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02 Mar 2009, Posted by admin in Google, 19 Comments

TinyURL Does Not Pass Value


Update: After almost 4 months, the TinyURL link has now started to pass anchor text value. As it’s unlikely that it would take Google 4 months to follow the TinyURL link, this suggests that Google has now started to follow TinyURL links and pass value as it should. HOORAY. I still think it’s best to use your own URL shortener though.

A while ago Rand Fishkin asked if URL shorteners such as TinyURL passed value. I started testing it when I read his post, and the results are pretty clear that, TinyURL at least, does not. At least, not anchor text value.

I put a link up on a test site with a unique word linking to another page on a different domain. The same page had another unique word linking to a different page on a different domain, this time going through a TinyURL. The target page ranks for the non-TinyURL link as expected. The other target page (linked with TinyURL) does not rank for the unique word. I gave it about a month to make sure, because it does tend to take Google around a week or so to allow for 301 redirects to pass value, as they catch up.

Why should TinyURL pass value?

Because it’s a straight up 301 to the target page. It should work. In theory.

Why doesn’t TinyURL pass value?

It’s hard to say whether this is an algorithmic or whether Google has manually chosen to not follow TinyURL links. If it’s part of the algorithm, then it could be because TinyURL has tripped a filter with Google. It’s commonly accepted (although hard to definitely prove) that having thousands of different domains 301 to yours can result in your domain getting a penalty, or a ban. It’s hard to say if that’s true, but I’ve seen and heard about it from personal experience. It probably just receives a manual review, but if it’s spam then it’s going down. Either way, a filter gets tripped.

The nature of TinyURL may be causing the problem. The domain itself has millions of seperate pages that all 301 to different domains. To Google, that’s a massive signal. It’s huge. No other kind of site acts like that. This may trip a filter, causing the link value (sharklarking) passing through TinyURL links to be reduced to 0.

Why isn’t Google correcting this?

Because seriously, why aren’t they? I used TinyURL, instead of the other URL shorteners, because TinyURL is used by Twitter. I know Twitter nofollows links anyway, but Twitter feeds appear in loads of different places in dofollow form. This means that hundreds of thousands of links that people are talking about and, in effect, voting for aren’t being counted. Why not? I thought that was the point of the democratic web?

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19 Comments

March 2, 2009 11:24 am

xentech

Yeh that is strange, you would think because of the nature of TinyURL these are links Google would definitely want to count. By the very fact that they have been tinyurl’d proves that people are sharing and using the information.

March 2, 2009 11:48 am

SEO-PRO

Hmm, so although everything is done via 301s no value is passed. I’m sure I’ve read an article saying Google considered links from a URL shortener as a proper link. It is a measure of popularity. Also, The Sunday Times (Famous UK newspaper) uses these style links to display useful webpages in news articles. G should pass some value, even if it is less, it would reflect popularity on Twitter and various other areas where shorteners are used.

March 2, 2009 12:28 pm

Melanie Phung

I was reading recently (on Patrick Altoft’s blog, I think) that 301s don’t appear to pass anchor text anymore. While a dofollowed tinyurl may or may not still pass link value, if Google is ignoring anchor text for all 301s that would certainly explain the results of your test. IOW, it’s not specific to URL shorteners. His theory also doesn’t mean the links don’t count at all, just that anchor text is ignored; since it seems that anchor text for tinyurls is usually the url itself, in general that wouldn’t be a big loss for pages that have tinyurls pointing to them. (Same can’t be said for intra-domain 301s, of course, which is my bigger concern.)

March 2, 2009 2:21 pm

pageoneresults

TinyURL + Your Brand = NULL

http://www.SEOConsultants.com/uris/

I’ve done a bit of research into this area as I feel URI shortening services have a short life span right now. They filled an immediate need when the SMS 140 character limitation came into play. I think people would be wise to avoid URI shortening through third party services whenever possible. You did see the latest about TinyURL being the focal point of a Google Gmail Phishing scam?

http://www.WebmasterWorld.com/gmail_advertising/3857492.htm

It won’t be long before people are fearful of clicking shortened URIs that they cannot determine the destination for. It’s like playing Russian Roulette for the most part.

