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Google's Treatment of NoFollow Links is Self-Defeating.
aristotle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 6:35 pm on Jun 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

I have a website that has gradually acquired more than 100 natural links from various forums and social bookmarking sites. The site got these links because its purpose is to promote a particular social cause, and people sometimes cite one of its pages to support their own arguments for the same cause.

The problem for me is that nearly all of these links have a nofollow tag. Thus, even though they are "natural" links created by other people without my involvement, Google doesn't give the site any credit for them.

So in this case it appears to me that Google has negated the effect of its own original idea of using naturally-acquired links as a measure of the quality of a site's content. In fact, considering the web as a whole, I would guess that Google is disregarding millions of naturally acquired links because they have a nofollow tag.

 

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 7:50 pm on Jun 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes, the genie is out of the box and has been running amok for a while.

signor_john



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 8:16 pm on Jun 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's worth noting that the nofollow attribute isn't exclusive to Google. It's used by all three of the major search engines, and it was created in response to a real problem: the proliferation of link spam in blog comments, user-editable encyclopedia entries, etc. If such spam didn't exist, the search engines wouldn't see a need for the nofollow attribute. But it does, and they do.

londrum

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 9:08 pm on Jun 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

it's a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. they can't distinguish between the good links and the bad, so they just dismiss the whole lot.

Lord Majestic

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 9:11 pm on Jun 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

Link's value is not just potential rank boost, but also relevant traffic - if you get links in the right places, then when those places rank up in search engines you'll benefit too as it would drive traffic back to you.

But I do agree - "nofollow" was good idea with bad name from start, but now it turned into bad idea with bad name.

idolw

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 7:14 am on Jun 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's worth noting that the nofollow attribute isn't exclusive to Google. It's used by all three of the major search engines, and it was created in response to a real problem: the proliferation of link spam in blog comments, user-editable encyclopedia entries, etc. If such spam didn't exist, the search engines wouldn't see a need for the nofollow attribute. But it does, and they do.

That is not true. Nofollow was created to provide link selling webmasters with a tool to disclose sold ads to Google. It was not created to prevent blog comment spam.
Anyway, the OP is right. We have a site offering a free tool that saves money and got some natural reviews of it on several blogs (we did not ask for a review, they did it because they found the site useful). The crazy thing is that even links to our home page with the site name were nofollowed in plenty of these natural reviews!

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 7:54 am on Jun 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

It was January 2005 when Google (with the other major search engines) announced the nofollow attribute - and it was originally purposed to combat blog comment spam.

The expansion to paid links came in several months later -- and that is what really messed things up. I wish they had adopted rel="adv" (or something equivalent) to be a dedicated solution for disclosing paid links. Instead the web community, including the other major search engines, watched while Google went on to muddy the nofollow waters.

Google's original announcement is no longer on their site for some reason (the address was http://www.google.com/googleblog/2005/01/preventing-comment-spam.html), but Yahoo [ysearchblog.com] and MSN - now Bing [bing.com] still have their earliest pages up.

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 2:56 pm on Jun 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

The problem for me is that nearly all of these links have a nofollow tag.

Why do you think that is the case -- are these webmasters generally confused about nofollow, so they are erring on the side of caution and thus defining it for all links?

I'm wondering if there is a way for you to write to some of those sites, thank them for the link, and literally request that they remove the nofollow -- perhaps only 1 in 3 would do that, but at least that's something.

.........................

aristotle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 4:07 pm on Jun 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

How do I know that most of these are nofollow links?

Because, as I said in my original post, these links mainly come from public forums and social networking sites. The operators of most such sites of this type have configured them so that a nofollow tag is automatically attached to all outgoing links. The members of these sites have no control over this, and when they make a post which includes a link to my site most of them probably don't even know that a nofollow tag was added, if they even know what a nofollow tag is.

I discover these links when I see them in GWT and Yahoo Site Explorer lists of external links to my site. Even though they are nofollow links, many of them still get included in these lists. After I see a new one, I sometimes go to the forum or social networking site and look at the source code. That's how I've verified that most of them are nofollow links.

CosmicLee

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 7:54 pm on Jun 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

What bothers me is that Google had more or less endorsed the idea of pagerank sculpting with no follow tags and has now changed their minds.

