Nofollow links are important.
No, really, they are!
Ok, I know this article sounds boring already. If you are not familiar with nofollow links, though, I promise you will be happy you spent the time reading this article.
So, as I was saying, nofollow links are important. How important? Like, Google-can-remove-you-from-their-search-results important.
Do I have your attention now? Read on!
What Is A Nofollow Link?
Nofollow links are hyperlinks that have been marked with a special attribute which tells Google not to pass PageRank on to that website.
Ok. What is PageRank?
Here is an easy-to-understand explanation from Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land:
“In a nutshell, [Google] considers links to be like votes. In addition, it considers that some votes are more important than others. PageRank is Google’s system of counting link votes and determining which pages are most important based on them. These scores are then used along with many other things to determine if a page will rank well in a search.”
Got it. So when should I use a nofollow link?
You should add the nofollow attribute to any link that you have been paid to post, or links to websites that you do not trust.
Why does it matter if I pass PageRank to someone who has paid me?
Let’s pretend that you were writing a sponsored post for a company called Bread. They pay you to write a post about their products, and provide you with a link to their website. When you insert Bread’s website link into your post, you are basically telling Google that you are voting for this website. Now when people click the link, it will help boost the PageRank for Bread’s website. Google sees this as cheating, because you were paid to post the link instead of posting it organically.
Selling links that pass PageRank is a violation of Google’s quality guidelines - they refer to it as a link scheme. If Google takes action against your blog, this will have a negative effect on your PageRank. In extreme cases, Google will remove your website from their search engine results altogether.
Yikes! What is considered a link scheme?
This might surprise you, but according to Google’s Content Guidelines a link scheme could include “exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”
But… How Will Google Find Out?
First of all, Google has its own algorithms that search for link schemes. More importantly though, Google actually requires you to disclose if your post has been sponsored, which makes it very easy for them to find paid links that are passing PageRank.
How do I make a link nofollow?
To manually change a link, you need to add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to the <a> tag in your hyperlinks.
Here is an example:
<a href=”http://www.yourwebsite.com/”rel=”nofollow”>Your Website</a>
Isn’t there an easier way to do that?
Blogger has an easy built-in feature that you can use. When you click “Link” you will see a box that allows you to add information like the text to display and the hyperlink URL. On the bottom of the box there is a checkbox that says add ‘rel=nofollow’ attribute. Just click that and you’re good to go.
If you’re using WordPress, you should check out the NoFollowr WordPress plugin. When you are logged into your blog as the administrator, this plugin will show you a green checkmark next to links that are dofollow, and a red circle next to the nofollow links. You can toggle the link from dofollow to nofollow by clicking on the checkmark.
Note: The checkmarks and circles will only show up when you preview a post or look at a published post.
There are other plugins that automatically make every link on your blog nofollow, but I would avoid using these because you want Google to index your internal links (for example, when you link to an older post on your blog).
What should I do if a sponsor doesn’t want me to use nofollow links?
This is a common issue, and I think part of the problem is that some brands don’t understand how PageRank works. If they are concerned that Google will list their website as untrustworthy, or as spam, tell them not to worry. Nofollow links won’t hurt website rankings, they just don’t help raise rankings.
I haven’t been using nofollow links in my sponsored posts… what should I do?
Don’t panic. If you haven’t received an email from Google, then they haven’t noticed yet. The email would say something like:
"Google has detected a pattern of artificial or unnatural links on this site. Selling links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. As a result of unnatural links from your site, Google has applied a manual spam action to your website."
Once you change all of your paid links to nofollow links, you shouldn’t have a problem.
If you have already received a warning, you have to fix all of your links and then submit a reconsideration request to Google. More information about this process can be found here.
Are My Sidebar Ads Nofollow?
In an email interview Clinton Kabler, COO of Riot New Media Group, said “for display ads, ad servers handle the rel=nofollow argument. The link routes through the ad server which automatically applies the rel=nofollow attribute.”
So basically, if you are with a trustworthy advertising network, you probably don’t have to worry about adding nofollow attributes to your ads.
However, Clinton does warn bloggers against using affiliate “buttons” (small ads, usually in the sidebars). He says that while these are a popular advertising method, many of the links do not have the nofollow attribute in the code.
It is important for bloggers to add the code themselves, since these ads aren’t (usually) routing through an ad server.
What about affiliate links, like Amazon Associates? Should they be nofollow too?
Google’s head of their Webspam team, Matt Cutts, has said that Google handles the large affiliate networks on their end, but he also warned that if you’re worried about backlash from these links you should go ahead and make them nofollow links.
What about links in comments?
This one is a bit tricky in general, but I can tell you that WordPress automatically turns links in comments into nofollow links.
I wasn’t sure at first, but when I looked at the source code for my blog I confirmed that the links people have left my comments are nofollow links.
This is a bit controversial because some people believe that links from people you trust shouldn’t be nofollow. There are plugins that you can install which allow you to change comment links to dofollow, if that’s something you’re interested in.
If you have the Comment Luv plugin installed, and you don’t moderate your comments manually, chances are you have a lot of spam links in your comments. If you want to make these links nofollow so you aren’t passing PageRank to them, you need to change a setting in the plugin. For example, you can select that only registered members get dofollow links or nobody does.
I actually prefer to let everyone have dofollow links because I moderate my comments. It’s nice to pass the link “juice” to honest people who have good quality links. Decide what works best for you!
For more information on nofollow links, check out the Google Webmasters channel on YouTube. Matt Cutts has several information videos there, but these are particularly useful in regards to nofollow: Two Questions About Nofollow and Can Nofollow Links Hurt My Site's Ranking?
More great blogging resource articles from Shareba:
Everything Bloggers Need to Know About Nofollow Links was written by Shareba Abdul. Shareba is a food blogger from the GTA. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Applied Arts in Media Studies, a Diploma in Journalism, and has a passion for writing, photography, and blogging. You can check out her yummy discoveries at InSearchOfYummyness.com or connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.