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)