Why is Google ignoring over 400,000 backlinks to DockYard?

By: Brian Cardarella

Imagine our enthusiasm when the opportunity to add hundreds of thousands of backlinks from one of the web’s most popular library hosting websites back to our domain came our way. And imagine our surprise when Google decided they meant nothing.

Back in November we launched the redesign of RubyGems.org. We were contacted by RubyCentral about 9 months prior. I was interested in this opportunity for three reasons:

  • It gave DockYard the opportunity to give back to the Ruby community, one that has been so pivotal to our growth early on (and one that has been pivotal to my growth as a professional engineer for nearly 10 years)
  • DockYard can show off its design talents to the community
  • DockYard would get a “Designed By” sponsor link at the bottom of every page.

This blog post is going to explore the third reason and the result of this over the past two months.

At the time of launch RubyGems.org had over 90,000 gems published. This meant a sponsor link at the bottom of every page that was backlinking to DockYard.com. In addition to the landing page and the other static pages. This was an appealing value to gain from a re-design effort. According to Google’s own backlink search DockYard had only 65 pages linking back. This struck me as odd considering this blog itself links back to DockYard.com and there were more than 65 posts. But surely after the redesign this number should go up. Our estimated PageRank was 5.

After the redesign we saw the expected spike in traffic

Checking in on the referrals we can see that to date we have received over 600 referrals from RubyGems.org. I’m OK with these numbers as I never expected everyone to be clicking on those links.

However, what did shock me was that none of these backlinks were being counted by Google.

The sponsor link does not have a nofollow attribute. And I admit that SEO is not something I’ve very good at. But if I were to look at another backlink source such as ahrefs


You can clearly see the spike in referring pages. A huge jump from nearly nothing to over 400,000. The bottom graph shows that these are primarly DoFollow links.

So these backlinks aren’t being counted by Google? Does Google only count one domain per backlink? Color me confused. I suspect we’re doing something wrong on our end to not get any credit. Could it be that such a huge spike in backlinks are flagged as suspicious by Google? I’d appreciate any thoughts in the comments.