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Using FeedBurner may hurt your PageRank!

By • May 10th, 2007 • Category: Blogging, SEO, Web Development

FeedBurner Logo

FeedBurner has a feature called ‘clickthrough tracking’. If a feed has this feature enabled, FeedBurner will track the number of clickthrough from your feed. You will be able to see how many users have come to your site after reading the feed. But there is a problem – they do the tracking by modifying the link URL – this could hurt your Google PageRank in the long run.

The problem happens as FeedBurner changes the URL in the feed to point to their site. It is not a FeedBurner issue – that is the only possible way to track clicks in a feed. This becomes an issue because google will not credit these links to you.

For example, this is the URL of my last post…

http://www.bin-co.com/blog/2007/05/jus5-light-weight-cms/

In the FeedBurner RSS feed, this link becomes

http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/bin-blog/~3/114722273/

Both points to the same location – but in case of the FeedBurner link, the user goes to the FeedBurner server and is redirected from there to my site. This link is counted as a link to feedburner by google.

How this Affect Google Page Rank

This system is designed for humans – not for machines. But these feeds are are harvested by bots and used on other sites. I have seen my content being swiped and used in other sites. Earlier I used to get angry about it – now that phase is over. I have accepted the situation. Like people accept spam and ads, after a while you learn to accept the fact that others are using your content without your permission.

There is one good thing about this – most people link back to the the original page when using the content. And as all bloggers know, links are very important. Recently I found this page…

http://www.fixmood.com/indian-college-students-face-bleak-prospects/2006/12/11/

This is an exact copy of one of my blog post over at BinnyVA.

Like many others, this site links to the original article – but to my horror, it uses the FeedBurner link…

Original post by <em><a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/%7Er/BinnyvaBlog/%7E3/59866721/" title="" onclick="javascript:urchinTracker('/outbound/feeds.feedburner.com');">BinnyVA</a></em> ...

Google will not count this link as a link to my site. The only advantage of others using my content is lost.

Another problem is that people copy the URL right from the feed reader into their blog – and if they are using a WYSIWYG editor when creating the post, they will not notice that they used the wrong URL.

Turn ‘Clickthrough Tracking’ Off

The benefits of ‘clickthrough tracking’ are not worth the problems caused by it. Fortunately, it is easy to turn it off. If you are not using FeedBurner to publish your feed, you don’t have this problem. Even if you are using FeedBurner, chances are that you don’t have the problem – you have to explicitly turn this option on. If you have turned it on here’s how to turn it off…

Login to the FeedBurner site and elect your feed. At the bottom left side of the Feed page, there will be a link called ‘Standard Stats’.

FeedBurner Standard Stats

See the checkbox ‘Item link clicks (clickthrough tracking)’ – make sure its off.

Disable Click Thru in FeedBurner

Click ‘Save’. Do this for all your feeds.


12 Responses »

  1. Mike Malone says:

    Hey,

    Actually, all of the major search engines treat off-domain redirects as direct links to the destination page (the page that is redirected to), so feedburner’s tracking URLs won’t hurt your pagerank. I just tested the URL you put in your post, and it looks like feedburner is using a 302 redirect:

    mmalone@sunix:~$ echo -e “GET /~r/bin-blog/~3/114722273/ HTTP/1.0\r\n\r\n” | nc feeds.feedburner.com 80
    HTTP/1.1 302 Moved Temporarily
    Date: Thu, 10 May 2007 15:13:27 GMT
    Server: Apache/2.2.3 (Debian) mod_fastcgi/2.4.2 mod_jk/1.2.18
    X-FB-Host: chi-write7
    Location: http://www.bin-co.com/blog/2007/05/jus5-light-weight-cms/
    Content-Length: 0
    P3P: CP=”ALL DSP COR NID CUR OUR NOR”
    Keep-Alive: timeout=20, max=89
    Connection: Keep-Alive
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
    Set-Cookie: NSC_gffe-iuuq-mc-wtfswfs=8efb33ff3660;expires=Thu, 10-May-07 15:17:31 GMT;path=/

    Check out Matt Cutt’s article on 302 redirects. Matt is a Google software engineer, so he knows what he’s talking about :) . Bottom line: I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Whether people link directly, or link through the 302 redirect the pagerank will be applied to your site.

    I’m not sure how technorati, or even WordPress (pingbacks/trackbacks) treat redirects, but I’d imagine they follow redirects as well. It’s pretty much standard practice to follow redirects, since they’re part of the HTTP protocol.

  2. Rick Klau says:

    Hi – You have another option: anyone who uses TotalStats has the option of making the clickthrough URL a 301 redirect, which will transfer any link currency from the clickthrough URL to the destination URL. Some publishers like being able to differentiate clicks generated via the feed vs. other clicks, and this feature helps them do that. On the other hand, if, as you’ve done, you determine that you don’t want any potential confusion – then you just disable the clickthrough service.

    Hope that helps,

    Rick

    —–
    Rick Klau
    VP, Publisher Services
    FeedBurner
    rickk@feedburner.com
    AIM/Y!/Skype: RickKlau

  3. Binny V A says:

    @Mike
    I always thought that we should use 301 redirects if we are moving a page. Thanks for the Matt Cutts link.

    @Rick Klau
    I did not know that TotalStats support 301 redirects – thanks for sharing.

  4. Mike Malone says:

    Yea, I don’t know why TotalStats uses 302 redirects by default. The difference is that a 302 redirect is supposed to be “Temporary,” while a 301 is supposed to be “Permanent.” Feedburner may be using the 302 redirect if they want to be able to redirect a link to a different URL without being non-compliant, but I’m just speculating.

  5. ReviewSaurus says:

    So I guess that Rick’s explanation clears up things and that it will not effect the pagerank… :)

  6. Thank you very much this post helped me because i couldnt find the setting that did this to my feed links :) now i fixed it :)

  7. aaron says:

    They seem to have addressed this and now have an option to optimize for search engines.

  8. Jagdu says:

    Doing exactly what you said, it was easy to fix. For me, the link on the bottom left says, “FeedBurner Stats PRO”. Change that and you’re good to go.

  9. mk_michael says:

    I cannot find the link called “Standard Stats”, I’ve only the Pro Stats. By clicking the Pro Stats, the “item link click” is disabled for default. Maybe they changed it.

  10. Binny V A says:

    @mk_michael
    After Google acquired feedburner, they made everything free – so you only have the Pro features now.

  11. Giancarlo says:

    http://www.google.com/support/feedburner/bin/answer.py?answer=78951

    Just the information I was looking for, thanks. I was wondering about this because I have several sites stripping my Feedburner Feed and re-posting my site’s articles on theirs.

    I thought to myself, well I can’t really do much about it but at least I’m getting a link back. Then I notice the weird feeds.feedburner.com/~r/feedname/~3/512685707/ url and thought “oh man am I getting some page rank juice from this?” but luckily I read the comments left by the others and notice the Google FAQ link located right next to “item links clicks”.

    So in conclusion we can keep our STATS, and keep the PR Juice!

  12. Gagan says:

    thanks alot for the tip.

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