No-follow Links

Hostway Marketing - April 19, 2010

By Monique Martin

If you’ve ever seen someone post a completely unrelated, spammy URL in the comments section of a blog or online article, you’ve seen the reason for no-follow links. Fighting spam is an uphill battle. The no-follow attribute is one of the tools in a Webmaster’s arsenal to help them keep their hard-earned PageRank from leaking out to spammers.

What Is a No-follow Link?

One of the most important parts of Google’s PageRank algorithm is inbound links. The more inbound links you have from highly ranked sites the better. Spammers realized that they could get inbound links to their sites by posting in the comments section of a popular Web site and leach some PageRank. The bots would follow the links from the popular site to the spammer’s site and reward them for quality inbound links. A no-follow link tells the bots not to follow the link. That keeps the spammers from reaping the reward of any transferred PageRank.

The rel=”nofollow” attribute was originally created by Matt Cuts of Google and Jason Shellen of Blogger.com to stop spammers from abusing the comments section of blogs. At first nofollow was a meta tag that instructed the search engines not to follow any links on a page. The rel=”nofollow” tag was created to give Webmasters more control. By using this tag, they can assign nofollow to specific links on a page and allow others to be followed.

The “rel” attribute shows the relationship between the original document and the linked document. It’s designed to be read by search engines. The attribute is not supported by browsers, so it doesn’t affect the user experience.

How Should I Use No-follow?

There are several different ways a Webmaster might want to use no-follow links.

  • Affiliate advertising: If you have any paid links on your site, it’s a good idea to use the no-follow attribute. To keep paid links from unduly influencing PageRank, Google suggests Webmaster use no-follow for all paid links.
  • Untrusted content: If there are parts of your Web site that have content you can’t vouch for, like a comments section or guestbook, using no-follow links can stop spammers from leaching your hard won PageRank. You can always remove the no-follow tags from specific posts that you feel have value.
  • Crawl prioritization: Google recommends that you use the no-follow attribute for links that serve no purpose for a bot to follow, like sign-up or registration pages. But, they point out that a well-designed site with strong architecture doesn’t have to worry as much about wasting a bot’s time.

No-follow links are an important part of any Webmaster’s spam-fighting arsenal. You’ve worked hard to earn your site’s PageRank. No-follow links are just one of the ways you can keep it and kick spammers to the curb.

About the Author

Monique Martin served as chief operating officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.

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