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Can changing all outbound links to nofollow improve my traffic?
JesterMagic




msg:4527373
 3:13 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have a 9 year old site that was doing well in its niche. Every year I would get a bit more traffic based on new quality content added. Over the years I have had links point to my content from a number of major news organizations.

Well in April thanks to Penguin I lost half of my traffic over night. Since then I have tried a number of things to recover and have seen my traffic increase by about 10% but since the end of Nov I am back to where I was before.

About half of my articles refer to other articles on other sites. I always included a link to these articles and the content was never copied or rewritten. Usually we offered a counter point to the article or expanded on what they already was talking about.

I always included a link back because I wanted to give the original author the props they deserve for writing about the topic/idea.

I have started to wonder if some of these links (there are hundreds since the site is large) may be hurting my site in the Google Algo. I am considering changing most of my outbound links to rel="nofollow". It is not something I want to do but ...

I notice a number of sites seem to add nofollow to all outbound links. Has anyone done this lately and seen an improvement in traffic?

 

MHes




msg:4527389
 3:50 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes - do it. Google recommended you did this a few years ago. I think it is so they can assume the link is unlikely to have been paid for and/or not ppc advertising, but perhaps others will confirm that.

DitaP




msg:4527412
 4:50 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Did Google recommend you do this? Surely no? Yes, like MHes said doing this lets Google know the links haven't been paid for also that you don't vouch for that site but adding nofollow to all your outbound links looks very unnatural. Sure you're passing link juice by linking out but at the same time you're associating your content with (I assume) authoritative content which is a good thing. You want to link out to good sites. Linking to authoritative sites will then help the other links on the same page. Win-win.

Maybe a thing to do is nofollow the less authoritative sites or simply not link out to them at all. Definitely see if you can reduce the outbound links. But do not nofollow all of them as it'll let Google know you're being manipulative. Just get a nice natural looking nofollow dofollow ratio.

TheMadScientist




msg:4527415
 4:59 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

No, they Google didn't recommend nofollow on everything ... The links were not paid for, but rather given editorially as citations for sources. NoFollowing them all is a bad plan, in my opinion.

jimbeetle




msg:4527443
 5:35 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes - do it. Google recommended you did this a few years ago.

Huh, when and where did Google ever recommend this? Source?

JesterMagic, relevant outgoing links to relevant good sites are good, always have been.

MHes




msg:4527446
 5:38 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just looked at Matt Cutts blog for 2009 and he says "Nofollow links definitely donít pass PageRank....The essential thing you need to know is that nofollow links donít help sites rank higher in Googleís search results."

hmmmm... I think it can help by avoiding you vouching for a dodgy website by mistake. If you put nofollow, you are basically saying you don't vouch for the website you link to, which is stopping you being caught linking to a bad neighbourhood.

Re [mattcutts.com...]
Matt basically says its smart to add nofollow some of the time... as TheMadScientist said.

jimbeetle




msg:4527498
 8:49 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yeah, but JesterMagic is considering changing most of the site's outgoing links to nofollow.

And yeah, it's smart to use nofollow some of the time, like for what it was originally proposed for: links in user-generated content that the site owner could not vouch for. Why should JeterMagic nofollow links that are editorially chosen?

ken_b




msg:4527528
 10:28 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you do this....
I am considering changing most of my outbound links to rel="nofollow".

Are you also planning to contact every site that links to your site and ask them to change their links to you to a "no-follow" status?

.

tedster




msg:4527531
 10:36 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think the important issue is that if your outbound links are dofollow, then it's good practice to periodically monitor the sites that they point to. Domains get sold, website content that was honorable can turn shady, etc.

One of my clients monitors their outbound links quarterly. Out of 1,000 plus links, we usually find 2 or 3 every quarter that have turned to the dark side. One quarter we found 5. That could mean, over ten years unwatched, we might have had 10% links pointing to "bad" sites - malware, part of link pyramids, etc.

jimbeetle




msg:4527576
 11:01 pm on Dec 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just by chance Jim Boykin tweeted a link to a 2006 post on Forward Links - Because who you link to matters [internetmarketingninjas.com]. Just as valid now as then and touches on most of the points in this thread.

JesterMagic




msg:4527631
 3:24 am on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all of the replies.

I think my best bet is spend the time and go through all the links and mark the nofollow ones as appropriate. I will probably be more aggressive about it since I rather err on the side of caution since no one knows for sure what Google defines as a shady site. The obvious ones are easy to spot but how much work should someone do researching each domain? Most of a websites content could be fine including what you linked to and then on some other page he could have a link farm built up or whatever.

MHes




msg:4527758
 12:45 pm on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

ken_b - I think pr from other sites is a lot less important than it was, so the risk of losing a few inbound links by putting nofollow on your outbound links, is not as important as the risk of linking to a bad neighbourhood.

JesterMagic - I would definitely err on the side of caution, in fact, reverse the logic and assume all bad unless they are very high quality sites. Another consideration is the context of the link. If you have a page about blue widgets and there is a link via a banner pointing to a site about green widgets then make sure the link is relevant to your page. The danger is that the link may be seen as being off theme and potentially just bought advertising, which could, as we know, open a whole new can of worms.

In short, my feeling is link out with care and if in doubt, nofollow it.

bsand715




msg:4527772
 2:22 pm on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Does't wikipedia use no-follow on all their out-bounds?
Seems to work from them.

Long ago I started content on a subject on a wiki page. Thinking then it would be a quality link :(. Now they out rank me with my content.

