You might have seen articles splattered all over the internet a couple of weeks ago, about how a bunch of bloggers got in trouble with Google for receiving free products and putting links on their website. If you missed it, you can find out all about the drama here.
What exactly does this mean? Well, here’s a little lesson on SEO… Google determines who should rank #1 in the search results by using algorithms that use more than 200 ranking signals. One of the most important ranking factors is links.
Starting to make sense, why you receive all those emails asking if you to review a product and link to their website? The link acts like a little endorsement. Google figures, if someone is linking to them, they should gain a bit of authority. Obviously, some websites have more to give more ‘link juice’, ‘equity’, whatever you want to call it.
What an easy way to manipulate search engines! Just send a load of products to all the bloggers you can find, and you’ll rank at the top. Once again, putting those with the biggest budgets at the top of the results, with likely bias ‘paid’ review. Surely Google wouldn’t be cool with this?
What is a nofollow link?
Google introduced the rel=”nofollow” tag back in 2005 to fight against spammy blog comments that were attempting to trick their ranking. Nofollow is a value that can be assigned to the rel attribute of an HTML a element to instruct some search engines that the hyperlink should not influence the ranking of the link’s target in the search engine’s index.
A no follow link is created with the nofollow link HTML tag, which looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.website.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a>
What does that mean?
Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behaviour that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
- Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.
If you are caught violating Google guidelines, they can penalise your website for spammy activity and push you down in the Google results, or worse – kick you off completely!
When do I nofollow and declare posts?
When you’re receive emails left, right and centre from guest blogging services, it’s hard to know what ‘best practice’ is. It’s really easy. You should always declare to your readers when you’ve received something for free. It’s just courtesy – wouldn’t you like to know if someones views are bias? I see a lot of bloggers say that they always write an honest post, whether it was given to them or not and I completely understand that, but it doesn’t hurt to be transparent.
If you’ve been persuaded by any way to give a link, whether it’s money, vouchers or a free product, you should nofollow the link. The brand will still benefit from brand awareness when you share your post with all your followers, but it won’t manipulate Google, putting both your blog and their website at risk.
When people hear about nofollow links, they realise their blog is at risk and go a little crazy. They then start nofollowing every link on their website or worse, installing a plugin that nofollows EVERYTHING. Just stop – this isn’t necessary and will just make things worse.
Do not nofollow internal links. Internal linking is super important for increasing your visibility in search engines, and I won’t go into it too much right now, but to put it simply: you want to keep the ranking power of your pages flowing around your site.
How can I see if a link is nofollow?
Simply right-click on page element and select Inspect Element. (If you can’t see this, open the Chrome menu at the top-right of your browser window, then select Tools > Developer Tools and ensure you have enabled the feature). This will show you the source of the page, and you will be able to see if the nofollow attribute appears in the HTML.
You can download a Nofollow extension in Chrome which will outline links with rel=”nofollow” attribute and links on pages with nofollow or noindex robots meta tag with red ants.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.