I was asked a question on Quora last week, and it got me thinking how it’s staggering just how many SEO ‘gurus’ and established professionals still shun ‘nofollow’ links. To me this is a little like saying, “Oh, there’s no point putting my web address on my business card – you can’t click it”, or “Why bother with phone numbers on posters – you can’t dial on a poster, it doesn’t have any buttons.”

Seriously, let’s just take stock a minute of what we’re all doing here in the world of online marketing. We’re supposed to be marketing, right? That means getting our message heard by the right people, promoting ourselves as experts in our field, offering a first rate service, and getting people to come and visit our site and part with great wodges of hard earned cash. Or something like that.

value of no-follow links

NoFollow Links – Fact #1

Now here’s a fact. Most of the really important, high traffic sites which people rely on in a really big way have ‘nofollow’ links. For example on Twitter, Wikipedia, Facebook etc. millions of people are actively looking for information, sharing it, recommending it, and linking to it. Oh, but wait, those links are ‘nofollow’, which means Google won’t count them, and you won’t benefit from them. So of course that means that our links will be worthless. After all, they’re only going to be appealing to real people with real needs and real money. What we’re after is appealing to a bunch of algorithms, spiders and bots, programmed by a bunch of mathematicians who occasionally get out and remind themselves what real people look like.

Unless you’ve had a sarcasm bypass (I had an extra one put in as a matter of fact) then by now you’ll have realised that suggesting you ignore nofollow links is ludicrous if you have any interest in online marketing whatsoever. It’s vital that you don’t forget that online marketing is not just about getting your site shifted as high up the search results as possible, but about getting real, meaningful traffic to your site.

There are plenty of websites out there doing great business, without really bothering about Google at all, because their traffic comes from personal recommendations or referrals. Thousands and thousands of them. That works, so don’t knock it.

NoFollow Links – Fact #2

But hang on a moment, because here comes fact número dos. Because having an abundance of high quality, highly relevant nofollow links can make a big difference as far as your SERPS ranking is concerned. How? Well, for two reasons.

First of all, despite what plenty of people will have you believe, the search engines do take nofollow links into account. Think about it, what is Google doing right now? Answer – personalising your search results. How? By looking at how social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are delivering traffic to your site.

Hang on – aren’t Facebook links all nofollow? Yes. So how is Google going to pay attention to the traffic coming from Facebook to your site? Answer, by paying at least some attention to the nofollow links, obviously. In truth the search engines do consider nofollow links, it’s just that they don’t count them as far as outmoded things like Page Rank are concerned. In fact if Google saw that all of your links were ‘dofollow’ it might get a little suspicious and raise a red flag. So as personalisation becomes the big thing for search in 2012, so too does thinking about the real value of those nofollow links on social media platforms and other valuable but severely overlooked sites.

NoFollow Links – Fact #3

Before you put your coffee down and mutter ‘well, golly gosh and batter my haddock’, here comes fact numéro trois. As I have mentioned in a previous blog post, one of the hugely important factors Google now takes into account when assessing the relevance and importance of your site is the behaviour of your visitors.

If your visitors bounce off your website as though it was made of rubber then this clearly tells Google that whilst you may have a lot of links directing traffic in, the actual content is irrelevant, since no one hangs around for long. On the other hand, if Google sees that people who reach your site stick around for a bit, and even work through more than one page, then this says a lot about how valuable the content you’re offering is.

The thing about many of the sites which incorporate nofollow links is that they are often places where people go to find out information. Following a quality link isn’t just something they do because their mouse slipped, it’s because they are genuinely interested in finding out more, which means that you’re likely to see quality traffic which ‘sticks’.

Don’t Shun NoFollow Links!

So whether you’re looking at boosting quality, targeted traffic, improving the way Google and the other search engines see the relevance of your site in terms of how well shared and how recommended it is, or just boosting the stickiness of your visitors (without resorting to treacle) then ignoring ‘nofollow’ links is a bit like saying “don’t worry about backlinks – you can’t phone a backlink!”

Whoa, hang on a second… you enjoyed this post, right? Well, you got all the way to the bottom, so you either enjoyed it or you’re looking for a reward. But you weren’t going to just walk off were you? Just quickly hit one of those buttons below, Tweet it, Facebook it or Google+ it – but make sure you help spread the message. After all, this is the age of the social web!

Just a reminder that If you’re interested in more information, I’ve written about this subject on Quora too: http://www.quora.com/Search-Engine-Optimization-SEO/Since-Quora-renders-all-outbound-links-with-nofollow-attribute-what-is-the-SEO-value-of-such-Quora-links-then


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