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Welcome to our first Sphinn "Discussion of the Week"! Today's topic is about links and link-building. The question asks for your thoughts on no-followed links. The search engines -- Google, in particular -- say that these have no value for rankings. But what does your experience tell you? Agree? Disagree? The floor is open!
Comments36 Comments  

Comments

Avatar Administrator
from MattMcGee 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I'll go first this time. :)

I was having lunch with an SEO friend not long ago and we were both sharing stories of how competitors had built up dozens/hundreds of backlinks via blog comments. Not spammy comments, mind you -- actual, real and relevant comments but on blogs where the comment links were no-followed. This appeared to be, in one case, the primary link building method employed. This was in a small town where the person's competition hadn't done much in the way of link building and there wasn't an active "link scene" for Google to rely on as a signal. So, Google seemed to be relying on all these no-followed links as a signal and this company was killing it in the rankings. (Not my site, not my client so I have no idea if those rankings translated to sales, but you get the idea.)

We both agreed that we'd seen this kind of scenario and that, in some cases at least, no-follow links were influencing rankings.

So I'd say that, yes, in some cases where there aren't a whole lot of other ranking signals to use, no-follow links are definitely worth more than Google says. You?



Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Of course they are!


Too many are nofollowing all links, or some links without having a clue as to what they're doing. Google has spent tons of time and energy in learning how to graph links in terms of their popularity and authority. There's no way they would simply ignore all that data becuase a bunch of dopes stuck an attribute on their outgoing (or internal) links for "SEO purposes"!



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from DrPete 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I second Jill. When nofollow abuse got so bad that Google started evaporating PR, then it seems likely that they also started to disregard some nofollow's completely and draw their own conclusions.

From a white-hat perspective, I think you focus on the value of participation first. If I comment on a blog post (and do it in a relevant, thoughtful way), hopefully I get people's attention and some click-throughs. If they like what they see, some percentage of them will link back to me naturally, mention my blog in social media, etc. Eventually the nofollow links will drive followed links, so even if Google changes the rules, I still win.



Avatar Moderator
from Sebastian 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Every link that brings in human traffic is an asset. Also, I agree that some condomized links are "seen" by ranking algos.



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from OlivierAmar 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

On one hand a followed authority link is always better, but on the other the a link is a link is a link applies. Google uses a bunch of markers to judge links. No follow, I think, is more of a warning. That being said, if Google can see the site is relevant, and that the neighborhood is alright then it will carry some sort of weight over. Also, if a site has authority already, and an abundance of links, but they're non anchored, then having anchored nofollow links, in my opinion, will focus the non-anchored links and give the site relevance to queries.



Avatar Moderator
from Realicity 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Dito!  It might be easier to understand NoFollowed Links influence on SERPs if you relate them more to citations in a similar manner to Tweets.



Avatar Moderator
from nickfb76 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

May there be some value to it? Possibly, but if there is value I would think its very minimal.  In the example the Matt talks about it might only take that little bit of value to get a top ranking.  However, if I were to create a page about the keyword topic and point just a couple "valuable" links to it would it easily outrank the site currently dominating number one?

I don't run into many issues with No Follow links as I try to avoid blog commenting as a link building source.  It really seems that when you run into the no follow "issue" it is when your acquiring low level links such as blog comments, forum commenting or possibly paid advertising.

Now the value of a "no-follow" link from a traffic standpoint is another topic...



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from authoritydomains 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

It could be that they have a couple KW rich do-follow links while the competition has really no keyword rich links or quality on page SEO. Could be a million things..hard to say without seeing the actual example.

"This was in a small town where the person's competition hadn't done much in the way of link building"

However, this did get thinking...You know how in Google’s Local algorithm you get credit for citations. I wonder if that is what is going on in the example that you picked.



Avatar Moderator
from toddmintz 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 1

People aren't spamming the heck out of Wikipedia just for the traffic :.)

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from crashingflwrgrl 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Great discussion topic!

In my experience, nofollow means don't follow... not don't COUNT.

