No Follow Links – what are they and how should you use them?
For bloggers, the world of Google algorithms is important even if you have no idea how it works! Unfortunately Google has no idea if you are innocently doing the wrong things, so there are no kid gloves.
Like most bloggers I have been approached many times with offers for sponsored posts, and I have been turning them away until I had a chance to learn best practice.
Luckily I am surrounded by some very smart and knowledgeable people in SEO land!
This is where I introduce you to Myles Harris, a freelance Digital Consultant specialising in WordPress.
Q: What are “nofollow” links?
Myles: Nofollow links are hyperlinks on your website that you have made unfollowable to search engines. This means that search engines such as Google will not give that link a vote or credit that assists with rank from your website.
Q: Why are they so important?
Many years ago, Google had the theory that a back link from a website was a vote of confidence to the site that was linked to. The more back links you had from other sites, the higher you’d rank. Unfortunately this got abused via such methods as buying back links.
Ultimately, Google is after high quality natural content. It is what keeps people Googling for answers. It does not want to be a feed of cookie cutter press releases.
Google is gradually pulling this apart and really cracking down on those who have and still are abusing this. Unnatural linking is a big focus, for example a florist site writing a blog about cheap hotels, with cheap hotels actor text is a very obvious form of a unnatural back link.
However, some of us are getting paid by companies to put their content on your site. These often come with back links that must be inserted into relevant anchor text. This is one method a company will use to get their back links up. This is just another form of a paid back link.
One way (for now) you can help yourself on not being bitten by Google is to make these links, ‘nofollow’ which is not giving a vote to the site in search engines.
Google has a team lead by Matt Cutts dedicated to search quality, which means to you a team to ensure the best search results by removing those who are abusing the system and therefore are a low quality result for the query given. With Google’s abuse notifier, there is even more risk of being caught.
Q: When should you use a “nofollow” link?
Myles: When a back link is unnatural, meaning a link to something or someone who has nothing to do with the topic of your website or that the article is about.
You’ll know when it is unnatural because you will have intent to link to a site for SEO purposes, rather than providing useful information with a useful relevant link.
Footer links: The most obvious, and one Google has recently mentioned, are links to your web design company on your footer. This often has nothing to do with the topic of your website.
Portfolios: This has also been mentioned. There is no need for a voting link to a client of yours.
Paid Articles: Most of us have done one at some point. After all some of us need the income and especially when we are starting out, this can be exciting and handy. However, the companies that give you an article have often used the same text, same actor text etc. If you have a lot of these (or any for that matter), you can ‘nofollow’ the links in those articles. I personally see these articles as short term gain, long term pain.
Guest Blogs: Google Authorship has been created for exactly this reason, and that article will rank higher. Guest blogging is abused for the back link alone. You’ll find in WordPress, quality author plugins as well as WordPress itself has ‘nofollow’ already on author sections. It may be a bit of extra work to get a new user set up with Google Authorship but the reward and peace of mind is worth it.
Off topic links, if the text is the same for many sites around the web, Google is penalising this as well.
Q: How do you make a link “nofollow”?
Myles: For WordPress it is relatively easy, here is a simple 3 step tutorial:
1. In WordPress, link a phrase or word (a.k.a. anchor text) to a website. You can see below the phrase ‘retire in 12 months’ is hyperlinked.
2. Click the “Text” tab on the top right. You will see the html version of your page/post.
You will also see the HTML version of the link you just created.
3. Insert rel=”nofollow” after the link URL to make it no follow.
Q: Will bloggers being penalised for paid links/sponsored posts? Do you have any tips?
Myles: Yes, my tip is to do as the search engines say. If you want to be indexed by their search engine, play by their rules. Same goes for any website you are on, play by the rules of the website. Do not try to “beat google”, you will invariably get bitten. How much is that worth to you? 5 years of blogging to be de-ranked to nothing overnight?
Think long term and ask yourself, is this for the benefit of my readers and for search engine quality? Do you do what you do with “non-manipulative” intent for the search engines?
Be genuine and produce truly useful content for your readers. That is what search engines like Google ultimately want.
All in all, to avoid the wrath of Google produce genuinely helpful content for your chosen audience.
Educate yourself on Google and Bing’s Webmaster tools systems. These tell you what is wrong with your site according to their eyes.
Myles Harris is a freelance Digital Consultant specialising in WordPress.
He has kindly offered to respond to questions about nofollow in the comments so ask away!
And don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @millionsofmyles