It's said when a website owner has to decide whether they should link to a site (or no follow the link) because links to sites tend to devalue their own site. Certainly defeats the evaluation process.

signor_john



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 10:01 pm on Jun 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's said when a website owner has to decide whether they should link to a site (or no follow the link) because links to sites tend to devalue their own site.

That's a pretty big assumption. How do you know, for example, that Google doesn't reward pages that have relevant outbound links? If you were Google, mightn't you view relevant outbound links (especially relevant outbound links that were used in context, not just on a reciprocal-links page) as a "signal of quality" or, at the very least, as a signal of relevance?

PageRank is just one piece of a very large puzzle. Most of the other pieces are kept under wraps.

kevsta

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 11:37 pm on Jun 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

we have an experimental page that hadn't been touched in 6 months, and was rock solid at #3 for widget services location for 6+ months.

it has a smallish block of text quoted from wiki, with 4 links from the wiki text to other wiki pages on it.

2 months ago I nofollowed the 4 wiki links to see what happened. ..on caching, the page immediately dropped 6 places and stayed there.

2 weeks later I removed the NFs again, and the page has crept slowly back up to #5 over the last 4 weeks.

this was the only change made to the page.

vaniaul

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 1:51 pm on Aug 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

kevsta,

Thanks for sharing your test-case. After reading your explanation is it right to conclude:

"<nofollow backlinks>" have a negative effect on the rankings and authenticity of a website

Curiously awaiting opinions of the experts here!

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 8:27 pm on Aug 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

It is a suggestive account, vaniaul, but it's only one anecdotal case. That is not ever enough to form a wide-ranging and general conclusion.

RichTC

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 11:51 pm on Aug 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Sorry i dont see the problem

If i find a good quality resource that i value, thats good for visitors, i will link to it without "no follow"

Meanwhile, if i find resources that might give some benefit, that visitors should perhaps be aware of, but i dont value as much, then the "no follow" is used

Likewise, if its website advertising, promotion of a third party service etc, then im going to use the "no follow" then.

If the OP is finding that many of the sites that link to them are using the "no follow" then its possible that many sites must view the link as an advertisment or are not valuing the site fully as a resource. They need to do more work to get authority links that value them as an online resource.

Loads of authority sites still dont even know or care what the "no follow" is but those that do, dont want to vouche for sites they are not 100% about - i think the "no follow" works great for these situations.

I dont think G treatment of no follow links is self defeating, it just makes it harder to get links from good sites that value and can vouche for your own site as a great resource rather than just a site that should perhaps get a mention.

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 12:52 am on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

There's another factor here - even among webmasters who have heard about the rel="nofollow" attribute, there is now so much confusion, opinion, and even totally incorrect understanding, that the attribute gets used will-nilly in many cases. Google is responsible for this state of affairs.

If the nofollow attribute had been left alone - with the recommended use being what the 3 major search engines originally introduced - there would not be such chaos. But when Google's "war against paid links" entered the picture, it absorbed the nofollow as part of the battle and things went wrong. Things went especially wrong when heavy penalties began to appear for links pointing to reputable sites, simply because they appear to be paid.

Then to compound the mix even further, we had this more recent round of discussion about changes in scoring of PR transfer for the other, followed links on a page with a nofollow. There is really no wonder that many webmasters are confused and just throw a nofollow on any outbound link.

zett

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 6:11 am on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think the major issue for the OP is that the link is added automatically by the social networking sites in question. Then again, if the site owners run a fully automated site, how could they possibly check each link for its value? So what do they do instead to keep their site trouble-free with Google? They just define all user created links as "spam" by default.

koan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 6:34 am on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I just checked a blog post about one article I wrote not long ago and the post kept praising how useful it was, how everyone should check it out, etc When I examined the link to my article, it was nofollowed. Sigh. It's a newish site that is slow to get off the ground and hungry for a few decent links.

I think this whole nofollow business has gone amok from its original purpose. Webmasters don't really know how and when to use it, and a great portion of the web has gone mainly social media in the past years, where everything is nofollow by default.

I understand the need for such a thing, but it has indeed become self-defeating.

santapaws

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 7:13 am on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

only if you believe no juice at all is really passed.

