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September 27, 2010

Promote JS! A noble cause ruined by dodgy implementation

I was alerted to the Promote JS! site today by a programmer pondering the benefits and tweeting to ask about the SEO logic behind the idea.

Basically, Promote JS! is a cause born out of the JSConf held in April this year. The idea is for JavaScript programmers to spread the word about Mozilla’s JavaScript Developer Center via the use of links to try and improve Mozilla’s Google ranking for searches relating to JavaScript documentation.

A noble cause right? Maybe. However the implementation is inherently flawed in several ways:

1) First of all, the site provides a banner for web site owners and bloggers to place on their sites. The banner uses a script which creates a link to a different page of the Developer Center at every refresh so you can choose the destination link of your choice. This method is just plain silly, in my opinion. They’ve taken a noble idea and tried to implement it using link farm tactics. A series of identical banners with nearly identical link code smells very much like an affiliate program to Googlebot. Their code has basically created an affiliate link farm which is likely to be filtered out by Google’s ranking algorithm, potentially doing more harm than good to the Developer Center’s link popularity.

2) The alt tag for the banner is stuffed with multiple JavaScript related keywords. Keyword stuffed tags of any kind can easily be detected and ignored by Google’s ranking filter. There’s just no need to shove multiple keyword repetitions in there.

3) Developer Andrew Hedges had written a blog post about Promote JS! questioning the value of linking to multiple sub pages of the JavaScript Developer Center and suggesting perhaps everyone should link to their home page instead. He cc’d me on his tweet asking for SEO advice and inviting comments on his post. My response is that people should link to ANY page in the Developer Center that they want to promote! If their blog post talks about APIs, they should link to the API documentation. If they were impressed by a particular javascript tutorial, they should link directly to that tutorial.

The whole point of the PageRank algorithm is to attribute relevancy weight based on inbound links to specific pages. It’s not about the top level domain. If everyone points to the home page, the inner pages – those containing the most valuable, useful content – won’t rank as well. For a web site to rank well for a wide number of keywords, you need to spread the link juice, not channel it to a single page. You have to trust Google’s own system of rewarding good content – they have a zillion brains working on this full time.

4) Andrew had also tweaked the Promote JS! code somewhat to create a banner that generated a random link at every refresh. In my opinion, this method is also flawed. Link popularity is based around the acquisition of trusted, related, inbound links to a page. If links appear and disappear to a page, that’s hardly trustworthy, right? Google won’t be counting your links as trusted. They are looking for solid, stable links from directly related topic pages.

This is another reason why it makes sense to link to specific inner pages at the JavaScript Developer Center, based on your specific blog post topic/s. If your blog post talks about JavaScript drop down menus and it points to the documentation specifically about those, the TrustRank of that page goes up, as does the eventual ranking potential for related search queries.

Promote JS! shouldn’t be creating link farms to promote the value of the JavaScript Developer Center. They should simply be encouraging developers to use logical linking strategies as recommended by Google to promote great content. Either that or convince Mozilla to make their JavaScript documentation more search engine friendly!

I’m sure there’ll be developers out there who disagree with me and that’s fine. I don’t know how long the Promote JS! site has been live, but it doesn’t have a Google PR, so it’s either too young or hasn’t built up any TrustRank. Make of that what you will.