Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nasty Linking Practices


Looking deep into Pinterest's code reveals some unsavory practices that hurt artists and photographer beyond the mere infringing upon their copyrights. Unlike copyright infringement, which is against the law, these sneaky actions are legal. What they are is a stark reminder that we are not merely dealing with gentle souls programming a nice little platform for the ladies to line up pretty pictures; we are dealing with an ugly, unscrupulous pirate without an iota of respect for artists' livelihoods.

Today, we will demonstrate that when Pinterest creates links to the original source of the material (the creator's website), Pinterest uses a sneaky "nofollow" link that tells search engine to NOT count this link towards PageRank credit for the target website. It is an instruction to the search engine bot not to follow this link for crawling and explore the creator's website, but to continue perusing Pinterest.

We will also show the flip side; when Pinterest creates links to itself, those links are NOT "nofollow" links, and that further, they are attempting to fool the search engines into thinking that "" actually points to a page within Pinterest, that contains a partial aggregate of your material that has been pinned. I repeat: Pinterest attempts to fool search engines into thinking your website is on Pinterest.

The screenshots of the code below have been obscured in some places to remove identifying information.

In this screenshot, the outbound link pointing to the creator's website is a worthless, deprecated "nofollow" link. It counts for nothing in your search engine rankings, and slows down the rate at which your website would be crawled.

This snippet shows a pinned image with the alt tag "Pinned Image" pointing to the creator's website with a deprecated "nofollow" link. The significance of the "Pinned Image" anchor text is that even a search engine does not treat a "nofollow" tagged link differently, the search engine will credit the creator's website as being a "Pinned Image," sabotaging its search engine ranking with a non-specific anchor text that has nothing to do with what the image actually is.

This is a series of three thumbnail images of pins that point inward to Pinterest's page that aggregates a creator's images from a source website, on Pinterest's servers, in this format: This inward link is NOT a deprecated "nofollow" link. By default, search engine bots will follow this link and continue to crawl Pinterest instead of being diverted to the creator's website. This increases the importance of the Pinterest page that aggregates your material in the eyes of search engines, and makes it float to the top of the results.

Pinterest actively hurts the source websites, while helping itself.

This last one is the nastiest of them all; using your website URL as the anchor text, Pinterest points an inward link to the page that aggregates a creator's images from the source website. This tells the search engines that they can find your website on Pinterest's servers, on this page: - rather than on your actual website. While search engines may not be completely fooled, they are fooled enough.

Typing my own website URL in Google's search box, the page where Pinterest aggregates my infringed content ( tops the page 2 results. It might be higher if I weren't so vigilant in removing infringed content.

Typing "" (a large image website with very heavy presence on Pinterest)in Google's search box, the page where Pinterest aggregates the infringed content ( is the third result on page 1.

Typing "pinterest (the name of a webmaster forum)" in Google's search box, the page where Pinterest aggregates the infringed content ( is the first result on page 1. The second result is another pinterest page. Only the third result is the webmaster forum, with Pinterest-related threads highlighted.

Pinners like to laud the "great publicity" creators are getting from having their work pinned and repinned on Pinterest. Some publicity! Pinterest's linking scheme, by design, is to steal traffic from the source websites, and decrease the share they deserve from organic search results.

The duplicate content penalties that are bound to arise, as outlined in the earlier blog post entitled: Clone Wars further compounds the problem. This post did not get the attention it deserved, it's a good idea to catch up on it.

Pinners are hypnotized by their illicit collections of pretty pictures - nearly all of them completely unaware of the unfair, underhanded way that Pinterest is trying to grab not only content, but traffic from creators. They believe that creators are getting good vibes from having their work pinned on Pinterest. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any extra trickle of traffic comes at a very high price; the loss of search engine ranking for website images, and the website as a whole, to Pinterest's benefit.

In fact, nearly all self-publishing webmasters are as unaware of the multitude of ways they are being wronged as the pinners themselves. They count visitors, check for sales. They're not looking deep into the downright evil linking scheme that in the long run, will rob them of more visitors than they will gain, while Pinterest makes millions off their work, and the visitors that should be theirs directly, without going the roundabout Pinterest way.

Pinterest is a vampire. There's nothing pretty about it.


ohnostudio said...

My what a wicked web they weave... Bunch of scumbags

Cindy Schnackel said...

As so many artists and photographers have been saying all along, they are infringing and encouraging infringement. I believe if this ever sees a courtroom they will not be able to hide behind safe harbor.

I've also noticed more and more that with takedowns to Pinterest, they remove all but one image url on their server, meaning I have to prod them again, to remove it all. More of my time wasted, more likely some will not follow up or won't give them the image url's as well as the page link and then they can keep the image on their servers. That also, is not in the spirit of the DMCA and safe harbor, to keep something against a copyright owner's wishes/knowledge.

The business model is not one of social media but of a plan to monetize other people's property, and in rather sneaky ways.

Anandi Raman Creath said...

Yuck :(

dye diana dye said...

Yuck, indeed.

Nester said...

Your web hosting should have information on how to prevent hot linking. Our does.