Posted September 5, 2008 9:51 am by with 65 comments

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I’ve decided to add my disdain to Google’s request to Twitter to add a nofollow to links contained within the bio section of user profiles.

Rae Hoffman is not afraid to stand-up for what’s right, and I’m happy to lend my support. In case you missed the story, here’s what happened.

The “web” link has always 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.

I’m particularly annoyed because nofollow is supposed to be used on links where you do not wish to vouch for the link–at least by passing PageRank. However, my profile at Twitter was built by me, promoted by me, and any incoming links are the result of my hard work to build a community around it. As Rae points out, Twitter is benefiting from those incoming links, so why can’t I?

So, why would Twitter give-in so easily to Google? I’ll let Rae have the last word:

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?

UPDATE: It’s probably only fair that we link to Matt Cutt’s post about the matter.

  • That sucks to hear that Twitter changed the Bio links to NoFollow. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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  • Looks like yet more evidence of how badly Google don’t understand social networking and social media, or brand management for that matter.

    If there’s a reason for Google to make such a move, it’s not obvious.

    Of course, there’s a lot of Twitter spamming going on these days — I get enough of that myself — but that’s not a reason, since there’s more damaging stuff like malware being served up by Google’s search engine, which Google seem quite blasé about.

    I think we need some clarity here, before the void is back-filled with gossip, misinformation and lies…

    Wayne Smallman’s last blog post..By: Social Media to kill Google’s search algorithm?

  • Bio links should be followed.

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  • This sucks…. now the links within the Bio arent even linked(let alone followed)…

    What I say in my tweets are things about me, and its linked back to my blog, doesnt that make Google’s life easier?

    If I talk sense on twitter, more people follow me, it ranks my profile better, don’t I deserve a backlink for that?

    Sajal Kayan’s last blog post..Has Chrome killed Firefox?

  • If you ask me, the problem’s not that the links are with or without the rel=”nofollow” tag, because honestly, have you ever considered placing that link over there for SEO benefits? It’s more about Twitter itself, who should’ve added the tag if they wanted to or of they thought it was a good idea, not to please Google. Yeah, G is big, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to play by their rules.

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  • WoW….

    Matt wants to say, “when i say is good from my blog with a follow link then believe it Google but when i go to twitter and say that from my profile then don’t believe it”.

    Interesting Matt but find a better solution for this as a user profile in social media sites are promoted by the profile owners. Similarly we do to our blog or website. Internet gives birth to our blog and we go out to promote that so social media sites does the same they don’t make any profile very powerful by default.

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  • Wasn’t nofollow created for paid links?

  • @Seologia – nope. Nofollow was created so that webmasters could tell Google, “we’re linking to this site, but not vouching for it.”

    Google later back-doored us by saying it should also be used for paid links.

  • Yeah, but probably Google is worried about the large number of spammy accounts created recently.

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  • Nothing new, Google acts like the whole internet belongs to them, asks webmasters to do that, add privacy there, remove that, don’t sell this and now add nofollow there … Whatever.

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  • I think that the point at which someone decides, is now. The question is who? And what can be done about it?

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  • @Vlad – yeah, but those spammy account will never earn enough authority to be a problem. Besides, Google creates spammy sites every day with its free Blogger service – I don’t see it forcing nofollow links there

  • Yup Andy, that’s also true. Like I said, I think that’s actually Google trying to make a point. Something like “yeah, you have a great product, but don’t forget who’s the boss”

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  • Heh, Google is becoming to powerful and tries to boss around everyone. As some of you commented here, Google is a big, BIG spammy website itself enabling to create blogs, sites, knols etc. to everybody, including spammers. Have you seen viagra ads on google sites?
    Thats terrible thing to do and i agree with you here that social profiles belong to their owners as they promote it and they should be given the right to pass link juice to whoever they want.

    Thanks for letting me know about that issue.

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  • Jason

    nofollow = webmaster can’t vouch for content.

    If that is correct then, how can twitter vouch for the content posted by non webmasters?

    I’m not saying Google is just right, but that seems to make sense to me.

  • True Andy. I can create 100s and 1000s of pages there which is a part of google and that has no nofollow concept but why here. That’s what i was saying spammy accounts are created but they can’t take the lead unless other vouch for them. They will never take the authority, google should understand that.

    San Nayak’s last blog post..BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Bartlett, Chicago, IL, 60103

  • some day when I have spare time… ill go thru my blogposts and nofollow any link to other twitters profiles or tweets!

    Sajal Kayan’s last blog post..Has Chrome killed Firefox?

  • Yaj

    Ridiculous. Penalizing Twitter for G!’s inadequacies? Especially the part where the links are no longer links. They’re more like images that you can’t copy and paste. Isn’t that going against the ‘make the site for users’ recommendation Google tells webmasters?

    Bad move Google. Really not liking you right now. No one likes dictators.

  • PS3

    I don’t use Twitter so perhaps someone can clarify. Will this effect usability or are people just concerned at the Big Brother attitude of Google?

  • @PS3 – the latter.

  • PS3

    Thanks Andy

  • Rae hit the nail right on the head. The tweets I compose are created by ME and directly relate to ME therefore why *shouldn’t* I be credited for them with a link to my blog/site? At least reward regular, non-spam accounts with a followed link. Jeez. So f*cking frustrating.

  • @Melanie – thank you for self-censoring! 🙂

  • Np Andy. It’s how I roll 😉

  • Ok so maybe this just seems too obvious, but could Google just not tell it’s crawler that when it’s on and it looks at a profile then to just not credit that link? I guess getting twitter to put the no-follow accomplishes this without any extra work, but really… could that have been that hard if it’s a problem?

    Somebody please tell me it’s not that easy.

