In the past, I’ve been pretty supportive of TNX.net – an alternative text link broker to TLA. Although I don’t use them on this site, I have used them in the past.
I can’t say I’m disappointed with the money. I quit updating the site that ran TNX ads on in April, and I kind of assumed that the site was going nowhere. I was surprised when I happened to log into my account in November and find that I had over earned $400 over the course of the summer. Payment was quickly made to my PayPal account – so no complaints in that department.
However, I have become suspicious of something a lot of other people have been suggesting – that TNX could kill your Google Page Rank. Some people have reported starting to sell TNX links, and within weeks their PR dropped to zero and/or their Google traffic was drastically cut.
I started offering TNX links in March, and I saw no negative impacts on my Google rankings over the next two months (until I stopped working on the site). I didn’t see any evidence of retaliation by Google.
Now that I look at my traffic statistics, I’m beginning to think differently.
Recent Traffic to the Site
For a benchmark comparison, let’s look at the recent traffic to the site. It’s not a lot – I haven’t updated it since April, and some of the well performing articles have been ported over to the archives here.
As you can see in the Analytics screenshot, there is a slow but steady stream of traffic – maybe 50 visitors a day, besides that spike from an itty-bitty reddit frenzy. When I started working on Nerds at Work, I checked in on the old site a few times. I assumed this was a trickle of Google traffic.
My first clue that something was wrong was when I checked the page rank for the old site. In the TNX control panel, it was listed as a mix of 2 and 3 for some pages, but a Page Rank checker after the most recent updated showed it at Zero. Hmm…
Then I went back to look specifically at the traffic I was getting from Google. It was near zero. The pages were still indexed, but for the most part they ranked as low as possible. I’m surprised anyone got the site from Google.
I looked back at the history, and there was a quite clear drop-off point. In early May, I went from a steady 2-300 visitors per day from Google to almost nothing. Aside from a fluke day in December with 130 visits, it’s been pretty much the same from May until today.
I didn’t notice at the time, since I stopped updating and monitoring the site in April. However, this was about three months after I started selling TNX links.
An Alternative Cause
There is an alternative possibility.
In May, the site was hacked and subjected to an iframe injection. A whole slew of invisible spam links were embedded into the page through an iframe, and I didn’t find out for a couple weeks.
That attack took place at the exact same time as the dropoff in Google traffic. The infected files carried a timestamp of May 16. The last peak of traffic was May 15. May 16 and 17 showed drop offs – although nothing too out of the ordinary. By May 18, Google traffic had all but stopped.
I was later informed (in mid June) that the site was removed from the index due to these links. I quickly fixed the problem and applied to be re-admitted to the index. I was, and I didn’t think too much about it after that.
I suppose it’s possible that the iframe injection flagged the site in Google’s index, leading to it being blacklisted. However, it seems strange that traffic would stop three or four weeks before I was contacted by Google and the site was removed from the index. If the traffic dropoff is due to the iframe injection, wouldn’t the dropoff and the notification from Google have come at the same time?
Bit Weary of TNX – Looking for Verification
At this point, I’m a bit weary to install TNX links on this site. I don’t want to take the chance of tanking this project – especially since I’ve still got a vested interest here. I’m not really concerned about the fate of the old site – I was done with it.
I’ve decided to do a bit of an experiment with another defunct site to see what happens. I’ve applied for my old gaming site (Rolling Horde) to be included in the TNX system. I then plan on loading it up with links and seeing what happens.
If indeed Google detects these links and hammers sites that sell them, Rolling Horde should drop in the rankings to near non-existance within a few months. If May or June roll around and it hasn’t been impacted, then maybe I was just over-reacting – and something else caused the other site to get the boot.