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Google ignoring nofollow on links to sites they trust?

 10:22 am on Sep 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am seeing big shopping sites such as eBay and Amazon getting featured more prominently in search results for many keywords, especially longtail, while at the same time seeing places like buy.com fall off page one. It looks like buy.com traffic for example is down over 50% in the past six months.

One thing the rank gainers have in common is a large affiliate program, and the rank losers do not. I've been watching this since Panda rolled out, trying to find as many examples as I can, and the same thing holds true across them all.

Incoming links from affiliates to sites like ebay and amazon are notoriously laden with nofollow and more often than not involve a redirect or jump page. In the past those links didn't count but recent movement in serps suggests something MAJOR has changed and a sudden ignoring of nofollow/redirect would explain the changes.

Perhaps you can no longer block pagerank flow via nofollow/redirect if Google trusts the site being linked to? ebay ordered all affiliates to change their default redirect values from 302 temporary to 301 permanent when Panda rolled out, that can't be a coincidence imo.

Do you think Google is ignoring nofollow if a link points to a site THEY trust ?



 12:37 pm on Sep 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't think Google's ignoring the nofollow and counting the links. I think we're seeing the force of a whole other (and newer) area of the algo, not PageRank. I'd suspect some form of usage data.


 4:26 am on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I agree, they are tracking useage data, but I'm not convinced they aren't ignoring nofollow/redirect and I'll give you an example - twitter. Google is tracking 'social', you can see all the twitter profiles you've been linked to in your google account. Log into to your Google account and click "view all data stored in this account" and scroll down to "Social Connections and Content" to see the connections.

Now... 100% of those twitter links are nofollow and most run through a link shortener and yet they matter a great deal, perhaps more than we currently appreciate, in rankings. They aren't being "dropped from your graph" as Google has previously stated, at least not anymore.

That confirms that nofollow and redirect is ignored for social, those links play a role regardless, and I have dozens of examples (like ebay) of major ranking improvements without any other factor/change to the site big enough to justify the newfound Google rankings love.

[edited by: Sgt_Kickaxe at 4:30 am (utc) on Sep 13, 2011]


 4:30 am on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm not really disagreeing with you - except to say that Google isn't "counting the links" in the traditional sense of the PageRank segment of the algo. I think there's something else going on here. To start with, the effect of these citations on Twitter, for instance, has a very short shelf life.

[edited by: tedster at 4:31 am (utc) on Sep 13, 2011]


 4:31 am on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I wasn't disagreeing with you either, just pointing out that nofollow and/or redirect no longer voids the link of any vote or value.

Is it possible that major affiliate companies, who are trusted by Google, are benefiting in rank? They often have millions of incoming links, to every page, and sites like ebay are booming in rankings while site with no affiliate program are falling, some more than others.

these citations on Twitter, for instance, has a very short shelf life.

that I disagree with, Twitter shelf life isn't short, it's permanent in your Google account, in fact I dare you to try and delete a connection. Google makes it near impossible since you don't control those other profiles linking in and G doesn't offer a delete option.


 1:51 pm on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

If I were google, I would have long ago taken a much more nuanced approach to when to trust nofollow. The data that SEOMoz is publishing even seems to indicate that having only dofollow links into your site may be considered a sign of spam.

It wouldn't surprise me the least if Google is trusting nofollow links sometimes. But as Tedster says, its very hard to attribute the rise of specific sites to that as opposed to other variables in the algorithm.


 2:23 pm on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Many webmasters have a very simple two part "formula" for ranking in their minds - something like this:

content + backlinks = rankings

However, what's going on is so much more complex than that, and sometimes our inherited mental models just get in the way. With regard to Twitter, Google may show the record of whatever they capture from Twitter for a long time, but its actual effect on rankings is what seems short-lived to me.


 2:30 pm on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

In my mind the major factors are now
content + recommendations + user satisfaction
and there has always been a "no spam signature" component as well.