    Kyle James’s last blog post..Links of the Week September 5th, 2008

  • @kyle – it could, but is that still fair? A twitter profile has no value without the effort of the owner to build and promote it.

  • So they nofollowed it to try and stop spam?

  • @Andy – I guess the point I’m making is that Google probably does this in certain cases and people just don’t know. There are times when someone in the SEO community does catch them on this.

    With Twitter I guess the biggest issue revolves around their problems with spam and how to address this. Most likely if they didn’t have spam issues this wouldn’t be a big deal at all. Where this stinks is like you mention when a power user profile has built a valuable backlink that is suddenly worthless. For a spammer they don’t have the profile that has the valuable PageRank. So I see where your coming from here, but really what is the purpose of twitter to you? Is it just about a solid backlink or about the community building aspect that happens on the site?

    Ok so I’m totally turning into a devil’s advocate here, but I guess at the end of the day it’s kind of just one of those “it is what it is” type issues instead of me losing sleep over it. Guess now I’ll just have to find avenue to get that solid backlink from.

    Kyle James’s last blog post..Links of the Week September 5th, 2008

  • Stumbled thumbs up to the post!

    ugh! No need to repeat sentiment. Heck, it would have been better if there were a NOFOLLOW attribute; at least the links would have worked. Having no links in the bio field has resulted in poor usability, no click-through, reduced functionality. Matt Cutts apparently thought it was an oversight by Twitter – too much power!

  • WD

    @ipod fan: Is google really concerned about spam? I have Google alerts set up for my company name. Each week I get 15-20 alerts that are separate blogspot spam sites. You’d think they’d police their own sites first.

  • That is ridiculous. One request and ok I will get right on that for you.

  • sometimes people should just not blog

  • “some day when I have spare time… ill go thru my blogposts and nofollow any link to other twitters profiles or tweets!”…good idea, but good luck with that! 😀

    Vlad Balan’s last blog post..Another cool premium WordPress theme, Unique Blog Design’s Citrus

  • Oh, boy… Follow the discussion here on Danny Sullivan’s blog where Matt talks, too:

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  • Google is taking over…one by one, it’s taking over. This is some ridiculous stuff!

    Nick Stamoulis’s last blog post..Is Social Media Starting To Rebel?

  • I don’t agree with making it NoFollow – as u said if u promote it and spend time on it then it should come as a reward

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  • There’s something I’m not getting yet. How can Twitter just fall on its knees and agree to do whatever Google want them to do?

    Is there a real problem with Google de-indexing twitter? I mean, it’s not just another “just started” site, it’s Twitter, everybody who has a blog knows about it, and for those who don’t know, it wouldn’t be too hard to find it anyway.

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  • It seems Google things as if he is the internet master. Bad news, too bad for me and those who are blogging

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  • My vote:
    Twitter bio links should be follow links.

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  • Everyone can chose to make links do-follow or do-no-follow! Nofollow-link made for pay!

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  • I like what SEOMoz does with its community profile pages. You can drop a link in your profile page, but it’s nofollowed until you get 100 Moz-Points – you’ve paid your dues as an active member of the community.

    Wouldn’t it be easy enough for Twitter to implement a similar thing? After X followers?

    Also, Twitter is a blog – a micro-blog. It’s easy enough to start up a bunch of WordPress blogs or any other type of blog and throw up links all over them – but without incoming links these blogs have no authority. Authority bloggers and businesses, (for example) start up micro-blogs because they fulfill a place that traditional blogs can’t – but certainly they are sources of valuable content and should pass Page Rank if they get enough links from other authority sites – just like traditional web pages do! Pfffh!

    Linda Bustos’s last blog post..Bloggers Digest 9/4/08

  • Twitter, like Wikipedia, has every right to nofollow their links. But honestly, WTF for? So what if a few spammers milk Twitter for a non-anchor text link. let ’em.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..Building an SEO Friendly Site – SES San Jose 2008 Presentation

  • For the link to be useful it will have to be on the bio page of an account which is well linked to other pages on Twitter in the way of having friends etc. This will mean only active members will truely get rewarded from having a backlink on their bio page.

    I agree with Linda that they should remove it once the member has been active over so many days or something.


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  • Thanks for sharing.It seems that everyone has to do what Google says, which sucks.

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  • Never used Twitter but this is an example of when an organisation can possess too much power. It’s worrying where this might lead.

  • This wasn’t done to fight spam

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  • Does Google lose sleep now over Twitter’s link policy? This is ridiculous and a fairly dangerous precedent in my opinion. If I own a site, it should be entirely my decision how I link to others…

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  • Google’s right…..twitter will be a fav. destination for spammers now.

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  • Anyone can set links up to be do-follow, or no-follow. This function was really created for paid avertising links although they are used and not used at the right times in a lot of cases.

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  • fdh

    You are one heck of a professional blogger John…:-)

  • It doe sseem plike a power play by Google … but I’ve never really picked up on Twitter (I’ve been trying to cut down on communication recently, not increase it!) so it will have little or no effect on me personally.

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  • Nowadays, many spammer use twitter…I can understand why Google do that.

  • I think the government should create laws teach a subject “nospamming” at school.

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  • Google is bullying sites into adding nofollow and twitter is just the latest and most definitely wont be the last.
    I’d have prefered if they made it so you could decide in your preferences if it had nofollow or follow on the pages you create.

  • Google is bullying sites into adding nofollow and twitter is just the latest and most definitely wont be the last.
    I’d have preferred if they made it so you could decide in your preferences if it had nofollow or follow on the pages you create.

  • S*it I posted the last comment twice my bad. Thought I made a mistake adding the sums.

  • When did wordpress bent for google. I recently discovered that all links from tags pages have nofollow.

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  • really?!
    when i was just about to use twitter…

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