Hidden Quantcast links on Digg.com

I was playing around with the Google cached version of Digg.com’s homepage when I found this:

quantcast link on Digg homepage

Of course, that link doesn’t show in the full site design, so I decided to Digg (excuse the pun) a little deeper and take a look at the code:

quantcast code

Looks like the “href=” lurking in the <noscript> tag is up to no good. It’s the 1 pixel tracking gif’s alt tag showing as a link in the Google cached version of the page. Hmm.. Does Google think this is a juice passing link? I did a quick query and got this page:

backlinks in Google showing digg result

I was suprised to see a internal page from Digg and not the homepage, but then Google’s Link: operator works in mysterious ways tells us absolutely nothing of any use, er, whatsoever. It is useful though to know that Google’s index displays at least one link.

Interested and wanting to find out more I took a look at this from the Yahoo site explorer perspective. Amazing linkbuilding practice there, Quantcast:

yahoo site explorer

399,560,780 Back links. The image above is the is the top 5 sites linking to Quantcast. Here are the next 15:

ImageShack http://www.imageshack.us/
Bravenet http://www.bravenet.com/
digg http://www.digg.com/
Technorati http://www.technorati.com/
Bible Gateway http://www.biblegateway.com/
The Economist http://www.economist.com/
Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/
Last.FM http://www.last.fm/
Pandora Internet Radio http://www.pandora.com/
Drudge Report http://www.drudgereport.com/
DivX http://www.divx.com/
LinkedIn: Relationships Matter http://www.linkedin.com/
Second Life http://secondlife.com/
CBS http://www.cbs.com/

And here are the next 1000.

Unless I’m greatly mistaken, the tracking gif implementation for non java enabled browsers doesn’t have to carry the “href=” link back to Quantcast. As long as the tracking gif has a unique filename, right?

You should remove the “href” at least, and I’d be quite tempted to remove the <noscript> tag altogether. After all, who visits Imageshack, Digg and Last.fm without java enabled? :-)

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16 thoughts on “Hidden Quantcast links on Digg.com

  1. Andy Beard says:

    Certainly a year or so back they weren’t being naughty on the links, but at least it probably points back to a useful page for many sites which has info advertisers might like.

  2. Hi Andy, good to hear from you! I don’t think this is spam nessecarily, in fact it’s probably just an oversight on the part of the developers of the tracking code. Still, I bet the technique is working for them!

  3. Somehow I doubt this is a mere oversight. I am a little surprised that some of these sites did not catch this themselves.

  4. Not worth the risk. I recall how BMW was removed from the index a few years ago for being naughty (according to Google). Does Quantcast want the same result?

  5. Now that is an interesting link building strategy. To bad it is black hat however…this could end badly for Quantcast…

  6. FSP says:

    Cool find. I too have the quantcast code on my site. It does not require a link back to use an image to track visitors, however they add it anyway. (look at whos.amung.us as well)

  7. @FSP – the whos.amung.us non java tracking code could potentially be doing the same thing. Nice spot!

  8. Josh says:

    Thanks for the discussion. Just a heads-up that we dropped the href a while back, so it only appears on sites that became Quantified Publishers before we made the change. New sites don’t have that line — and I think that if you recopy-and-paste your tag from the setup page you’ll get the new tag without that href.

  9. @Stuart I’m not so sure this falls into black hat territory, since the link anchor text is “Quantcast” and not a juicy keyword phrase such as “viagra”. The href is probably unnecessary but may not violate any guidelines. If it does and GOOG takes action, the penalty would likely impact Quantcast.com and not Digg.com or any other site hosting the tracking tag.

  10. I’m in agreement here – it looks like a classic example of checking the SEO impact before you distribute “copy and paste” code. Oops!

  11. Many Analytics companies are at this. Check out the tracking code used by Omniture:

    [not sure why they are setting the title and not the alt]

    If memory serves me right ClickTracks do something very similar.

  12. Oops

    Not only managed to mispell my name, but the code posted got pulled. Here it is escaped:

    <noscript><a href=”http://www.omniture.com” title=”Web Analytics”><img
    height=”1″ width=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” /></a></noscript>

  13. Hi Richard interesting code there – it’s very similar except the alt is blank. Did the cached version of the page you found that on still show a crawlable text link in the “text only” view?

  14. Generator says:

    I have placed quantcast code to my web pages but it is still under review and there’s no show of my website.

  15. Binh Nguyen says:

    Not just quantcast doing this. Most major traffic tracking website, theme, and directory insert this type of hidden link in the code.

    That’s how they rank themselves.

    What I think is they should let the user opt in to link. Yes they provide free service, but that free always somehow end up some cash deposit into their bank. They should be honest about it.

    Thanks for this great post.

  16. mrpals says:

    I agree with Binh Nguyen….we can see so many like this.

    Not just quantcast doing this. Most major traffic tracking website, theme, and directory insert this type of hidden link in the code.

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