Apr
02

The NoFollow Tag Conspiracy

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Do no-follow tags actually help or hinder your search engine efforts?

Last year, SEOMoz surveyed SEO professionals and one of those questions mirrored the one above. And the findings were interesting.

50% of respondents stated that no-follow tags help a web site, 40% said no and 10% where undecided. Although this stat doesn’t seem too surprising, the no-follow tag has been one of the most questions SEO techniques.

What is the nofollow tag?

The html for a link is something like the following:

<a href=”http://www.webhostmagazine.com”> Web Host Magazine!</a>

The nofollow tag looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.webhostmagazine.com” rel=”nofollow”>Web Host Magazine!</a>

The nofollow tag on the surface means that any search engine spiders who see this URL should not follow it to the page its on. However, this is not the case with most search engines.

Google

Yahoo!

MSN

Follow Link?

Yes and No

Yes

Yes

Index the linked page?

No

Yes

No

Shows the link exists?

Not from the no follow link

Yes

Yes

Link adds to the page’s rank?

No

No

No

The above graph shows the general rules for the nofollow tag.  Google has stated that they do not follow the nofollow link but many SEOs have show that they do. Yahoo and MSN follow the links , show that the link exists and Yahoo! will even index pages that can only be found via a nofollow page. However, all three major search engines will not include the nofollow links in their page ranking algorithms. So it is generally agreed upon (at least amongst the top search engines) that nofollow links will not give points to pages.

Seems easy enough, why the debate?

It is more of a ideological debate for the most part. Sites have a form of currency and that currency is the direction of traffic and more importantly search engine ranking to other sites via links. Well if a site is not good enough to get that ranking from the link you are giving them why post the link at all?  Some say the nofollow tags when used in linking sites is a dastardly horrible thing to do. Not just for the other sites, but for your readership as well. The use of nofollow shows a lack of trust between yourself and the other site and if you do not trust them why should your audience?

Those in favor of nofollows for external sites call this downright nonsensical. Maybe the site is good, but you would rather push ranking to others. Personally I am not going to argue either viewpoint. Either you think its fine or you don’t, that is up to you to decide. What I am more interested in is….

Are there any good uses for nofollow?

I’m glad you asked because there is one extremely good use for nofollow. Links within a site also pass ranking. This internal ranking moves from page to page and helps to tell Google which pages are important and which aren’t. Those that are important (via the link system) receive higher Page Rank then the lower to non-important ones. In order to maximize the Page Rank on your important pages you need to use the nofollow tag.

“Use nofollow tags to reinforce important pages on
your site to the search engines.”

Say you have a page than links to five other pages. One of those pages is important, one is not important but you want it indexed and the other three are completely unimportant. Add nofollow to the unimportant ones. Now you have ranking going to just two pages concentrating the the rank juice as it were. Since you still want the one page indexed then you would look at other pages that point to it. You see that it has one other link so you make the first link nofollow and leave the second link as it. The unimportant page only receives one link for scoring, but that link allows it to be indexed by all search engines.

Heck its possible to sculpt your site by having a site map with normal tags linked to all of your nonimportant, but want to be indexed pages. Have on normal link to that site map then set all other links tht nonimportant pages to nofollow.

So nofollow may or may not be bad for external links, but it is definitely good for internal ones.

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