DitaP




msg:4527775
 2:29 pm on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Wikipedia has user generated content so all their outbound links have to be nofollow otherwise everyone would completely manipulate it. It's the same principle as with blog comments. Also you can't really compare wikipedia to a normal site it's a different kind of model.

bsand715




msg:4527793
 3:02 pm on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

"otherwise everyone would completely manipulate it"

Yep
I believe Wikipedia started around 2001.
Added no follows in 2007 after manipulation party.

jimbeetle




msg:4527811
 4:30 pm on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

JesterMagic, if you believe you have to nofollow a link to a site -- therefore not vouching for it -- why bother linking to it in the first place?

One of the biggest fallacies of nofollow being used the way you want is that on the one hand, you're telling search engines that you don't endorse the link (yet you decided to include it anyway). On the other hand, your site visitors will assume that you must be endorsing the link because it was you who included it.

So, do you build a site to serve the search engines or visitors?

themistral




msg:4527815
 4:44 pm on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Jimbeetle,

Completely agree.
If you don't trust a website, don't link to it.

I have a basic philosophy.
Advertising links get nofollowed.
Editorial links get followed.
UGC links get nofollowed.

JesterMagic




msg:4527823
 4:54 pm on Dec 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

JesterMagic, if you believe you have to nofollow a link to a site -- therefore not vouching for it -- why bother linking to it in the first place?


I did vouche for it at the time and probably do still vouche for most of the outbound links.

I guess a question is what does Google consider a bad site (ie one that will effect your rankings if you link to it)?

Also how are we suppose to know if the site has done some blackhat things behind the scenes?

setzer




msg:4527988
 2:26 am on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

It could hurt traffic, not directly - but indirectly. PR flowing through outbound links might eventually hit a site that's linking out to you, giving that link more weight in the eyes of Google.

Conversely, not linking out will mean that site gets less PR, and if the site in question links to competitors often then nofollow may be beneficial.

I wouldn't spend too much time on this, it's not really a thing that will make or break ratings. Going back and changing a bunch of links to nofollow seems overkill. My .02 cents.

MHes




msg:4528076
 12:37 pm on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

do you build a site to serve the search engines or visitors?


....and you have been on this SEO forum for 10 years! Why do you think that is? To find out what the search engines want of course!

Lets be honest, anybody reading this forum wants to find out how to improve rankings in Google. Over the years, it has been clear that the better you make the experience for the user, the more likely Google will rank you higher. Thats the new SEO, which has developed as google has become cleverer. However, Google owes us nothing and we are all subject to bugs in their algo or just plain google commercial decisions. Thats why we come here and discuss ways of maximising the chance that google will put us number 1. JesterMagic is quite right when he says we don't know what google considers a bad site, so you have to consider whether or not you let the spider through the link or not. Google loves links, likes sites with links and wants to follow them, but you increase the risk of being slapped for a bad link. You have to be cautious and to ignore this is crazy in my opinion.

if you believe you have to nofollow a link to a site -- therefore not vouching for it -- why bother linking to it in the first place?


Many reasons. I may want to make my page a good point of reference for a researcher. I may also want to credit a quote. AND, Heaven forbid, I may be doing this to make the site more sticky to impress the search engine! Bounce rate back to google may be a concern. However, the authority site in my opinion may have a very dodgy seo firm working on it. Therefore I link because of the quality of the text, and avoid the risk of the seo.

Google sometimes sends me marginally off theme traffic, which I may want to try and hold onto for analytics purposes. Providing links and helpful information may help improve my bounce rate for this traffic, rather than having a 1 second click back to google and the possibility that this effects my overall bounce rate. There are loads of subtle reasons why you may want a link to another site, and you feel that the link could help your visitor but be a potential risk as far as the spider is concerned.

Also, like any business, its competitive out there. Here's an extreme example but how nofollow is important and potentially helpful.....
Example: You sell Green widgets. Visitor from google comes in for Blue widgets. You send visitor to really rubbish, dodgy, expensive site for Blue Widgets. Visitor comes back and buys Green widget. You obviously put nofollow!

If you want to be helpful to a visitor but not pass pr onto a competitor, then why not put nofollow? If you feel a link is good for a user, but unsure about the seo of the site you are linking to, then do you avoid the link? Thats not good for visitors. The answer is use nofollow.

setzer -Most SEO is now visitor experience based. Nofollow is a very useful tool to use increase the visitor experience but not risk a penalty. If you can improve the visitor experience, you 'make ratings'.

jimbeetle




msg:4528229
 8:19 pm on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Also how are we suppose to know if the site has done some blackhat things behind the scenes?

With that thinking you simply can't link out to anybody and your site has to become an Internet dead end.

....and you have been on this SEO forum for 10 years!

Yep.* And have never seen the need to nofollow a link, and I link out quite liberally.

I do my link due diligence to the best of my ability: site quality, backlink profile, etc.

I periodically check all external links and change or delete them as necessary.

In the spirit of "The Miracle on 34th Street" I give my competitors credit where credit is due and sometimes (gasp) even cooperate with them. It seems to work well.

And I refuse to work being afraid of Google penalties.

*My 15th anniversary as an Internet marketer is Monday the 16th.

JesterMagic




msg:4528231
 8:29 pm on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

In the spirit of "The Miracle on 34th Street" I give my competitors credit where credit is due and sometimes (gasp) even cooperate with them. It seems to work well.


That has always been my phlosiphy as well.

MHes




msg:4528257
 10:25 pm on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I give my competitors credit where credit is due ..


This site is full of people claiming their site is an authority with lots of quality content, and yet they have got into trouble with google. There must be many more website owners out there who produce great content but then engage an seo firm that does something dodgy.

I'm happy to give credit where it is due..... but with a nofollow ;)

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