Which is why I wouldn't discount a link prospect because it wasn't dofollow. Unfortunately my clients have been conditioned to believe that nofollow links are worthless which makes them a tough sell sometimes :/



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from Mert 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Wikipedia links tend to give a visible PR for the page it links to and help rank the webpage for the title tag and even the content. The link does not seem to carry authority to the whole site though. The theory is that Google wants to use Wikipedia to give credit to the referenced page but not necessarily the whole site.



Avatar Administrator
from dannysullivan 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I'll take a link, any link, regardless if it's nofollow or not. It's a potential visit.

As for whether Google counts nofollow links, I tend to think it does in some cases. I think Google figures out ways on its own to decide if it wants to trust a link. Some links that are "follow" might still get discounted. Some that are "nofollow" might get counted, if Google decides to trust them.

That's my own opinion, pure speculation and I'm pretty sure is 100% opposite of the official Google view.

FYI, here's a good example of where "nofollow" makes no different. Go search for something on Google Realtime search, say "macbook air."

Right now, I get a "Top links" section that lists the official site. Same thing if you search for "samsung galaxy," you get a section like that with two links, one to gameloft.com and one to the LA Times.

Google Realtime search primarily harvest links that are shared on Twitter, where links get nofollow. And yet, Google is counting up all these nofollow links shared on Twitter and calculating which ones are most important, in order to reward them with the Top Links display. So the links in this instance are most definitely being counted -- and my assumption is that the weight of authority of those tweeting them is adding to the ability for the links to do well.





Avatar Moderator
from Sebastian 1406 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Google doesn't scrape links from pages on twitter.com, they get them via a non-HTML interface. They've developed algos to judge the trustworthiness on links in tweets based on other signals. I wouldn't bet that these decisions get changed when later on the same link comes in from an HTML page crawled on a twitter server that condomizes all outgoing links.



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from marcusmiller 1405 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Hey

I would like to think that google does not lie to us and looking at their take on nofollow links they only state that they do not pass page rank or anchor text. So, they do not state that they don't record them, examine them, and use them in other ways.

When examining a site, they could use nofollow links to increase trust, they may use them to look for organic linking patterns and to compare these with any uncapped links. They may even use them to determine if they can trust the anchor text from true links if it is replicated in nofollow links.

So, I am not sure that nofollow links alone can rank a site (I can feel an experiment coming on) as this would mean that google is lying to us all but I think they are certainly part of the bigger picture when it comes to trust of a site and relevance of ranking keywords.

Imagine, if the top 10 discussion sites / blogs etc in your niche all used nofollow links. If company A just had tons of real links from a variety of sources and company B had a tons of real links from other less valued sources but also had a load of links from these topically relevant and important sites.

Seriously, they must be taking these links into consideration as they form part of the bigger picture, but maybe not in the obvious page rank / anchor text ways we may imagine.



Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1405 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I would like to think that google does not lie to us and looking at their take on nofollow links they only state that they do not pass page rank or anchor text.


Surely, you gest?



Avatar Moderator
from Sebastian 1405 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Google doesn't lie here. They just keep their secret sauce, well, secret - by obfuscating facts and distorting common sense. When the crawling team decided that rel-nofollow became utterly useless because way too many overly WH webmasters abused it in fear of the almighty Google God, then the WebSpam team -which invented it- had to follow suit, IOW had to team up with other search quality teams to implement something more suitable, like an algo judging links that doesn't rely on totally unreliable machine-readable hints by webmasters. IOW, condomized links are not a big deal any more. Relax and convert the traffic coming in from links with various values in their REL attributes.



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from andymurd 1405 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I'll happily chase nofollow links - they pass a little PR and plenty of traffic.

I'm pretty sure that pass quite a lot of domain trust too (see Todd's comment about Wikipedia). What I haven't figured out yet is whether Google differentiates between nofollow links in the post text vs nofollow links in comments.



