    In my opinion this was not cleared up by Paul Roach. If any “normal” organization said they accidentally linked to moneysupermarket we would all be up in arms.

    Lets face it, the Guardian sells links. How long does it take to tick a box in your cms to make a link nofollow? Or edit a piece of include code?

    Google’s terms of service don’t say “all paid links must be nofollow, unless you’re the Guardian, who can do it for a while”!

    Paul Roach should remove those links but he wont because they make them too much money.

    Reply
  3. malcolmcoles

    If you don’t like that one, you’re not going to like all the moneysupermarket links down the right hand side of this page: ft.com/personal-finance/property … (this comment keeps being sent to the spam list – let’s try it without the wwws to see if it makes it through).

    Reply
  4. Paul Roach

    Hi Jonathan, I’ll reply to your specific points:

    > If any “normal” organization said they accidentally linked to moneysupermarket we would all be up in arms.

    You would be up in arms because an organisation linked to another one? I’ve said multiple times it was a bug which we are fixing and the links will have nofollow added very soon. I’m really not sure how much clearer I can be about that.

    > Lets face it, the Guardian sells links. How long does it take to tick a box in your cms to make a link nofollow? Or edit a piece of include code?

    No, we don’t. I’m not going to go into the specifics of our CMS but the issues we had to resolve meant we needed to update multiple components, which involved development time.

    > Paul Roach should remove those links but he wont because they make them too much money.

    As I’ve said before, we don’t sell links. These links are part of a commercial sponsorship deal, they were sold as nofollowed links and the nofollow tag will be replaced to them very soon.

    Reply
  5. Paul Roach

    Jonathan, I’m afraid I’m not going to get into the details of our commercial sponsorship terms and conditions. If you would like to enter a sponsorship deal with us, I’m sure our commercial department would be delighted to hear from you.

    Reply
  6. Andrew Carling

    @Jonathan Howard

    How is it any of your business what commercial relationships The Guardian has? They can do as they please with their links/content/relationships. I think Paul Roach has been very forthcoming and honest and does not deserve the rubbish being thrown for having links on their website to whom ever they like.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

    These are not the droids you are looking for.

    (thats “Geek Speak” for “get on with your life)

    Reply
  7. Andrew Carlings Mum

    @Andrew

    Dinners ready, come down stairs and stop playing with those droids. Your never going to get a girlfriend you know….

    Reply
  8. Mattress

    Paul Roach also claims they’ve only been like that for ‘weeks’

    Which I suppose is true, 25 weeks sounds better than (at least) half a year, right Paul?

    Reply

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