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Nofollow Links: Useful for Ranking?
fom2001uk




msg:4406040
 11:12 pm on Jan 11, 2012 (gmt 0)


System: The following 11 messages were cut out of thread at: http://www.webmasterworld.com/link_development/4400885.htm [webmasterworld.com] by martinibuster - 9:45 am on Jan 14, 2012 (utc -8)


Sorry I just don't buy the whole NF links are worthless argument.

The nofollow tag prevents PageRank and anchor text from being passed on to the receiving site, but it does not stop trust and relevancy and those are influential in rankings.

 

martinibuster




msg:4406047
 11:35 pm on Jan 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

The nofollow tag prevents PageRank and anchor text from being passed on to the receiving site, but it does not stop trust and relevancy...


Trust is not a signal that is passed through a link to a website. There is no signal called Trust. That's not what trust is. There are a lot of SEO Myths associated with trust and to expand further, I want to include the so called Trust Rank that is sometimes spoken of in the context of Google's algorithm. TrustRank is actually associated with Yahoo [ilpubs.stanford.edu]. Here is what Matt Cutts said [seroundtable.com]:

Trust is sort of a catch-all term that we use. So PageRank is the most well known type of trust. It's looking at links and how important those links are. So if you have a lot of very high quality links, then you tend to earn a lot of trust with Google.


In Matt's scenario, a website can earn trust by receiving gobs of PageRank. But if it has a nofollow attached to it then no PageRank is passed and as a consequence the web page does not earn trust. In other words, the web page has to qualify for the Not-Spam Bucket and one of the ways to qualify is by getting gobs of PageRank. Trust itself is not a signal that is passed on by links.

Similarly, relevancy is not a signal unto itself that is passed on to the linked site. Relevancy is an aspect of a link that helps determine how much PageRank is passed on to a site. A link with low relevance passes less PageRank. A link with higher relevance passes more PageRank. If there is a no-follow attached to the link then no PageRank flows, so relevance doesn't matter.

In the context of links, relevance only modifies the amount of PageRank that flows. That's all. It's not a signal that is passed on through a link.

Planet13




msg:4406062
 1:36 am on Jan 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

so, does that mean that nofollow links are worthless in terms of rankings?

and if so, then would linkless citations be worthless in terms of ranking factors as well?

I thought that these might be part of the recipe for "branding" that we hear so much about, and in that respect, they might HELP rankings.

(Really hoping so because PBS gave a page on my site a nice, big, juicy NOFOLLOW link - oh well)

Maybe branding is more based on how many people enter the name of the site into the search bar, as opposed to being "mentioned" on other sites (whether through nofollow links or linkless citations).

martinibuster




msg:4406086
 3:34 am on Jan 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes, nofollow links are worthless for ranking. That is the entire point of the nofollow attribute, to render a link useless for ranking purposes, to remove it from being counted as a citation.

A nofollowed link and an unlinked citation are two different things. One has nothing to do with the other.

fom2001uk




msg:4406494
 11:44 am on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Well I have to respectfully disagree with you. I've seen plenty of sites rank high for competitive terms and their link profiles are weak if you only count Followed links. But if you look at everything, you find they have a few NoFollow links from authority sites.

Crush




msg:4406534
 2:41 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

easier just to buy them, that looks like hard work.

martinibuster




msg:4406627
 5:58 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've seen plenty of sites rank high for competitive terms and their link profiles are weak if you only count Followed links.


I don't fault you for arriving at that conclusion. It's entirely reasonable. It's hard to disagree with what one sees with one's own eyes. You seem the rational and reasonable type so I will give you some rational reasons why the rankings you see are not from the no-followed links.

I've already described to you why "trust" and "relevance" do not flow from a nofollowed link. It is established and understood that nothing is flowing from the nofollowed link.

So we have to ask, if nothing is flowing from the nofollowed link, then why is there a site with predominantly nofollowed links in the SERPs?

1. You may not be seeing their entire backlink profile. I have yet to find a tool that can unravel all the links pointing to my sites. And if you are relying on the Google backlink search then forget it. Google's backlink searches have always been a sample and they have become worse. You're better off in doing a verbatim search for the URL (instances where the URL is published online) as well as a search for instances where the company name is mentioned.

I'm serious, verbatim searches for company names are the new backlink search.

2. The barrier to competition is low in certain aggressive niches. What that means is that certain niches can grow aggressive and rely on certain techniques, such as multi-hyphen domain names all under the control of the same person, massive reciprocal links, paid links from poor sources, inbound links from templates, that kind of thing. When the competition looks at that they justifiably conclude that they need to do the same thing. So in certain niches the SERPs perpetuate a certain kind of low level SEO.

The funny thing about those kinds of SERPs is that the barrier to entry is actually lower than the competition realizes. I have helped clients walk into the top one, two, and three positions for a variety of two word and longer competitive phrases simply with a handful of really good links that trumped the aggressive techniques because we had better relevance and trust on our side. The competition was weaker than it appeared, ranking was easier than anticipated.

