The Increasing Importance of “No Follow” for SEO

Written by Nick Stamoulis

Inbound links that point to your site can be “followed” which means that the search engines consider them as a part of your inbound link portfolio for ranking purposes or “no follow” which means that the search engines see the link, but it doesn’t pass any trust over to your site. A misconception in SEO has always been that nofollow links aren’t worth obtaining. This certainly has never been true since the primary purpose of a link has always been and will always be to generate traffic to your website from interested parties that will convert. Advertising opportunities on the web like banner ads or paid listings are almost always no follow, but work to generate visitors so are worth the investment. In light of recent changes to the Google Webmaster Guidelines no follow links have become an important part of SEO and online marketing in general.

Per the Google Webmaster Guidelines:

Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that violate our guidelines:
• Text advertisements that pass PageRank
• Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
• Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.
• Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
• Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites
• Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites
• Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature

Note that PPC (pay-per-click) advertising links that don’t pass PageRank to the buyer of the ad do not violate our guidelines. You can prevent PageRank from passing in several ways, such as:

• Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the tag
• Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file

Google isn’t trying to say that link building is bad or that you should stop doing it. After all, in order to generate traffic to your website you need to market it and links are the primary way to gain visibility and generate traffic to the site. What Google is stating is that link building should be done in a natural way to gain visitors, not to gain the attention of the search engine spiders. Think about it, how natural is it to link to “Brooklyn NY family dentist”? That’s clearly a link that was created for the search spiders. Actual potential visitors to the site would just assume click on a full URL.

If you plan to continue to utilize keyword anchor text in any of your links, going forward those links need to also include the rel=”nofollow” tag. These types of links are OK in small amounts, but the best approach to inbound linking is to keep it as natural as possible by linking only to the brand/company name in most instances. The rel=”nofollow” tag tells the search engines that the link has been created for brand visibility and to attract visitors, not to manipulate a search ranking.

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