When Feedburner was acquired by Google in mid-2007, we were all excited about the potential. As time progressed and Google really began to own and better develop its vision for the tool, Feedburner became increasingly useful. But with some recent emphasis on link wheels and automatic updates, there is a very good chance Feedburner could be killing your SEO strategy without you ever knowing.

What Is Feedburner?

Feedburner is simply a free online service created by Google that allows you to automatically send email updates from your blog. Updates are sent via RSS feed reader or through email. Feedburner provides you with customized tools to promote your feed.

For example, they have an email subscription widget you can easily add in the sidebar of your blog. You can easily log into the Feedburner interface and see how many people are following your blog, this is nice too.

Benefits Of Feedburner

Feedburner does have benefits. In fact, people commonly rant and rave about the promotional tool. Here are some of the reasons why people like Feedburner.

  • Users are updated each time a new blog goes live
  • Feedburner promotes repeat visitors and blog loyalty
  • The service is free and easy to set up
  • You can track your subscribers
  • Email delivery can be customized to match brand look and feel
  • The content delivery enhances the chance of social media shares
  • The email subscription widget is easy to install

OK, so now that we have defined the service and listed some pros, let’s dive into a con many people are unaware of, the negative effect it can have on SEO.

How Feedburner Hurts Search Engine Optimization

If you work in SEO, or marketing in general, you are most likely knowledgeable of the idea of a link wheel.

To elaborate for the purpose of being clear, a link wheel is simply the idea that each time you publish a piece of content that content is distributed to multiple other online properties in order to generate backlinks to the original piece of content. From an SEO perspective, this is clearly advantageous as each post results in tens to hundreds of backlinks pointing at your website.

There are many important items to consider when creating link wheels – anchor text, page rank of destination sites, what keywords the ranking sites are visible for, the time duration between updates of ranking sites, level of unique content published on ranking sites, and so forth.

While this is the case, none of this will matter if you are using Feedburner. In fact, your link wheel will be ineffective for the purposes of SEO. And those RSS feed links, which you worked so hard to add to Squidoo pages, Hub pages, get approved by AllTop and feed into external blogs, will count for nothing.

The issue with Feedburner is inherent in the name, thus, it burns (or alters) your RSS feed and channels it through a Google enhanced URL. Emphasis on “Google Enhanced URL.

For example, originally your RSS feed primary URL would look like this:

http://www.example-blog.com/feed

The links listed in your RSS feed would simply be the links to the blog posts you are publishing:

http://www.example-blog.com/blog-post-title/

But when you burn your RSS feed using Feedburner the primary URL would look like this:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/example-blog/XwypD

And the single post URL would look like this:

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/example-blog/XwyD/~3/0GsvLKkhoe8/

So why does this matter? Well think about it. Sure, it is great that this link will be live on other sites. Maybe someone will subscribe to your RSS feed as a result and you could even get some referring site traffic out of it. But should you rely on getting link juice from that link? (see editor’s notes below.)

The beauty of RSS feed enabled link wheels is that they allow you to continually get fresh back links to your site each time you publish a new post. If you use FeedBurner, these posts will not support your SEO. This is definitely something to keep in mind when considering whether or not to use the service.

The Solution To FeedBurner

If you are using FeedBurner, there is of course still hope. The solution is fairly simple actually. Simply make more than one RSS feed! This solution will actually result in a better RSS syndication strategy for you in the long run.

Hopefully your blog or website has individual categories. Assuming those categories are keyword specific, you can create RSS feeds promoting  the content in each categories. You can then filter those RSS feeds into themed lenses or profiles, not utilizing FeedBurner, of course for the reasons stated. This will result in more relevant RSS updates to the profiles and better backlinks which are more specific to individual sections of content.

Now that you have RSS feeds which are specific to keywords and support your link wheel strategy, you are free to use Feedburner to support your main RSS feed. Just be sure you don’t use Feedburner feeds on external sites. Unless your goal is to increase your FeedBurner subscriber base, which is a valid strategy, you will not be fully supporting your SEO goals.

Have a comment? Add it below!

Editors Note: As pointed out in the comments below, there’s a way to switch off redirection within FeedBurner, which would solve the concerns above. Beyond that, since 2009, Feedburner has been doing 301 redirection for all URLs (FeedBurner Goes 301 All The Way), which means link juice does pass from FeedBurner URLs (and this was an option from before 2009).

