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Do *legitimate* nofollow inbound links actually hurt your site?
1script




msg:4563584
 6:46 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Looking for input from other webmasters to verify if this is not me imagining things.

Every so often (once or twice a month, workload permitting) I would go on a blog strolling/comment posting binge in the part of the blogosphere around the particular industry in which I'm actively involved off-line, have 20+ years of experience, yada, yada. Saying all this to justify my using the words legitimate nofollow links in the title - my comments are usually very detailed (as you can see, I have trouble with brevity in my posts :), on-topic, usually 99% of them are approved and without false modesty I would say that these are the types of comments people normally have in mind when they start the blog in the first place.

I always sign my comments with one name and always use the homepage URL of a site that I own that describes the state of the industry, so it's extremely closely related. I guess I could skip the URL but I see no reason not to promote my site given the opportunity. All such links are no-follow of course and all have the same anchor - my (assumed) name. I do actually get a bit of referral traffic through these links.

So here is what happens: every time I see G traffic to my site drop anywhere from annoying 5% to sometimes pretty painful 30% in about 3 -5 days after I post 5-10 such comments. The traffic would normally return (though not always) but my next blog commenting binge would have it go down again. This has been going on for a couple of years now.

I've yet to devise a scientific method of verifying the correlation between the comments and the traffic drop but anecdotally they seem to be related and separated by only 3-5 days.

So the big question is: does anyone else see a similar outcome of posting multiple legitimate blog comments in a short period of time? And in a more general sense, I guess: do you still see some value in using a URL when posting a blog comment?

 

goodroi




msg:4563668
 11:00 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Have you ever looked to see if you have any referrals from those blog comments? Because if you have zero referrals from those blog comments, I would suggest you save yourself some time (and simplify your seo life) by no longer including your url.

Let's assume there are good reasons like relevant traffic & branding for you to post your url and gain nofollow links. It has been my experience that this is normally not an issue ASSUMING you have a significant amount of real dofollow links.

This can grow to be an issue and would make me nervous if 90% of your links were nofollow. High percentages are more likely to appear unnatural to Google and lead to trouble for you.

1script




msg:4563677
 11:34 pm on Apr 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

@goodroi: I do actually get some referral visits from those links. I hear what you are saying about discontinuing the use of URL and it's hard to say if the amount of visits I get this way is justified or not - some of those comments require me to look something up, sometimes even try something in my lab before I post, so you can safely say many people spend less time writing some blog posts than I do posting a comment...

But I think you just made me nervous, too: I think I easily have 90%+ of links as no-follows. My own pages are scraped often (that's usually a no-follow), I have Wikipedia links - count those in nofollow camp, then those blog post comments, some forum comments, too, BTW. I guess I should have said blog and forum comments in the first place - they are very similar in every respect and of course both are usually no-follow. Social networking links (FB, Twitter) are also no-follow or redirects through URLs with unknown index-ability (almost a guarantee that they pass no PR)

I haven't specifically pursued do-follow links for this site and I have to say, I have trouble thinking of ANY type of a link that would be a guaranteed do-follow link.

Let me rephrase that: I can't think of any type of naturally acquired links these days that would be do-follow links. It is entirely possible that all 100% are no-follow. The site was started sometime in 2009 when already no one in their right mind would have linked to you without no-follow unless you paid up. I guess I can approach some of the bloggers and offer $$ for a link that's labeled "advertising" but that would be the classic paid link example that G hates so much.

So, how do you get out of this no-follow rut yet attract none of G's wrath?

linkbuildr




msg:4563686
 12:40 am on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Why would a nofollow link cause trouble? I doubt you'd ever have a problem as they're nofollow for a reason.

1script




msg:4563714
 5:40 am on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

@linkbuildr: Well, I don't necessarily know that they do, I'm just reporting my observations. Perhaps something else is at play, too - I'm curious what it might be. Judging by your user name here, is it safe to assume you have much more experience with this situation? Have you ever seen a site take a hit (even if temporary) when you add some good amount of no-follow links in short period of time?

jimbeetle




msg:4563807
 1:12 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm with linkbuildr, I can't come up with any reason that nofollow links would be a problem. If that were the case it would be reported by many more people.

One thing I really have a problem wrapping my head around: What would be an *illegitimate* nofollow link?

netmeg




msg:4563818
 2:08 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have a ton of nofollow links to my own personal site (I do a lot of commenting/ranting, ork ork) and it's never hurt me, as far as I can tell. I do get some traffic (and the occasional troll - yea, I know who you are) from it.

I use nofollow for my affiliate links, and have never been told not to, or had it suggested I was hurting the site I'm linking to.

So I'd be kind of skeptical on this one.

