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Stubhub Buying Links From ESPN?

While doing some research on college football for a blog post, I visited ESPN’s College Football Scoreboard to see what games were scheduled for week 1 (see here).  While there I noticed the page absolutely loaded with links to Stubhub.  Not only does each game have “Ticket” link directing you to the appropriate page to purchase tickets for that game, but there is also a “Stubhub Ticket Center” with dynamically generated football links on the right sidebar.

I have visited ESPN hundreds of times over the years and never thought anything of this.  I figured big deal, Stubhub probably has an enormous advertising budget and can afford to slather ESPN with advertising – something us small business owners could only dream of.  However, I decided to take a closer look as I have been paying a lot more attention to search engine optimization after Google’s latest algorithm change (dubbed “Penguin“) put Tickifieds.com on life alert.  What I noticed was rather shocking….none of the Stubhub links I examined were designated as purchased advertising links (typically noted by the rel=”nofollow” tag).  Here is just one  example of the HTML code used to link to Stubhub:

Stubhub Buys Links

Here is an example of a game specific ticket link.

HTML CODE:

<a href=”http://www.stubhub.com/vanderbilt-football-tickets/” onclick=”this.href=this.href+’?gcid=C12289x459&amp;keyword=Vanderbilt+Commodores+Football'” title=”Vanderbilt Commodores Football Tickets”>Tickets</a>

Notice that no where in the code does ESPN denote that this link is a paid advertisement.  There is just the “onclick” tag that allows them to track clicked links.  Google has made it extremely clear over the years that paid links that affect search results (i.e. followed links that pass PageRank) are a direct violation of their Webmaster Guidelines.

Anyone that has attempted to optimize their website for search engines to increase this online visibility knows that the name of the game is getting backlinks from trusted sources.   Getting legitimate backlinks pointing to a commerical site from trusted sources is extremely difficult.  That is, unless you have a massive budget and can buy links while the search engines like Google turn a blind eye.

So Google, and in particular Matt Cutts, my question to you is why are mega corporations like ESPN and Stubhub seemingly allowed to violate these Webmaster Guidelines on such a massive scale yet still dominated the organic results?  Call it sour grapes but I am beginning to lose faith that Google really has any semblance of a level playing field.

Tickifieds Gets a Facelift

TickifiedsThe world’s largest (and we think best) event ticket classifieds website just got a new look.  It’s been nearly two years since we last updated the look and feel of Tickifieds and we went all out his time making it cleaner, easier to navigate, faster and more search engine friendly.

One of the biggest enhancements is the addition of the search bar to the top of the page.  Roughly 60% of our visitors will perform a ticket search while visiting the site.  We’ve made it easier and more convenient by putting the search box front and center. This will help ticket buyers not only find tickets easier but also compare ticket prices and seat location for a particular event.

Perhaps what is most apparent is the cleaned up look of the site.  We’ve eliminated a lot of redundant links and extraneous code making it much easier to navigate the site.  This not only helps reduce the time it takes to load a page but also also will help the site be even more search engine friendly.  If you pay attention to the world of search engine optimization (SEO), page load times are becoming an increasingly important ranking factor.    The new design cut the page load time in half.  Previously, according to Pingdom Tools, Tickifieds was faster than only 20-25% of websites.  Now we are happy to report that the site is faster than 70-75% of all websites!

We’ve also fixed some minor bugs while updating the site.  One of the most noticeable is a fix for the sorting of columns in our custom lists (e.g. Recent Ads, Popular Ads, Search Results, etc.).  Now users have the ability to sort these list by popular fields like event date, price, views, responses, section, row, and many more.

What do you think of the new look?