 2:40 pm on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

I wasn't disagreeing with you either, just pointing out that nofollow and/or redirect no longer voids the link of any vote or value.

Perhaps nofollow is incidentally being counted as an unlinked citation (assuming that unlinked citations count for something, I've no idea).

There's the anchor text that can count for something, just be being seen as a normal part of the text on the page instead of a link. Same thing possibly with the text of the url in the actual link, perhaps some part of the algo is picking up the www as text and doing something with it - more as onpage factors kind of thing.

< /pure speculation>

If in fact Google is looking for 'branding' signals, perhaps these things are going to matter. But I'd remain sceptical. Screwing around with nofollow links and unlinked citations has some serious potential for automated algo hijacking.


 2:52 pm on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

a "no spam signature" component as well

And as I mentioned in another thread, that is the area where I see Google piling up a major bunch of "spaghetti code." It's counteracting spam - and to a degree even DEFINING spam, that is making for the biggest part of the SERPs quality problem these days, IMO.

When I think about that job, I can appreciate Google's emphasis on "brand" as a safety measure. And "brand emphasis" did not start with Panda, it started with Update Vince [webmasterworld.com] in early 2009.


 3:47 pm on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

Brand as a safety measure? I already have a list of brands, it's called the yellow pages.

By requiring a measure of branding Google has forgotten what they once did better than any other company, showing you something neat from someone who is passionate about your search term.

Irony - Most product related searches lead to big brand stores(instead of opinion sites who link to them) and so people lean on social to get the information they want instead and so search is running to catch up and control social.

Google has done a lot to lose my respect over the past year - add wishy washy nofollow effects to the list.


 8:39 pm on Sep 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

This discussion is based on the premise that ebay and amazon are obtaining more traffic from higher across the board ranking. Is there an authoritative source or is this anecdotal?

Neither eBay.com or Amazon.com appear to be experiencing significantly higher amounts of traffic according to quantcast and google trends for websites. They are trending lower according to a standard seasonal arc (from the XMas/seasonal bump to summer slumps) along with Buy.com. Check out the data in Quantcast.com and Google Trends for Websites. However, that could be hiding an improvement in ranking. It's hard to tell. According to ComScore eBay and Amazon are showing year over year improvements over previous year over year data. But last year was a difficult year as both were trending downward. This year the economy is marginally better. http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y11/m08/i15/s01

You could be correct that ebay and amazon are trending upward in ranking. But I'm having doubts. Do you have a definitive source for this?


 3:58 pm on Sep 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google will not ignore nofollow links. As far I know about the nofollow links that G will not count them to increase PR, but it will increase your site traffic.


 8:36 pm on Sep 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

You could be correct that ebay and amazon are trending upward in ranking. But I'm having doubts. Do you have a definitive source for this?

I have a list of some 300 keywords that are important to me that I keep track of weekly and have for over 2 years now, noting my position for each. It's become routine on my Monday or Tuesday evenings. That's my source and neither ebay nor amazon featured prominently, or even on page one, especially for the product related keywords until recently.

That's not big enough to be definitive, or a big enough subset, but to me its monster. (yes, I know how to gather generic data, not while logged into google, etc.)

note: trending isn't a good way of monitoring site traffic anymore since visitors are pre screened for intent by Google. It's possible to trend flat while losing a lot of information seekers and gaining shoppers (or vice versa). An add campaign may bring in a lot of navigational searches as well, trending needs to be broken down as Google has it broken down now.


 9:34 pm on Sep 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

How would one test if Google was ignoring the "no-follow" attribute? Wouldn't it be better to test this than speculate? I could put something together and report my findings here, I would just need some ideas on how to test.


 10:01 pm on Sep 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well, as I've noted, I've got a domain that shows 56,000 nofollow backlinks and exactly 0 do-follow links. That's run of site links of course, but it's across 30-40 very high authority and relevant sites.

The site doesn't rank worth <insert explitive>.