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from Making8 1405 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I seem to recall a video where Matt Cutts specified that a little bit of PR is leaked despite nofollow because of all the PR sculpting going on so one should treat relevant inbound nofollow links with some value whether is .3% or not. I think most of us can agree that we've seen many sites ranking with nofollowed spammy inbound links where in certain circumstances the relevant links were 'likely' considered. I'm not encouraging people to go out and link spam. However, it's apparent that nofollow has equity regardless of PR due to the potentially qualified traffic. One still can't rule out the significance of a well researched article with strongly relevant content. I've noted the significance of recency in posts almost as large a factor in ranking. To suggest that Google's ignoring SERP activity would be a mistake. We all know they're paying attention considering 'Google Instant.'



Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1405 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I seem to recall a video where Matt Cutts specified that a little bit of PR is leaked despite nofollow...

Pretty sure Matt would never have said such a thing. But if you have a link to the video or transcript, that would be great.



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from DrPete 1405 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Matt said links are good and you should get some and stop worrying about whether they're nofollow :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g37bwBlifnk



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from Nunney 1405 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Nofollows have been proven to increase rankings. They have value. How much and when is the interesting question.



Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1405 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Matt said links are good and you should get some and stop worrying about whether they're nofollow

Now that sounds more like something he would say, which is quite different than the other thing allegedly attributed to him!



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from bertifuel 1404 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I still see websites rank for a specific competitive keyword (400.000+ searches a month) in The Netherlands. The website ranking 2 is only using very poor quality linkpages with no PageRank (pages with 10 links on the page with same link text pointing to the same website). Sometimes that result suddenly disappears and then reappears. Spamreports do not help, while it's practices are definitely not according to Google guidelines.

Conclusion: Google isn't really so brilliant in ranking websites and fighting spam as many think, so it doesn't surprise me that building nofollow backlinks with blog comments works perfectly.



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from marcusmiller 1404 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Surely, you gest?
Ha, well, maybe I am an idealist! :) Point I was trying to make is that I don't think that they tell out and out porkers but I think they are economical with the truth and facts. So, whilst they will state that nofollow does not do X & Y, they will keep all the stuff that they do use the link data for under their hat.

Like bertifuel said above, I think they are not as good at some areas as they would like to be so they try to socially engineer webmaster behaviour with the information they divulge.

I think that's an interesting point as well from AndyMurd regarding whether all nofollow links are treated equally.

At the end of the day, good links should should generate visitors through click throughs, raise awareness and do a whole bunch of other jobs so if they also help with the rankings then it's all good.

But... to get back on topic, I do think they help with rankings, just would love to know the specifics of how. I have a few virgin domains if anyone wants to spend a little time working together on an experiment.

Have a good weekend folks.



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from tireguy 1404 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I am glad to be following this convesation and wanted to add my 2 cents. I have chosen to ignore the no follow aspect like it does not exist. It has not hurt me in any way. Did it help me? It is really hard to say. My philosophy is this. If Google tells us abot no follow to drastically cut down on spam then this is great. If Google wants to keep people believing that no follow links have no value then spam will continue to be cut down. The Govt tells us there is no such thing as UFO's. Is there?



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from pavankat 1401 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I think there's been a great conversation on this page. Something I'm surprised no one is talking about is competitive analysis. When I'm doing the keyword research part of a seo campaign for a client, I always make sure to see exactly what the competition is doing. What I mean by that is I look at the meta tags, title tags, outbound links, inbound links,  keyword density, number of links, number of links with no follow, number of links with do follow, number of links with keyword phrase in the anchor text, number of back links with url in the anchor text and page rank of the back links of the top 5 competitors for a keyword phrase that a client might want to go after. I use all of that information to develop a campaign for the client to one up the competitors. If I see a competitor with a ton of no follow links with a number one ranking, I'll know to keep that in mind when developing the client's campaign.

No follow links do contribute to a client's rankings on Google - although I'm not sure how, it's important to remember that SEO is a very multi dimensional creature and needs to be attacked at many different angles. If a competitor for a keyword phrase has a ton of no follow links from high page ranked websites, put that in your client's campaign to do list.