Rosalind

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 11:49 am on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

[mattcutts.com...]

parts of our system encourage links to good sites

Not that you can always take what Matt says at face value, but it's something to consider.

fishfinger

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 2:47 pm on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

The use of nofollow certainly seems to be working against Google's own stated intention : to reward good content.

But before we waggle our finger too sternly at Google, what about the myriad of sites with a 'user-generated-content surrounded by ads' business model that give the spammers and bots such a huge target to aim at in the first place? Sites that don't moderate their members (as this one does for example) are to my mind either under-investing in resources for the sake of their bottom line, or not taking themselves seriously enough as source of information and discussion. That's why discussion groups in the real world have a facilitator.

fargo1999



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 5:30 pm on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

Site visitors don't care about links, they only care about the content... Hopefully Bing will not get into this nonsense link trap...

aristotle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 7:38 pm on Aug 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

In Google's original concept, a naturally-acquired backlink is equivalent to a "vote". Some votes count more than others, but all should be counted to some extent if they are voluntarily given and intended to be a recommendation.

The problem is that some voluntarily-given votes are not being counted because many forums and social-networking sites automatically add a nofollow tag to the link.

fishfinger

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 10:54 pm on Aug 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

... or more specificially, that many forums and social networking sites automatically add a nofollow tag to the link in lieu of giving a damn what gets posted on their sites.

AG4Life

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 3:20 am on Aug 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

And the funny thing about all this is that the truly spammy, malware sites don't even care about Google penaltites - they'll just start a new domain (or hundreds) next week and start the spam linking process all over again. And they still get into the index, albeit only for a short time, but that's all they need.

It's only the webmasters of legitimate sites that care that their sites of 10+ years now suddenly not appearing in the index. Yes, some of them will have done something wrong to warrant the penalty, but at least in most cases, their intentions were only to promote their content, not to get people's computers infected with trojans.

And in the end, it's not just the websites that are penalized, it's also Google's very own customers, the people doing the searching. Relevant content is much harder to find than it was a couple of years ago, and it's not always because there are too many spam sites, but in many cases, it's the good content being penalized. This may be why people are now saying they prefer Bing, not because it has less spam, but because it has less penalties.

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 4:10 am on Aug 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

but in many cases, it's the good content being penalized. This may be why people are now saying they prefer Bing, not because it has less spam, but because it has less penalties.

Very well said. A few weeks ago I posted in the bing forum that it was my sincerest hope that MS would not follow Google's obsession with penalties -- just bring back the best results, and if there's a need to penalize, do it by the page, not by the site. I'm convinced it's that attitude -- banning entire sites -- that is the root cause of the Google backlash amongst so many webmasters.

.............

internetheaven

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 8:50 am on Aug 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

The problem for me is that nearly all of these links have a nofollow tag. Thus, even though they are "natural" links created by other people without my involvement, Google doesn't give the site any credit for them.

Site owners are running scared. The ones that provide genuine links out keep using nofollow. The ones that are trying to manipulate rankings won't use nofollow.

All this nofollow thing has done is REMOVE honest linking from the web.

AnkitMaheshwari

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 10:18 am on Aug 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

I see that with all this nofollow buzz noone ready to give natural links to others which is affecting mainly the small businesses (sites) as larger brands easily create 100's of micro sites with each hosted on different IP's and maintain them to get quality links to their sites apart from all the nofollow links they have....

fishfinger

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 6:35 pm on Aug 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

The ones that provide genuine links out keep using nofollow

I don't intend to; instead I'm going to have a system where if someone is just agreeing or saying something brief then their business name gets a mention next to their comment. If they want to link to something of interest (on their site or not) then they can include a link to it. I will pre-approve all comments.

I want credit for decent OBLs from my site.

A community - no matter how small or how big - should take responsibility for its content.

signor_john



 
Msg#: 3932717 posted 2:40 pm on Aug 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

Site owners are running scared. The ones that provide genuine links out keep using nofollow.

I don't, and I link to thousands of outside Web sites (sometimes from the home page).

I want credit for decent OBLs from my site.

Good point. The key word in that sentence was "decent." That's why "nofollow" was invented: to prevent search engines from being distracted by outbound links that were created by the link recipients, not by the linking sites.

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