Hi friends! Today I’ll be talking about a current hot topic in the blogging world – nofollow links. Over the last couple months I have seen lots of questions pop up around nofollow links and this picked up even more after Google sent out some Unnatural Outbound Links notices a couple of weekends ago. So let’s buckle up and tackle the subject, shall we?
WHAT ARE NOFOLLOW LINKS?
Before we talk about nofollow links, we need to do a quick brush up on how search engines work – otherwise, nofollow links will make zero sense.
In order to create an index that spews out results when people do searches, search engines (aka, Google, Bing, Yahoo) must first crawl the web. This basically means that they send out crawlers / spiders / bots to “read” websites and then take back what they find to their home base so it can be indexed. Search engines aren’t all knowing – they only know about the websites that are submitted to them or that they find through links during crawling.
By default all links are “do follow” links. This means that when a crawler / spider / bot lands on a website and finds a link, the little guy goes through that link to crawl that other website – they follow the link.
So, as the name suggests, nofollow links are links that have a tag that tells crawlers “Hey! Don’t follow this link. Stop right there, do not crawl this other website”.
WHY THEY MATTER
Let’s think about SEO really quick. One of the things we are always being told is to have links that bring people back to our website. The more your website is linked to by other websites, they better ranking your website will have.
So when you make a link a nofollow link, what you’re doing is telling search engines not to count that link as +1 for that website’s ranking.
Okay but WHY DOES IT MATTER?! Back in the day when it became known that links were a ranking factor, people started playing the system by paying others to include links to their websites.
Think about it – if you need more links to rank better, what easier way to get those links very quickly than by paying people, right? Well, search engines caught on to this and nofollow links became a thing.
WHY + WHEN SHOULD YOU USE NOFOLLOW LINKS
So when should you use nofollow links? Google specifies three situations when nofollow links should be used –
- Untrusted content
- Paid links
- Crawl prioritization
While all those situations matter, paid links are the ones bloggers really need to focus on.
Search engines want to give the best, most valuable results to their users so of course they don’t want people play the system. They want you to link, link away but they also want to know when those links are genuine links and when they are not.
Other than simply asking you to use nofollow links, search engines – and specifically Google – have a very powerful tool to encourage proper linking. Google will penalize your site if you don’t use nofollow links on unnatural (paid) linking. Meaning, your site will NOT show up in searches. Bye, bye search engine traffic.
WHAT ARE PAID LINKS ACCORDING TO GOOGLE?
The list is larger than you probably think so buckle up, buttercup.
- Traditional paid links: when you are paid to place a link on your site.
- Sponsored posts: any links you include in a sponsored posts.
- Affiliate links: any links where you will earn a commission (payment) if someone buys something after clicking on that link.
- Pay per click links: links where you are paid when someone clicks that link.
- Link exchanges (blog hops, roundups with arranged with other bloggers): this is seen as reciprocal linking (I link to you, you link to me) and therefore a gain -> payment.
- Guest Posting: this one is a tricky one, most guest post create natural linking. However, Google warns against “large scale guest posting campaigns”.
- Links to companies who sent you something: products are compensation, therefore a paid link.
What does this mean for you, the blogger? It means that every time you add a link to a post that falls under one of those “paid” categories, you must make that link a nofollow link.
Writing a review about a product a company sent you and including links to said company? Nofollow links. Writing a “resources” posts with affiliate links? Nofollow it! Writing a paid posts? Nofollow those links too.
And here’s the thing – you will have companies email you offering a paid posts but it’ll say “we require that all links are do follow” links. Now, most companies know this is bad practice, but there are still sneaky ones out there. Do not do it. The $200 the brand will pay you is not worth pissing off the Google machine, trust me.
SO HOW DO YOU MAKE A LINK A “NO-FOLLOW” LINK?
It is honestly one of the easiest things you will ever, ever do. Some people will recommend you install plugins to add those nofollow tags, however, I say lay-off the plugins. What happens if the plugin breaks? All of the sudden those paid links will be “do follow” links and The Google will be mad. Better to just do it the right way to begin with.
All you have to do is add rel=“nofollow” to your links!
If you’re on WordPress, hop on over to the “Text” editor in the upper right corner of the post editor. If you’re on Blogger, click over from “Compose” to the “HTML” option on the upper left corner of your post editor.
Locate your link, it should look something like this –
<a href=“http:www.linktobrand.com” target=“_blank">Brand Name</a>
after adding the nofollow tag, it should look like this –
<a href=“http:www.linktobrand.com” target=“_blank” rel=“nofollow">Brand Name</a>
If you’re on Squarespace, instead of using a regular link block, you’ll need to use a code block and enter the link as I showed above.
What if you got an Unnatural Links Penalty notice?
One of the reasons NoFollow links are such a hot topic right now is due to “Unnatural Links Penalty” notices that Google sent out during early April.
What the notice means is that during crawling, Google noticed you added links that should be NoFollows but weren’t.
You will need to go through and look at your links on paid posts – remember this even include posts where you’re reviewing a product. Receiving a product = payment. This can be seriously tedious work, specially if you’ve been blogging for a while and have lots of posts. If you’re on WordPress, you have some plugin options like Outbound Link Manager, but beware that this is a seriously outdated plugin and if it stops working, you’ll still need to do everything manually.
After you’ve looked over all of your links and added the necessary nofollow tags to them, you’ll have submit a request for reconsideration through Google Webmaster Tools. In your request, you’ll need to explain what you did to address the problem (added tags, etc). Please know that it can take anywhere from a couple days to a week or more to hear back from them.
Phew, that was a lot and hopefully I covered all the questions you have about Nofollow links but if there are any lingering questions, make sure to leave a comment!