Friday, February 02, 2007

Do You Follow or No Follow?

“Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” ~ Albert Camus, French Novelist & Playwright, (1913-1960)
Your web site needs other relevant sites linking into it, among other things, for you to rank high in the search engine. As such, acquiring these so-called "back links" should be a key piece of your Search strategy.

I believe in acquiring links organically... use your content via syndication and the building of affiliates to get your back links. Don't buy links or participate in link schemes.

AND don't waste your time getting reciprocal links. They don't help you, in fact, rumor has it that Google has incorporated within their algorithm something which seeks out reciprocal links as well as link networks. These would down grade your site.

But some reciprocal links are normal and a part of business, right?

So in that case… the question is… should you use the "no follow" attribute to ensure that the search engines don't assume the link was obtained for the artificial purpose of trying to improve search rank?

Hmmm... First, if you don't know, what is "no follow?"

The no follow tag (rel="nofollow") has been adopted by Google, Yahoo, MSN and the other major and minor search engines as a way to thwart spam. The no follow tag was originally created for bloggers who were being spammed in the comments areas with multiple ads for pharmaceuticals, home loans and porn ads.

It was never defined as a means to telling search engines not to actually "follow" the link. It was more a way to say that you don't endorse the link. In other words, you are telling the engines to ignore it. Or perhaps... ignore the reciprocity?

Wikipedia just announced they were adding "no follow" to all outbound links. Thus taking away the incentive to use Wikipedia for spam AND greatly increasing the ranking of Wikipedia, at the cost of every other site on the internet. In other words they get points for the inbound link but don't leak any of their PageRank back out to the linking site.

Hmmm... That's either cheating or brilliant... I'm not sure.

How do you use this tag?

Simple, just add rel="nofollow" to the hyperlink. For example someone posts:

a href="">discount doggie site.

That link cound be changed to:

a href="" rel="nofollow">discount doggie site.

So why not do a reciprocal exchange but then attach the "no follow" to your partners’ link to avoid your site potentially getting penalized?


Some aggressive marketers are doing this now. Is it worth testing?

I don't think so… because there is a down side… and its call dishonesty.

In a reciprocal link exchange, you're not only trading traffic with another website but Page Rank as well. If you place a "no follow" tag on the text link of one of your reciprocal partners, it says you don't trust them enough to endorse the link. If that is the case, then why do the exchange at all?

It's also cheating your partners. They are giving up Page Rank in good faith that you'll do the same… when in fact you are depriving them of this. It's fraud. There is no exchange here. AND it's happening all over the web.

I'm writing about this today not to advocate the use of the "no follow" tag... not at all. But I think you need to know it exists and understand that every partnership you acquire, every link you think you have going to your site could be a illusory.

You need to protect your site from link partners who might be using "no follow" to cheat you. You'd be surprised how aggressive some marketers are and how some are willing to go into "black hat" or rather "gray hat" territory - charcoal gray - to improve site listings.

How do you stop this?

Choose good partners, and do your due diligence. Searching the source code on the link page where potential link will appear can tell you quickly if the no follow tag is being used or not.

It's all about credibility, don't you think?