Twitter Lays Down for Google

by Rae Hoffman | Social Media | 2 Comments September 3, 2008

Or do they just not trust you? As you may have heard, Twitter recently decided to “nofollow” links left in the “bio” section of user profiles.

The “web” link has long been a nofollow link, but the bio links passed popularity until Dave Naylor exposed it, which alerted Matt Cutts (a Google engineer) who sent a tweet to @ev (a twitter founder) about Dave’s forementioned post and *poof* bio links were nofollowed.

Now, as I sat there thinking about all of this happening, I became increasingly annoyed by one question. Why? Why would Twitter, or Google (and I don’t care which) think that a profile link, be it in the “web” section or the “bio” section from my Twitter page should be nofollowed? So, I asked:

@mattcutts curious as to your reasoning that this link SHOULDN’T count? imo, profile link shouldn’t be nofollow about 1 hour ago from web in reply to mattcutts

@mattcutts curious as to why Google thinks a link from a page that only should have pop to pass if it is being linked to and read about 1 hour ago from web in reply to mattcutts

@mattcutts that I am providing the content for shouldn’t have a link back to my site that counts for me about 1 hour ago from web in reply to mattcutts

@mattcutts unless of course, Google can’t figure out which Twitter pages have true value and which are owned by bots… about 1 hour ago from web in reply to mattcutts

@mattcutts in which case, I might suggest turning down the dial on link buying hunts a bit and up on detecting basic link pop by page about 1 hour ago from web in reply to mattcutts

@mattcutts Y says my tweet page has 1700 links, all cause people like the content *I* am putting on it… now, I ask you… about 1 hour ago from web in reply to mattcutts

@mattcutts why on earth should a link from my profile back to my core site where people can find more from me be nofollow? about 1 hour ago from web in reply to mattcutts

@mattcutts *I* gave this twitter page content, *I* got this twitter page 1700 backlinks, why should *I* not benefit from it? about 1 hour ago from web in reply to mattcutts

And that last tweet is something everyone should really be looking at. My personal twitter page has 1700 links, 1500+ followers, contains over 7000 tweets and is a toolbar PR of 5. Last I checked, I got all those links. I wrote all that content. All those people were following me as a person. I developed that link popularity. Why on earth would I not deserve ALL the benefits (including that in the form of a profile link) from building up the value of that page?

If Google is the one who wants that web link nofollowed because some twitter profile pages may be automated bots or spammers, then it is time they realize that THEY are responsible for determining which of those individual pages is authoritative, trusted and legitimate enough to pass link popularity, by a method other than demanding that other websites and social networks change the ways they do business to help Google stop links being used as a form of currency and to manipulate their algorithm – an issue Google and Google alone created and profited from.

But then @oilman brought up the other side of the coin:

@sugarrae @ev is saying he doesn’t vouch for his users – why not a nofollow filter on spam accounts? they’ve identified most of them by now about 1 hour ago from TweetDeck in reply to sugarrae

And maybe @ev isn’t willing to vouch for his users. So, I asked @ev:

@ev question, why did you agree to nofollow the twitter profile link? do you not feel your users should benefit from their participation? about 1 hour ago from web in reply to ev

@ev I can’t see a logical reason you would feel the need to do that, except for fear of what happens to your own site if you refuse about 1 hour ago from web in reply to ev

If @ev truly feels he can’t trust his users, then why is he taking the link popularity I’ve built to my profile at Twitter and using it to help the core Twitter site in the search engines. Why aren’t all the links to @ev’s site (Twitter) nofollowed as well. He can trust my link popularity enough to use it for himself, but not enough to let me benefit from having developed it? That seems a little hypocritical to me.

Now other users went on to point out a few things, such as the fact that the majority of Twitter users wouldn’t even know what nofollow was or that getting a link isn’t the reason we use Twitter.

But here’s the deal. Just because someone doesn’t realize that you’re denying them a benefit of their work while taking the benefit for yourself doesn’t make it OK.

I could get a child to give me their twenty dollar bill in exchange for a “shiny quarter”… they would be none the wiser and not realize they were missing out on anything. Does that make it any less slimy for me to do?

If the reason I sing is because I love it and I reap many benefits, does it make it any more acceptable that my manager took way more than the normal cut because he knew I wouldn’t know any better?

I find it hard to believe that @biz (another twitter founder) and @ev would not feel their users deserved ALL the benefits of being active on Twitter and helping them build their own popularity and brand. I find it easier to believe that maybe Google wanted these links nofollowed in an effort to make up for their inadequacies and like the many others in Silicon Valley, Twitter has no interest to be made an example of. But who knows? Only they can answer.

An even bigger question for me is, if, IF, Google is really coercing companies like Twitter based on threats of dropping them from their index for non-compliance, at what point does someone decide that due to Google’s reach and power, that doing so is no longer a case of “guidelines” but rather one of blackmail?

spacer About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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  1. spacer George Ives says:
    December 6, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Hi Rae,

    When exactly did you write this post? Is it still the case that all links in my Twitter bio will be no follow?


    • spacer Rae Hoffman says:
      December 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Years ago, but yes, the links in your bio are still nofollowed.


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