1script




msg:4563850
 4:15 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for your input, guys. My concern was not so much about the links being no-follow as such but more about the cyclical nature of my acquiring them. It's pretty clear that any site would have tons of them, there's no argument here. Perhaps the way sites acquire them may have bearing but then, again, a site can be scraped overnight and acquire thousands of no-follow links from a scraper - is this kind of situation even a problem? I hope not. And looks like noone else reports the same issue, so I should look for other things that may be at play here.

As far as "illegitimate" no-follow links, in my mind that would be something that's automated like false pingbacks, those mass scraping operations I mentioned, almost any kind, really, other than manually posted in UGC on sites that automatically no-follow all UGC. In other words, something that should not even be a link in the first place. Or the exact opposite: something that should have been a proper link but you're denied the proper credit (usually the scraping falls into this category)

diberry




msg:4563857
 4:42 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

I actually have noticed something fairly similar to what you're talking about. I leave quality comments on blogs in my niche, and they always bring at least a few people over to check out my site. But once in a while, I'll have something really impressive to say and that link will bring a lot more visitors than usual. The day after that, it's like Google compensates by dropping traffic levels.

I think it might be a side effect of Google re-evaluating our link profiles. Why they would do it every time, I don't know. But I think it's a pattern that could easily go unnoticed by webmasters because it's fairly subtle.

Ralph_Slate




msg:4563883
 6:30 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Couldn't you argue that a site that has, say, 80% of its inbound links as "nofollow" fits the profile of an unclever spammer who drops links on forum/blog sites?

1script




msg:4563903
 7:14 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Couldn't you argue that a site that has, say, 80% of its inbound links as "nofollow" fits the profile of an unclever spammer who drops links on forum/blog sites?
This sounds possible and perhaps even likely. The question is though: what to do when this profile catches you as a false positive? Stop posting and participating in the community?
diberry




msg:4563937
 9:12 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

What we're talking about here just led me to what I believe is a major revelation about my own "false positive" Penguinizing and trackbacks: [webmasterworld.com ]

It may or may not be strictly relevant - Google can probably tell trackbacks from comment links - but both are no-follow. If this is an issue, then the best solution would be to balance the nofollows with follows.

As I mention in the other thread, I have some similar pages that were not hurt by Penguin. The difference? The unharmed pages have thousands of social media backlinks, which may not individually count as much as one backlink from a blog, but do seem to offset this nofollow issue.

So I'm guessing that getting follow backlinks any way you can would help? So we need to start buying links again! /eyeroll, just kidding

1script




msg:4563945
 9:48 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

@diberry:
I read this first:
the best solution would be to balance the nofollows with follows
and was going to say exactly that
... we need to start buying links again! /eyeroll ...
but then I kept reading your message and you've said it perfectly yourself :)

So, yeah, I can totally see how no-follows links, legit or otherwise, are not ideal. However, I am scratching my head and I can't really put a finger on another important definition we have to use here: what in the world would be a legitimate do-follow these days then?! In order to get a do-follow you have to exchange something for it. Money is just the most obvious exchange, sometimes disguised as a "donation", sometimes as "advertising" but in reality you're just buying the link which would work better than any advertising the site could hope to offer. Then there's exchange of time and content for a link in case of a guest blog post. Even if you're a brand and people would link you you without any enticing, forum posts about you would most likely be no-follows. What else is there among legitimate sources of do-follow links?

diberry




msg:4563955
 10:20 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

What else is there among legitimate sources of do-follow links?


Social media's all I can think of. It comes closer to Google's original concept of links as votes - it's just regular people sharing your site with their friends. Of course, that can be gamed, and if it can be gamed, it means there will be "false positives" down that route too. And not every site is ideal for social media.

Google has got things going in a circle - no one's linking because they're afraid to, and no one's buying links because they're afraid to... if nofollow links aren't an answer (and I love 'em because they bring actual visitors - I assumed they had no impact on ranking and never thought twice about Google when I acquired them), then there is no way under Google's rules to accomplish what Google is challenging us to accomplish. Follow the rules, and you'll have no links. Get links, and you might get penalized.

No wonder the brands are winning.

1script




msg:4563960
 11:02 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Social media's all I can think of
In the context of this discussion these would be a special case. Links from social media sites most often come through a non-indexable redirect URL, so, even though they are in the strict sense do-follow (as they appear on the originating page) nothing actually, well, follows because the non-indexable redirect kills it.

FB, Twitter and most other SM links I can think of are not worth the electrons used to transmit them.

diberry




msg:4563988
 12:42 am on Apr 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

You're right, sorry. Pinterest and Stumbleupon count, but I'm not seeing any others that show up in WMT.

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