A year ago, Twitter was known to only a handful of people who were all search and social media marketing enthusiasts. These search and social media professionals saw the potential in Twitter and promoted it on their blogs, in their emails and in a lot of their communications. Twitter has repaid the favour by treating all users as spammers and slapped rel=”nofollow” attributes onto all external links.
Rel=”nofollow” is an attribute that webmasters can add within the code for external links in order to signal that the link should not be followed by the search engine spiders. Bloggers often use the attribute to disuade comment spam.
The nofollow trend on Twitter started last year when they first indicated to search spiders that links posted under Web, on the right hand side of the Twitter profile, were not to be trusted. They then extended that to links within the Bio as well.
Internal links remain untouched, turning Twitter into a walled garden much like Wikipedia, with lots of link juice coming in from other sites but none going out.
As Rae Hoffman pointed out on her blog, all the content on Twitter is created by the profile owners. Twitter is robbing profile owners by disallowing them to reap any benefit from their own work.
Twitter is likely to see some backlash as a result of this decision. Their justification for their decision is that it disuades spammers from abusing the service. However, Twitter is quite good at stopping spammer accounts already. And, moreover, that doesn’t then explain why verified reliable accounts such as @Google and @stephenfry also have their links nofollowed.
The popular micro-blogging service has timed these updates quite well. They are now so big, that minor backlashes and disenssion among SEO, social marketers and developers would hardly affect their growth, which is now self-propelling.