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO

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About The Author: is Founder and President of SEO and Social Media at Ignite Visibility, a premier Internet marketing company based in San Diego, CA. You can follow John on Twitter at: @johnelincoln.

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  • Arthur Ray

    There is a solution to this…
    Login to Feedburner -> Click on the analyze tab -> under Services -> Configure Stats -> Uncheck Item link clicks -> Save

    Feedburner will start publishing your actual blog URL

  • http://www.askpavel.co.il/ Pavel Israelsky

    Hi John,

    There’s a way to fix this issue, my feed for example, doesn’t include such URL’s:
    http://feeds2.feedburner.com/israelsky

    Just need to do the following things:
    1. Inside your feed go to “Analyze” –> “Configure Stats”
    2. Uncheck “Item views” + “Item link clicks”
    3. Click on “Save”

    Pavel Israelsky
    http://il.linkedin.com/in/israelsky

  • http://silvery.com Chris Silver Smith

    I can’t agree with the article.

    As the other two above noted, you can get the links in your feed to be unadorned, leaving off the link-tracking.

    Even if you could not, however, the URLs can be set to use a 3rd-level domain of your blog’s domain, such as “feeds.example.com” — and Google has stated that they treat 3rd level domains similarly to directories on the same domain (that is, that they roll them up all under the primary domain).

    Further, the tracked URLs are all set to redirect, using 301s.

    So, Google has set these up with the usual SEO best practices.

    For an example of good setup of Feedburner feed URLs, refer to the RSS feed for Search Engine Land itself.

    I think the issue you’ve identified is if one doesn’t configure the blog and Feedburner optimally.

  • http://www.highrankings.com/seoservicestwitter Jill Whalen

    Sigh. Yet another case of bad/wrong SEO information being touted. Feedburner URLs are 301′s as Chris Silver Smith mentioned above.

    This type of article is why it’s difficult for the avg. client to know who/what to believe.

  • http://www.ianlockwood.net IanLockwood

    One other inaccuracy – isn’t a link wheel when you link from one piece of content published on a third party site to both the page you want to rank and at least one other property page you’ve created? The idea is to pass link juice to other pages that also pass juice to the main page, if you see what I mean.

    The description of a link wheel here is just content marketing/SEO isn’t it!?

    And link wheels, I didn’t think I’d see them mentioned on a trusted site like SELand, it’s 2011 not 2009!

  • http://www.johnelincoln.com/ John E Lincoln

    Arthur Ray and Pavel Israelsky
    An excellent suggestion! Thank you for pointing that out.

    Chris Silver Smith: Great insight! I would like to see a non-301 link or over a 301 link however. Regarding this statement:

    “I think the issue you’ve identified is if one doesn’t configure the blog and Feedburner optimally.”

    This was the main purpose of the post. Thanks for being so kind as to find the value here!

    Some very smart people responding. Thank you for the comments. Much appreciated and encouraged.

  • http://www.adventuresinsearch.com Elisabeth Osmeloski

    @Jill – I’ll call the mea culpa on that, as I didn’t catch / point out the 301 aspect in my review.

    However, I think Chris Silver Smith is keying in on the real point of the article too, which admittedly, could have been clearer – that setting up RSS feeds properly is a key part of getting SEO value out of them.

  • http://www.seorankings.com Wes

    Obviously everyone understand the mis-information about using feedburner. But I would also like to confirm what Ian has already said, which is I think John’s definition of a link-wheel is a bit off.

  • http://silvery.com Chris Silver Smith

    John, it is a good point that there can be advantages of having a plain URL over one that is redirected.

    I believe some Googlers have confirmed that link text keyword weight may degrade a little, as the links pass through redirection (the more redirects the link may have before reaching the final destination URL, the greater the amount of degradation, most likely).

    So, some link juice may “evaporate” a bit due to the redirect, although I tend to believe the effect is very small with a single 301 redirect. (There could be additional complexities as well, such as if the redirect passes to a page that’s on the same top-level domain vs one on a different domain.)

    Even if the evaporation effect is as marginal as I suspect, some webmasters competing neck-and-neck with other sites for SERP rankings might choose to forgo the link-tracking capability in favor of squeezing out every last possible drop of link juice.

