Spam

A friend of mine recently emailed to ask, how TinyURL impacts SEO? It's a good question and one many folks can't answer so, I thought I'd blog my answer to his question!

For anyone not familiar with TinyURL, in layman terms it's a tool where users can enter long displaying URLs to get a shortened version. TinyURLs are often used where long URLs might wrap and therefore break, such as in email or social media web applications like Twitter. In more technical terms, TinyURLs are short, dynamically created URLs that redirect users to another intended URL via 301 redirect. Because TinyURLs "301" or permanently redirect, search engines should not index the TinyURL but instead should index and pass PageRank to the actual URL.

It is important to note, TinyURLs to paid links passing PageRank is a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines and that sites like Twitter use nofollow techniques to prevent spam.

On their own, TinyURLs can be search engine friendly from a technical perspective. At the same time, I wouldn't suggest replacing your site's navigation with TinyURLs and would point out that tracking TinyURLs via analytics might be difficult.

A few weeks ago Google launched a new feature intended to provide users with whois data in Google's main SERPs. By entering a query like "whois google.com" users are returned new whois data including creation and expiration dates in Google's main results. In addition to the new feature, Google provides users the option for more information via "Whois record for google.com" link which resolves to domaintools.com. After linking directly from Google's main search results to domaintools.com, users are greeted with various details about the domain including website title, description and even an "SEO Score" provided by domaintoools.com.

After linking from Google's main SERP to domaintools.com you might notice, there are lots of ads provided by Google. If you look closely, right along side those Google ads you'll find paid links passing PageRank at domaintools.com. Paid links passing PageRank are a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and grounds for being banned from Google. In this case Google is linking to pages with paid links passing PageRank!

Here is an example using the cached text version of the domaintools.com landing page linked to by Google for the query "whois google.com" http://209.85.165.104/search?.... In it you'll notice http://vpslink.com... is a paid link passing PageRank. As I mentioned at SearchEngineWatch.com the paid link domain ranks #1 for the keyword term used in it's ALT anchor text at domaintools.com and linked to by the Google Whois feature.

If you would like more information about paid ads at domaintools.com and have $10k per month, click on the "Sponsor us" link to the right of the Google search box. I've not seen many banner ad landing pages with a PR of 6!

- beu

UPDATE: - In response to this post being picked up by blogoscoped.com, Matt Cutts (Head of Google Web Spam Team) confirmed earlier today that DomainTools.com is now in compliance with Google's Webmaster Guidelines. DomainTools is now blocking ads with paid links passing PageRank via robots.txt. Sincere and special thanks to Matt, Google and DomainTools.com for swiftly resolving this issue!

- beu

A new and updated version of Google's "Spam Recognition Guide for Quality Raters" that surfaced recently. At first I was a little skeptical as to the document's authenticity. After a little "forensic" analysis, I feel reasonably certain the the document is at least partially legitimate. I'm still going through the document but, a few sections seemed worth mentioning. Big hat tip to vizualbod.com.

"Revised Rating:
Vital
Useful
Relevant
Not Relevant
Off-topic
Didn't Load
Foreign Language
Unratable"

Interesting confirmation that being "relevant" isn't always the most important issue.

"Some individuals have more than one blog and/or more than one homepage on a social networking site (e.g. myspace, facebook, friendster, mixi). When these pages are maintained by the individual (or an authorized representative of the individual), they are all considered to be Vital."

Hmmm... think social networks are a total waste of time do you?

"Relevant
"A rating of Relevant is assigned to pages that have fewer valuable attributes than were listed for Useful pages. Relevant pages might be less comprehensive, come from a less authoritative source, or cover only one important aspect of the query."

I've always suspected this notion of a total number of "valuable attributes" as being important. As in, more information is better. This factor also comes into play when sites use formats or technology which prevent Google from extracting information used as signals.

"Recognizing true merchants:
Features that will help you determine if a website is a true merchant include:

  • a "view your shopping cart" link that stays on the same site and updates when you add items to it,
  • a return policy with a physical address,
  • a shipping charge calculator,
  • a "wish list" link, or a link to postpone purchase of an item until later,
  • a way to track FedEx orders,
  • a user forum, the ability to register or login,
  • a gift registry, or
  • an invitation to become an affiliate of that site"

Confirmation that even "quality sites" could be mistaken as other or in some way depreciated if all bases aren't covered.

- beu