BBC pledges to link out – but holds back the Google juice

In the same week that the BBC’s head of editorial development for multimedia journalism was quoted as saying they must do better at linking to external sites, it’s been revealed that the corporation is using a convoluted linking mechanism which means those sites will be denied any benefit in their Google ranking.

Pete Clifton is quoted as saying “It’s not about people slavishly coming back to the BBC. This is a real change in our view that we feel much more part of the web.

“We want to say [to the audience] ‘go and look at some alternative views’ and to reflect a wider media community on the website.”

But in a separate story search engine optimisation blog Blogstorm is reporting that those external links, once direct, “are now passing through two redirect scripts using a 302 redirect which is highly unlikely to pass any PageRank.”

Google’s PageRank system ranks webpages based on a number of factors, but most significant is the number of other webpages linking to it – and their PageRank.

If the website linking to your webpage has a high PageRank of its own, that makes the link even more valuable in boosting your webpage’s PageRank.

The BBC’s News website has a PageRank of 9.

Blogstorm lives up to its name by calling the act “an outrageous act of selfishness and greed”. It is more likely to be an outrageous act of stupidity and/or laziness: a clumsy way of monitoring how many links are clicked. It certainly doesn’t send out a particularly positive statement about how it perceives its relationship to the rest of the web, however.

To the BBC’s credit, the tech editor of BBC News, Darren Waters, responds in the comments promising to pass it on.

UPDATE: Malcolm Coles has a good post on other major sites that hold back on Google juice when they link, including YouTube, MySpace, Wikipedia, Spock and most newspaper websites.

More? See my Delicious bookmarks on ‘linking’

19 thoughts on “BBC pledges to link out – but holds back the Google juice

  1. TheWorstofPerth

    From Blogstorm and elsewhere it seems that incompetence and or ignorance is the reason not malice. That is possibly even worse. That such a high ranking website's owners have no idea of the imporatance to themselves and others of these things is almost unbelievable.

  2. Martin Belam

    If you do a search on Google for '' you'll see that the BBC hampers its own internal link structure with these re-directs as well. You are what you measure, and a few years back the DCMS asked the BBC to measure how many click-throughs it sent to external sites. The BBC Trust criticised the level of traffic flow in their report on – but there is no interest in measuring how much 'link juice' the BBC passes, so that wouldn't have come into the equation when the system was devised.

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  4. malcolm coles

    Thanks for the plug! It prompted me to go and update my list. I couldn't help but notice, however, that your whole page is set to nofollow in the metadata (and also noindex for that matter). I can see why you'd nofollow the comment URLs – but nofollowing even your own posted ones is a bit extreme isn't it?!? And deliberately hiding your posts in google seems even stranger still to me. Oh well. Actually, I also noticed you had a post saying you had a dofollow plugin, so now I'm really confused …!

  5. Pingback: BBC and Google juice: the BBC responds | Online Journalism Blog

  6. Peter Bowyer

    The BBC would land itself in more trouble if it did pass the pagerank from its news links. Think of the opportunities to 'game' BBC journalism for a juicy link on a news story. Better they use links for real users to follow, as they do now, and leave the search engine gaming to the commercial sites.

  7. Paul Bradshaw

    Indeed. You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. But I also think that if pagerank became an issue, journalists would be forced to think harder about who they link to. In theory at least. One thing that worries me is these auto-linking plugins like Open Calais and Zemanta which generally suggest Wikipedia, etc. links leading to a narrowing of linking.

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  13. atommedia

    Blogstorm themselves use the nofollow, so not much link love given by them either, perhaps we should all, use nofollow and get back to intranets and passwords

  14. terkoz

    Blogstorm themselves use the nofollow, so not much link love given by them either, perhaps we should all, use nofollow and get back to intranets and passwords


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