The Idiocy of Nofollow Abuse & Link Hoarding

Jul 7th

Recently it was noted that Business.com started using nofollow on many of their outbound links. If you don't trust the content of a site then why link to it at all? To list it on your own site and then put nofollow on it is to say that you don't trust your own content. Which is especially stupid. And perhaps the quickest way to become irrelevant, if you are an editorial listing company.

It turns out they were likely using nofollow on the free listings to some of the higher quality sites, which in turn means that the links without nofollow are pointing at sites that are on average of lower quality than the sites they added nofollows to.

If I was a CRM company I would think that on average a link from a page that links to Salesforce.com is worth more than than a page that does not. If I was a software company I think that on average a link from a page that links to Microsoft.com is worth more than a page that does not.

I think it muddies their credibility. A lot. Think of the quality of their site from a search engineer's perspective

Oh, the only links they left live were the low quality ones. Outbound link authority nuked. Next.

A site which uses nofollow on most of their quality outbound links also reduces their outbound good link to bad link ratio. Even if search engines still counted Business.com links I think the loss of quality outbound links hurts their authority far more than whatever gain someone gets from having a link on a page with fewer links on it.

Published: July 7, 2006

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Comments

July 7, 2006 - 7:52am

I think nofollow is just a way to say "screw you" to spammers and seo folks. Sad they are mentioned in the same sentence. With the release of Wordpress 1.2, Wordpress made it easy to add nofollow to comments on every post which is what it was created for.

July 7, 2006 - 7:55am

Sorta a shame that at one point in time Wordpress.org was probably one of the top 100 spammiest sites on the web.

August 1, 2007 - 4:59am

I hear the words 'spammer' an 'legitimate SEO' thrown around alot. Typically speaking, I think all SEO produces some SPAM as you are inevitably taking some of the vote away from another resource which could be of more value.

The fact that "no-follow" is removing the vote of the non-web-author public means that part of the population can no longer say 'this is the page we think is relevant'.

w529
July 7, 2006 - 2:14pm

I should had that business.com looks nothing more than a sophisticated made for adsense site with 3 blocks of adsense advertise (everything under sponsored links). The only difference with home made for adsense sites is that they are big advertiser so they take the "goooogle ads", really shity site don't spend $199 on a link there.

July 7, 2006 - 3:01pm

I agree. Even if you were selling links, shouldn't the links be related? So, why use the no follow? Oh, wait... because of PR. But, I thought PR doesn't matter much any more. So, why bother?

July 7, 2006 - 5:56pm

It's definitelty a question of ethics. 'Nofollow' tags should be reserved for User-Generated Content, and almost never editorial citations. Business.com deserves to be called out, especially by the sites to which they link, as not playing by the accepted rules.

Maybe the search engines will sort this out and that would be its own penalty, but that is yet to be seen. Linking is the currency of the web; adding a 'nofollow' to editorial content is shortchanging the content creator.

Webmaster T
July 7, 2006 - 6:34pm

Nofollow, or, as it's known around here, "lazy link analysis" is another bad idea that creates more problems then it cures, especially for directories.

It's not a bad idea for blogs where spammy links are a major problem, because for the most part many are unreviewed or monitored, however, it puts directories in a bad spot. They are damned if they do, what's the point in paying if the only benefit is traffic, which, show me any site with even 10% of it's referrers being directories and I'll rest my case, and if they don't use nofollow and happen to link to a bad address or one that is in turn linked to a bad address their pages drop from the index. That is my problem with the current Google link algo and it's insistence on publishers doing their work for them with the nofollow.

So in the end the directory has to decide whether a link with no compensation is worth the risk. IMO, that is the decision that business.com came to. One which I agree with and think calling this link hoarding etc. and slagging business.com for covering its a**e is just not fair if anyone is in the wrong it is Google for:

A) leaning on one algorithm so heavily especially when gaming it is childs play for even an SEO beginner. It's one of the big contributors and one of the reasons I hold Google directly responsible for the proliferation of "wannabe SEO's" in the industry. IMO, knowledge of how things work beyond linking is becoming less of an advantage and barrier to participating in the industry.

b) making it almost impossible for directories to not link to bad neighborhoods. It is assinine for Google to hold a directory responsible for who their listings
link to. That is not part of a normal site review, spam on the listing? To some degree, but, if the bad neighborhood is linked to after the review are directories expected to monitor this forever?

