Today, I wanted to spend my lunch time exploring Storium.

I couldn’t remember what is was called and so I Google-d for “online story telling game”. The top ranked entry was Storium’s Kickstarter campaign, with its own website languishing down in fifth place. It occurred to me that all the effort that goes into promoting a successful crowd funding campaigns means that you will probably have an awful lots of links pointing to your campaign’s webpage (in fact, the more the better). Each one of these links will help to boost your campaign upwards in search engine rankings, because Google loves links. While you’re up and running, these are all good things. Out of interest though, I wondered if my now-expired crowd funding campaign for The Magpye Circus would rank, or even outrank, my own pages about the book. I suspected not, as I’d deliberately run the campaign with near-zero promotion as an experiment, but when I couldn’t find it at all, my conspiracy radar pinged.

And, it was right. Conspiracy was ahead. Dead ahead.

If your campaign fails, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo hide it from search engines

I compared successful and unsuccessful campaigns on Kickstarter and IndieGogo. For every campaign that I looked at, if a campaign failed, the webpage for the campaign had the following code embedded in it.

If you’ve never seen one of these before, it’s a meta tag. Its purpose is to tell visiting web browsers and search engines something about the page. The robots directive is specifically for search engines and carries an instruction as to how the website owner would like the search engine to treat this page. noindex means “Do not index this page and remove it from your index if you already have*. According to SEO experts, the site that the page is on will still receive the ranking benefits of that page though. By including this directive, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are effectively asking Google and other search engines to expunge any trace of a failed campaign from their search index, but they’re still happy to guzzle down the “link juice” your campaign generated. Campaigns that are live do not have this meta-tag. Campaigns that were successful don’t have it either. This means that the campaign pages for failed campaigns still exist and can be found using old links or the on-site search on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, but if you’re using Google to search for a campaign you will only find it if it is running right now or it was successful.

Conspiracy Mode: This is a Bad Thing.

This is a bad thing for two reasons.

Firstly, it means that campaigns that fail to reach their goals receive hugely reduced residual benefits from the link building and marketing they do for their campaign. Anyone looking for the campaign is unlikely to ever find it unless they go so far as searching on the right crowdfunding site.

Secondly, it is bad thing because it means that people interested in crowdfunding and who are looking at other people’s campaigns as research are not seeing the full picture. Instead, they are seeing the picture that says “Look! All these people got the money they wanted! These other guys are about the get the money that wanted! YOU CAN HAZ MONEY TOO!” It seems like a cynical move by both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to brush failed campaigns under the carpet, as if these campaigns are somehow shameful and not worthy of still being a part of the overall crowdfunding story. They are presenting a view of campaigns to the search engines that is filtered, and filtered in a way that benefits them.

Non-Conspiracy Mode: This is kind of helpful.

This could of course be a good thing if you’re worried that a failed crowd-funding campaign might be tarnishing your brand moving forward. Like those photos of you skinny dipping in college that somehow went viral, you might prefer it if your old campaigns were consigned, at least in part, to Internet Non-History. For me, however, the keyword there is might. I don’t think this is something that the crowd funding sites should be deciding for themselves. Instead, I would like to see an option in the campaign setup that allows the user to choose whether or not a campaign should remain indexable by search engines after it has been completed, whether it is successful or not.*

I’ve looked, and I can’t find one… Maybe I should start crowdfunding for an indexable web archive of failed crowdfunding projects…