March 2, 2009 9:46 pm

George

The point with the 301 redirects is a pretty good one and it shows that this might be the problem with the tinyurl…

Another problem could be that if twitter and tinyurls well passing value -link juice then we could have some sort of a new google bomb with people retweeting multiple times a link intentionally for this purpose…

Anyway those guys at Google are clever i am sure they will find a solution :P

March 2, 2009 10:58 pm

Adam

The potential to Spam seems huge with URL Shorteners.

That combined with the casual/indifferent linking that goes on (AKA the arbitrary Website link regarding your Twitter post about the pizza you’re eating for dinner) it seems to make perfect sense to me why these links wouldn’t carry much if any weight.

Sigh, well, have to look for a new way to spam links, guys. :)

March 3, 2009 10:06 am

admin

Hi Adam, I don’t see why URL shorteners give people more potential to spam?

Also, from what I see on Twitter people are linking (through TinyURL) to really interesting, authoritative and high quality sites. Sure, you get some “this is what I had for dinner last night” links, but you get that on blogs too. Twittering an awesome site is a lot quicker and more accessible to regular users than it is to blog about it, which is both a good and bad thing – it’s good because it gets people talking but bad because there’s no link juice where there might otherwise be

March 3, 2009 12:07 pm

Fabio Ricotta

As I posted into Sphinn, i’m replicating here:

It’s an interesting research. I want to test it to see if it occurs into some indexed sites already. I mean, I’ll try to link with and without a anchor text from a indexed domain.

I’ll let you know about my tests.

March 13, 2009 5:54 pm

Rebecca Murtagh

Great post and best discussion I’ve seen on this topic to date. Historically, anything that dilutes links to content works against long term SEO objectives.

Also worth considering is the dilution of the domain from a marketing and branding point of view…additionally meaningful if the destination becomes popular virally through twitter and other platforms. (pre click trust and recognition)

I happen to agree with pageoneresults’ prediction that at this point in time URL shortening is a trend to resist from both SEO and user perspectives.

April 4, 2009 1:09 pm

okinawa

I think I will stop using Tiny URL now….

April 5, 2009 12:16 am

foo tools

Pick a less popular url shortner … or just use the diggbar.

April 5, 2009 3:48 pm

admin

The diggbar won’t pass link juice either, it just iframes your page. SAD FACE. :(

April 14, 2009 9:50 am

Reclaim Your Twitter Links | Shark SEO

[...] Reclaim Your Twitter Links April 14, 2009 – No Comments If you haven’t already, you may want to add my RSS feed – it’s standard-tasticOn the one hand, I love the Tweetmeme plugin for WordPress, I think it does an amazing job of letting your visitors easily retweet your blogpost. It looks really nice, it’s really easy to install and it even tracks the number of retweets you get. In short, it’s simple and effective. On the other hand though, I hate it. I really, really hate it. When people hit the retweet button, it doesn’t retweet me – it retweets @techmeme. I can’t style the button, I have to use theirs. And I really, really hate the fact that my links get retweeted with a bit.ly URL shortener. I’ve spoken before about how much I hate URL shorteners – they dilute your brand and can, for some of them, prevent link juice from reaching your site. [...]

May 8, 2009 11:43 am

What You Need to Know about Social Media and LinkJuice « Rakeshpradhanblog’s Blog

[...] there is no link juice from TinyURL, which is the URL shortener used by Twitter. The theory of no linkjuice from Twitter has by no means been proven inconclusively yet, and in the bargain, lots of Twitter posts show up [...]

August 29, 2009 4:41 am

Passing link juice through tinyrul – WarriorForum – Internet Marketing Forums

[...] an article I came across while investigating the answer to your question. See if this helps: TinyURL Does Not Pass Value | Shark SEO Cheers, [...]

January 8, 2011 3:35 am

rob

I was thinking of using tiny url for my site navigation, but I am still not convinced about the SEO outcomes.

August 19, 2011 11:40 pm

Albany NY SEO

With the advent of many more URL shorteners and several major Google algorithm updates, does your original finding still hold true?

January 19, 2012 4:11 pm

To Albany Above

Well clearly you have little understanding of how things work or you wouldn’t be going around wasting your time dropping comment links when it has a nofollow tag in the code.

August 12, 2012 9:30 pm

Osvaldo Gehm

Hey guys,
take a look here:
http://google.about.com/od/searchengineoptimization/f/tinyurl_google.htm
“Twitter, however, uses a nofollow tag to prevent spamming. This means Google will not follow Twitter links or transfer any PageRank no matter what kind of URL they use.”

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