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BBC hoodwinks bloggers with promises of links

December 8, 2009 10 Comments

Shownar is a BBC site that tracks online buzz about BBC shows. Despite being paid for by the licence fee, it's pulling the wool over bloggers' eyes by claiming that, if you link to it, it will link back - but it's nofollowing the links.

Shownar: promises links but nofollows them

Shownar: promises links but nofollows them

The site tracks - and links to - what people are blogging and tweeting about BBC shows and episodes (like Doctor Who) so you can see what's hot. You get the idea.

Excitingly for bloggers who struggle to get many links to their site, Shownar says:

If you’re discussing BBC shows, just link to us and we’ll link to you (subject to the checks below). It’s as simple as that.

And these checks?

Shownar automatically creates sets of links to blogs discussing every show on the BBC. We want the links to reflect everything that’s going on about a show, not select a favoured few, but that’s not to say we don’t check them before they go on the site. We do.

So the BBC encourages you to link to it. If you do, it checks out your site and, if it approves it, it links back.

And then it prevents Google and other search engines from counting that link by slapping nofollow on the link.

Nofollow explained

What is nofollow? To quote Google:

When Google sees the attribute (rel="nofollow") on hyperlinks, those links won't get any credit when we rank websites in our search results.

Whats it for? It's main aim is to avoid linking to sites you can't vouch for, or for links which aren't "natural" in some way. So most URLs in comments are automatically nofollowed by blogging software to try to defeat spammers. And if someone pays you for a link, you can use nofollow to make sure Google doesn't penalise you.

There is a third use for nofollow - to try and do better in Google's results by not linking properly to other sites (or to avoid helping them in Google's results).

All the links Shownar promises are nofollowed

All the links Shownar promises are nofollowed

You can't tell the links are nofollowed by looking at the webpage - you have to look at the HTML (although in this screenshot, I've shown the nofollowed links - ie all of them - with pink).

The BBC should either make them standard links - or be much more transparent about its "you link to us and we'll link to you" statement by making clear they aren't normal links.

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