Sample size 1, Google is ignoring nofollow.


 11:30 pm on Sep 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Just to clarify, as I read it wheel's example supports the idea that Google DOES ignore links when the "nofollow" attribute is in place. It does not support the OP's idea that Google is now ignoring the nofollow attribute and counting the backlink anyway.


 1:30 am on Sep 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

There's another simpler explanation - which is that both Amazon and eBay have a lot of dofollow links, particularly from pre 2007.

Part of the genius of Amazon is that they allow pretty much anyone to become affiliates, including lots of people who pride themselves on being "not technical". These are people who simply copy and paste the a hrefs from Amazon's tool box into their sites,

Then there are all the old blogspots from back in the day (pre-2007) when mommy bloggers used to add some amazon to their posts in the hopes of making some pin money. Those blogs still exist, and still tick over (because no domain renewal required) and their owners haven't gone back to no-follow the old amazon links, it probably hasn't even occurred to them.

Then you have the people who use the go.to web forwarding for their amazon links (to make them look nicer on their sites). You'll be surprised how many of them haven't no-followed the links - it's as though they think that because it looks different it's not Amazon and they don't need to do anything! I found a whole bunch of these when exploring the backlinks to an amazon product page that was ranking strongly.

Then there is the whole astore thing - people setting up astores and then backlinking them to rank in them in the serps. View the source code of the astores - the product links are in the format hxxp://astore.amazon.com/affiliatetag/detail/ProductRefNumber - and they are all dofollow, and all the links on these pages, e.g. to the customer reviews go to actual Amazon product pages. Plus I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon was using canonical to ensure that you didn't get individual astore product pages ranking or outranking the original amazon product page.

When people backlink their astores to get them to rank, juice flows directly to amazon's product pages!

And then there are platforms like hubpages - they nofollow amazon links in their pre-set-up amazon modules/capsules, but lots of their members also add text links to amazon product pages - and these are all dofollow (I think because hubpages doesn't allow their members to add no follow to links within text). Discovered this when I found a bunch of amazon product pages with hubpages backlinks.

So, in conclusion - it's not that Google is ignoring nofollow links. The issue is that Google is expecting all webmasters and marketers to follow rules and nofollow affiliate links, but Amazon has cleverly recruited a million+ army of hobbists and part-time marketers desperate to make a few dollars in this climate, and who wouldn't know nofollow from their elbow. Amazon could solve this by adding nofollow to the links they provide in their toolbox, but of course they won't.

They are simply one of the shrewdest retailers online (though others like Walmart and overstock seem to be catching up - all use affilinte programs that use redirects to track sales - I haven't checked, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were dofollow, and the hapless affiliate hasn't realised it - essentially the same story as with those go.to redirects - because it looks different, they assume that link juice doesn't flow.


 4:32 am on Sep 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am bit confused.
Lastly: Should I do follow or nofollow links to other sites including authority sites?
I know the theories/practices of PR juice in the past (passing PageRank ,link juice and improve a site ranking), but After-Panda I am bit confused as to whether it has any effect on a regular site when it links to any other site.
Say, it links to good content from authority sites and never to rubbish.

• What is the current situation with outbound linking?
• Do No Follow Links really Count?
• Should one ignore the no follow attribute - a link is a link isn't it?

p.s. I don’t think any site should be an isolated island, but who wants to downgrade its ranking just for these stupid things.


 7:29 am on Sep 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Then there is the whole astore thing - people setting up astores and then backlinking them to rank in them in the serps.

Amazon doesn't pay for referrals through SERPs.

"Qualifying Purchases exclude, and we will not pay advertising fees on any of, the following: ... any Product purchased by a customer who is referred to the Amazon Site through any of the following: ... a link to the Amazon Site, including a Redirecting Link, that is generated or displayed on a Search Engine in response to a general Internet search query or keyword (i.e., in natural, free, organic, or unpaid search results), whether those links appear through your submission of data to that site or otherwise."

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