C) Expecting others to do link analysis for them

In the case of business.com if they reviewed the site and included it then... I assume it is trusted

Google especially, and other SE's are epecting others to do their work for them. It's a BS tag and when it is supported by W3C as an attribute of the href then it should be considered, but, until then it's a case of Google and SE's having the ability to make up the rules as they go. We all know how that usually works out!

July 7, 2006 - 8:17pm

Is this something new??? I have seen business.com using redirects for almost a year now. Am I missing out on something or did the SEO comunity just realize that they were doing this?

July 7, 2006 - 10:09pm

Aaron isnt nofollow a reasonibly good way to keep SE's from associating any ype of link with your domain. I have used nofollow on affiliate links like clickbank links or banners so my site isnt considered simply an affiliate product promoting site.

Sue
July 7, 2006 - 10:42pm

What if I own a network of sites that are related and I want my visitors to visit them all. For example, suppose I own 4 websites about: cake decorating, cake mixes, wedding cakes, cake recipes. If I link to my own sites within my network even though they are related topics without using nofollow, isn't that against the SEs policies and considered spam-ish?

July 8, 2006 - 4:51am

Is this something new??? I have seen business.com using redirects for almost a year now. Am I missing out on something or did the SEO comunity just realize that they were doing this?

They have redirected many of their PPC ads through an ad server redirect, but most of the organic results in their directory were direct untagged listings.

Aaron isnt nofollow a reasonibly good way to keep SE's from associating any ype of link with your domain. I have used nofollow on affiliate links like clickbank links or banners so my site isnt considered simply an affiliate product promoting site.

Outside of the original blog usage I think it also tags you as saying "hey I know about SEO and am knowingly linking to low quality parts of the web".

What if I own a network of sites that are related and I want my visitors to visit them all. For example, suppose I own 4 websites about: cake decorating, cake mixes, wedding cakes, cake recipes. If I link to my own sites within my network even though they are related topics without using nofollow, isn't that against the SEs policies and considered spam-ish?

It all depends on how well you do it and what the intent looks like. Matt Cutts stated at WMW Vegas last year that it was legitimate when InterActive Corp. was doing similar with their web properties.

Please note three things of caution with that:

  • InterActive Corp. will likely get more leeway that you or I would
  • If it looks like the primary intent is to cross brand and cross promote (versus spamming the engines) then that is less risky
  • Make sure the sites in your network have some quality unique link sources from outside of your network (that is quality links to each site, and all of your sites do not share the same common link profile)
Sue
July 8, 2006 - 2:41pm

Aaron said ... "Make sure the sites in your network do not share the same common link profile"

What exactly do you mean by 'same common link profile'?

July 8, 2006 - 3:47pm

I also heard (but this is not checked personally) that pages that have too many 'no follow' links can be taken out of indexing by Google.

July 8, 2006 - 11:49pm

What exactly do you mean by 'same common link profile'?

Imagine you get the exact same set of inbound links to every or most every site in your network.

I also heard (but this is not checked personally) that pages that have too many 'no follow' links can be taken out of indexing by Google.

I think that is probably not too likely (for established or authoritative sites at least) given that many rich discussions occur on sites with content management systems that automatically add many nofollows to the page content.

agent
July 10, 2006 - 6:00am

Hello everyone!

I am tasked by my client to post some valuable comments to any popular blogs with PR 3+. With valuable comment I mean it doesn't necessarily have a link to our site but some sort of opinions, questions, or the likes.

As I was trying to attach the anchor test

What can we do? It's automatic.

November 8, 2006 - 9:35pm

Is the no follow tag not a useful tool for making a better directory? Currently directories include poor sites becuase they get paid for doing so, i dont agree with this, its just the way it is.

Surely a better process would be to include only the best websites, but put no follow tags on the links. Then approach the sites listed and say something along the lines of "You site fab so we have included in our directory for free. However, for additional SEO benefits we can remove the "no follow" tag for £100."

Thoughts?

November 8, 2006 - 9:37pm

Well if a directory has to rely on using the nofollow tag to create value then I think they have a poor business model.

November 8, 2006 - 9:56pm

Aaron you are probably right. But name a directory which has a good business model and only includes quality listings?

If the objective is to only list the best sites, the business model of upfront payments is not viable. For example, do you think google would pay to be included in the "search engine" section?

November 8, 2006 - 10:01pm

BOTW does a good job.

And some of the higher quality sites get free listings in just about any directory worth being listed in.

July 25, 2008 - 7:42pm

Thanks Matt Cutts,

I seriously think the fabric of the web is threatened. It like a play George Bush would make. Completely fu*k up the situation.

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