how to understand the no-follow link issue

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It remains one of the most complex issues for bloggers and publishers to understand. The terms and regulations move constantly, as search engines (namely, Google) develop their algorithms which determine how a site is ranked.

Failing to comply with these regulations could be taken as seriously as removing your website from Google entirely. This is a big issue for the blogging world. Engagement is still viewed as a focal “judgment” factor for brands looking to work with bloggers and the number of comments a blogger receives is part of that same assessment.

There is an argument to say that if a blogger with a tiny website constantly commented (leaving a hyperlink) on more established blog, that they could unfairly jump up the listings pages on Google – hence why so many websites have complete “no follow” rules – Wikipedia as a prime example.

Here is as comprehensive explanation as possible.

What is a “no follow” link?

A “no follow” link is a link which does not allow page ranking to be judged on the connection one website has made to another website. This may be because the website is linking to untrusted content, paid-for content or a website of a considerably smaller size than their own.

Why does the “no follow” tag exist?

The “no follow” tag was developed to stop spammers benefitting from using forums and comment threads to help them improve another site’s ranking.

Essentially this was led by Google. One of the main ways Google ranks a website (rank = orders them in terms of 1-to-1,000,000 in a search listing) is through looking at what other quality websites happily link organically to that site. As the opportunity to freely leave comments or links on other websites grew (for example, the opportunity to comment on Vogue.com and leave a link to your blog) Google needed to create a way whereby websites were fairly ranked and their algorithms were not compromised by spamming of other site’s links.

In the same light, Google enforces that all paid media (advertising and search) is declared “no follow” so that such links do not disrupt with organic search listings.

So are “no follow” links valuable at all?

Yes, they are. No-follow links still allow for natural/organic clicks, eg: a visitor can discover your site through clicking on a no follow link on a website. However, Google won’t acknowledge that behaviour when it crawls the web – so it won’t help your rankings, but it will still help your traffic.

Should I always use “no follow” links?

In the most part it’s entirely up to you. You might want to consider using them on your blogroll, if you link to other bloggers who have smaller followings than your own as it might not help your own ranking. In the same breath, if you see on your analytics that a much smaller blogger is linking to your site it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them to add a no follow tag to the link.

Secondly, Google has recently had a crack down on “advertorial” (advertising – editorial content) on publishers, and it would be fair to assume it views paid contributions on blogs in the same way. So, if you are working on a sponsored post in any format, all of your links should be no follows within that post.

Why would a brand ask you to add no follow links when you talk about them?

It could be that they paid you for content, in which case they are obliged (see above) Or quite simply, your website is much smaller than theirs. Whenever a small site links to a big site, it pulls it down the rankings – as much as a big site linking to a small site pulls it up. Don’t be offended, it makes perfect sense.

How do “no follow” links work on social media?

Google is still working on that. Obviously a huge part of sites like Twitter is the ability to link to other websites. However as Google’s algorithms read a website from the top down, rather than in real time, it’s difficult for them to gain and accurate ranking of anything from Twitter or similar websites. So for now, don’t worry about it too much… However, the big question is affiliates. Currently for example, Reward Style’s Link Ninja tool does not create no-follow links – which arguably it should as the bloggers can earn revenue through the links… Watch this space.

In terms of how to insert No Follow links, we’ll be creating a separate tutorial about the way WordPress do it ASAP. In very simple terms, you need to go into the HTML interface of your blog’s draft post and insert “rel=”nofollow” into each link you want to make a “no follow” link. For Blogger users, it’s easy.  When creating a link simply tick the “Add No Follow Attribute” box option, as below.

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