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Caution! rel="nofollow" Discussion

May 16, 2009 / by Travis Winger

What is Rel="NoFollow"caution

The Rel="NoFollow" link attribute made its debut back in January 2005. It was brought to the internet scene by Google to help combat comment spam for blogs and guestbooks. The name implies that search spiders should not follow the link. What it really means is, "don't pass on any rank to the following link" or "don't give any score to this link." The general idea was to limit the exposure comment spam was giving to unrelated and spammy websites. It is NOT used to keep search engines away from certain website pages.

It has since mushroomed to other areas of internet marketing and linking. Google now recommends adding it to paid/advertising links. Others suggest using it on a site's internal links to help manage page rank. Still, many think it is hurting the internet and should be eliminated.

There has been significant confusion over the nofollow attribute for the last few years. What is it? Should we use it? Should I add it to all of the links on my site? Will it hurt my site rank?

Allow me to shed some light on the subject.

When to use or not to use the nofollow attribute:

1. DO NOT use when you have a link to a legitimate and useful website. The internet thrives on links between different sites and pages. Think of a link as a recommendation. With a link from your site to another, you are telling your readers/users the following site is useful. When you add a nofollow attribute to a link, you are effectively removing your endorsement for that webpage.

2. DO USE nofollow for paid links. This is definitely an area of debate. When choosing sides, my money lies with Google. They clearly state, "In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge webmasters to use nofollow on such links."

3. DO USE nofollow on untrusted content, or if you don't want to vouch for content your site is linked to. A great example of this is what nofollow was originally created for, untrusted user comments on blogs and pages. This can discourage spammers from using comment fields in your system. You may decide to remove the nofollow attribute from trusted contributors, and users who are adding value and usefulness to your content. It is common for webmasters to use follow blog comments to encourage more interaction and higher quality comments on their site.

4. DO USE nofollow on links that search engines won't be able to use otherwise, registration or sign in pages.

There will continue to be discussion regarding when and how to use the nofollow attribute. My advice is to follow the recommendations from the search engines. After all, they are using nofollows to help rank content.

Topics: SEO Blog

Travis Winger

Written by Travis Winger

He currently lives in Lehi, Utah with his wife, Stephanie, daughters, Kate and Alexis, and his son Keegan.

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