  • http://www.adventuresinsearch.com Elisabeth Osmeloski

    @IanLockwood -Personally, I think the concept of “link wheel” is probably a term popularized by a segment of link marketers in an effort to make it sounds sexy and new (for the purposes of your argument, we’ll say in 2009 it became hot)

    But in reality, link wheels may not be that much different from what we’ve been relying on for foundational concepts, aka, “Hubs and Authorities” since the dawn of time in SEO – just ask Link Moses, aka @EricWard, or review Mike Grehan’s 2003 paper on Topic Distillation: http://www.pandia.com/sw-2003/topic_distillation.pdf

    I don’t think it matters whether it’s 2001, 2011 or 2021, if the underpinning of web search algorithms still rely on links, or authority/social votes, search marketers will keep making up new names to sell it, so by any name, the proof is in executing the tactic well, and whether or not it has an influence on search results.

    (That’s what we’ll continue to address on SEL, so to me, if we cover a topic like ‘link wheels’ more in depth, then perhaps we can shed any light on the good/bad/indifferent approaches to them, so people confused by the topic might find clarity)

    But yes, perhaps here, link wheels are referring to content marketing, or article distribution (as they relate to SEO & Traffic), which, if you think about it, is the purpose of putting out (full) RSS feeds.

  • http://www.robbiehodge.com Robbie Hodge

    Wow. This article nearly got everything possible wrong.

    Feedburner is an excellent way to spread your content to users and show off how many subscribers.

  • http://www.johnelincoln.com/ John E Lincoln

    Excellent discussion! Chris and Elisabeth, great insight.

    Re: Link Wheel: Many people throw the term “link wheel” around loosely. However, I believe my definition to be a valid use of the term. I will address this in a in-depth future post to fully flush out the topic.

  • http://www.myrtlebeachwebdesign.com myrtlebeachwebdesign

    I must be missing something in the translation.

    Why would it benefit you to publish the same article 20 times as far as the backlinks to your website? The second or third publishing would be considered duplicate content and ignored by Google…so why would a link have any benefit from that?

    I guess I sort of see it with the way a press release benefits…but I wouldn’t think that would hold true with most anything else. I don’t know what I would think a “link wheel” was, but I wouldn’t have thought that was the definition.

    Color me confused.

  • http://alexjuel.com Alex Juel

    I don’t believe your description of a link wheel to be accurate either. What you are describing is basically syndication, while a link wheel is the process of putting content on various sites, and linking one to the other and eventually closing the “wheel”. For example WordPress > Squidoo > Hubpages >Blogger > WordPress.

  • http://www.johnelincoln.com/ John E Lincoln

    Regarding the 301 issue, Matt Cutts has confirmed that there is some loss of PR through 301s. However, of course there is a benefit from this being implemented. Again, excellent point.

    You are correct that the option exists to disable tracking clicks. This will result in the individual blog URLs reverting to the original URL within the new Feedburner parent structure. The only issue with this is that you loose the option to track clicks. Does suggest certain feeds should be subscriber focused and others specific syndication focused.

    Great comments!

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    Add my voice to that of those who are surprised to see Search Engine Land talking about link wheels (and incorrectly at that). The “wheel” requires a structure where the central or hub page is linked to by all the spokes, which each link to 1 other member of the wheel as well as the hub.

    This is a very well documented spam tactic. It’s completely automated many times over.

    I think this article lends a false credibility to the spam technique, even if there are real-world examples of non-spammy implementations.

  • http://www.webgrowth.biz WebGrowth

    We’ve also forgotten the fact that Google owns feedburner and so access to your data. This data (how many subscribers you have) also contribute to their algorithm so having your rss feed plugged into feedburner is imperative.

    This post has sparked some good conversation :)

  • NIcholas Carpenter

    There are some very innovative link building techniques addressed here. Good food for thought.

  • http://www.bubble-jobs.co.uk/ Amy Edwards

    I agree with Robbie – surely any kind of content syndication is a good thing particularly when it comes to a niche blog? Plus it’s endorsed by Google so how can it be a bad thing? In terms of content duplication, it’s easy to make the content non-searchable for search engines. Just click on both boxes under the ‘No Index’ tab under ‘Publicize’ or use the link rel canonical plug in. 

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com redwall_hp

    “created by Google”

    ??

    FeedBurner was a startup that Google acquired long after it had already gained a wide popularity. They haven’t done much with it, really, aside from fix the uptime issues.

 

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