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from seobusiness 1401 Days ago #
Votes: 0

They definitely count, anyone who looks at backlink profiles or runs their own sites should know this by now :)


What's alarming is the impact they have sometimes when *I* don't think they should. A client of ours, ranking top 2 for their keyword for over 5 years got overrun by a brand new site with only nofollow comments from unrelated sites. They've been 1 spot ahead for 4 months now and they're starting to take over the long tails.




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from mrbleeuz 1401 Days ago #
Votes: 0

As much as i read and come to know that google don't count No-follow link. But if there is a heavy traffic on that landing page(back link) google count it. I mean if you have a back link at wekipedia it will be count by google. Thanks for sharing much informative discussion topic.



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from Chande 1400 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Blog and forum commenting IS a good strategy to start early on, when you don't have enough valuable links. Google sees them more as a social graph IMHO. I believe that these are valuable links even if they attract one person in your industry/topic and then spread the word. Here I am not talking about automated comment spam. After you "pollute" your link graph, you can easily start doing directory link building, article submissions, press releases and so on. In the end, if your link graph is strong and diverse, few paid links couldn't hurt on the top of your link pyramid, right? ;)



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from bmitchell 1399 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I have wondered about this.  I go for the fact that I may get a hit off any comment I post.  As long as you are doing things the right way, you will be rewarded for your efforts.



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from j21media 1399 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Again I am unsure because I would like to think no follow means no follow i.e. it is discounted. However I think this isnt the case and I think that they certinally are counted and do add a little value. I would say they are definitely not got as much weight as do follow obviously but I think they do help especially in decent numbers.



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from EwanKennedy 1374 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Without any evidence, I resort to common sense and my common sense tells me it would make no sense (!) for nofollowed links to be disregarded entirely for ranking purposes. And even if there were any evidence that they are currently discounted completely, nobody can be sure this will always be the case.



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from JMagary 1373 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Given the sheer amount of spammers who continue to post comments on my blog and (i'm sure) many others, there must be some ranking value to these links...  surely they are not expecting traffic from these links, so there must be a small SEO effect making it worth their while..


removed unnecessary link drop

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from Doc2626 1370 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I am certain that nofollow links can convey value. However, I have been of a mind that it was a matter of authority/trust, as opposed to pagerank. I recently saw a blogpost where it was claimed that they erected a virgin site, and were able to achieve PR2 within two or three months, receiving nothing but nofollow links (seems to me that it was in 2009). I couldn't locate that blogpost, but I did find this, which claims somewhat similar results:

http://www.socialseo.com/blog/an-experiment-nofollow-links-do-pass-value-and-rankings-in-google.html



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from ofeakins 1369 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I agree. i think there are many benfits no follow links. Google would have to crazy not to count no follow links on authority sites like Wikipedia or a no follow tag on someone's youtube chanel that has hundreds or thousands of view or backlinks. After all, isn't the whole purpose of linkbuilding to create a natural backlink profile? Wouldn't that include no follow links?



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from MagsSikora 1363 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I agree with @dannysullivan (I wrote a blog post about it a few months ago (http://magstags.com/new-seo-wordpress-seo/google-no-follow-whatever/) called Google No Follow? Whatever!:)

In my opinion, nofollow links really might work for you, and here are the example:


a) Links from social networks: all of them have links with nofollow attribute yet those websites are on the top of popularity rankings. Also we recently found out about Google's approach to those links. As Danny mentioned: "Google is counting up all these nofollow links shared on Twitter and calculating which ones are most important, in order to reward them with the Top Links display". Also, by being social media aware and by using social media sites or blog, a company or brand or just you- an individual can:

  • raise awareness & build social connections
  • generate higher traffic
  • build up brand equity & reputation

And all of that obviously equals higher Growth and Profits.


b) links from reputable niche blogs- by sharing your knowledge and experience, you create an online presence and get very high QUALITY traffic (that means low bounce rate traffic- their users already share the same interests).

So don't worry about nofollow, think about them as "frendly" links:)



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