3. Now this is the most important distinction about Google SERPs, this is the one that really confuses people because it doesn't fit into the standard SEO box of ranking factors. If you can understand this one thing, then your perception of the SERPs and what is going on will have improved tenfold. Here it is: The SERPs are not a list of the top ten best answers according to link profile.

a. Google does not rank websites in descending order of sites with the most or best backlinks. The site in position three doesn't necessarily have more backlinks than the site in position eight.

b. To further confuse things, there is a random element in the SERPs for the purpose of anticipating different user intent. When someone types Work Accident into the search box, it could have something to with workers compensation law, lawyers, rights, examples, videos, any number of things.

c. There is another random element in the SERPs, and I refer to it as the mom and pop factor. Google seems to discard what we understand to be the standard ranking elements and throws a site into the SERPs that, based on it's link profile, does not belong there. This circles back to the heart of this understanding about the SERPs: The SERPs are not a list of the top ten best answers according to link profile.

fom2001uk




msg:4406709
 9:14 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

That's a seriously good post, and the reason I love WebmasterWorld - it's just full of gold nuggets. I'm going to ponder some of this over the weekend and play around with the URL searches in particular.

arikgub




msg:4406826
 3:33 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

They really are worthless for ranking. Every site I have inspected that had thousands of those kinds of links ranked poorly


Not worthless for ranking. May be not passing link juice, but making the backlink profile look natural.

I wouldn't trust any website for which nofollow links comprise less than 50% of the total backlinks. It is simply impossible for a website that grows its backlinks "naturally"

Planet13




msg:4406832
 5:11 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ arikgub

I wouldn't trust any website for which nofollow links comprise less than 50% of the total backlinks. It is simply impossible for a website that grows its backlinks "naturally"


That is an interesting point. Although I remember Matt Cutts saying in a video a few years back that overwhelmingly there are more followable links then there are nofollow links in the web in general, I bet that now there at least a higher percentage of nofollow links than there were before (with the popularity of facebook and blogs and CMS that allow for easy content creation and have links set to nofollow by default).

I don't know whether nofollow has overtaken followable links in terms of percentage or not since Matt Cutts made that video. So while it would assume natural that a site should have a lot of nofollow links, I don't know if there is a certain "optimum ratio" of follow to nofollow links that is desirable.

martinibuster




msg:4406835
 5:21 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

...but making the backlink profile look natural.


That is a reasonable way of thinking of it. That's a really good point among many being raised here. So let's figure that one out.

I discussed the issue of nofollow distorting the web graph with a Googler and I was told that only about 1% of all links are nofollow. Here's a video by Matt Cutts [youtube.com] where he discusses this issue and confirms that nofollowed links comprise a miniscule portion of the web and poses literally an insignificant influence on the algorithm. The important part of this video is his confirmation that nofollowed links comprise an insignificantly small portion of the web.

So in terms of natural link profile, if the vast majority of links are dofollow, does a site with a 50% nofollow profile appear normal? No. It is abnormal. None of my sites, or those I compete with, have such a link profile.

I can understand if in the niches you compete in that a 50% nofollow backlink profile is normal. However, a niche where many backlink profiles contain unnatural backlink profiles does not represent natural linking patterns, it represents webmasters pursuing similar backlink acquisition strategies, like from blog comments.

We know how this works. People observe what the competition is doing (copying the backlink strategies of the leading sites) and join in the strategy under the assumption that that is what it takes to compete. That's why we see entire niches like Real Estate that are utterly infested with old school reciprocal link patterns. It's a herd thing, not a natural linking pattern. Or in finance niches you typically find a huge amount of nofollowed comment backlinks. That's not natural either, but it's what everyone else is doing so everyone follows. It's just backlink research gone wrong.

So here is what we know:

1. Nofollow links comprise an insignificant minority of links.

2. Thus, nofollow links comprise a minority of backlinks to most websites.

3. If the average backlink profile comprises a small amount of nofollowed links, a site with a high percentage of nofollowed backlinks appears unnatural.

arikgub




msg:4406875
 8:46 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

planet13, martinibuster

Thanks for the video, I haven't seen it before.

The market I've been dealing with in the past few years appeals to a large community of hobbyists, who have a heavy impact on blogosphere and social media channels. The best products/websites generate a lot of buzz, which manifests itself in a vast amount of nofollow links in forums, blog comments, social media. And I really mean the best sites, they tend to have a lot of nofollow links.

I am not sure 50% is the optimal figure, but 1% is far off for me. 1% means the site does not generate any buzz, nobody is talking about it.

I understand that other niches may be different, but at least in my niche, a backlink profile without nofollow links does not look very healthy. Most likely, belongs to a heavy link buyer, and is not worthwhile community attention.

Planet13




msg:4406878
 8:49 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I discussed the issue of nofollow distorting the web graph with a Googler and I was told that only about 1% of all links are nofollow.


It is hard to argue with a google employee, but at the same time, I can't help but feel that nofollow links make up significantly more than 1% of the websites that google INDEXES.

I am not saying he is lying, but something doesn't add up... Maybe people who work for google aren't very good at math? ;)

When I look at a backlink report for a site with "legitimate" links, nofollow links are significantly higher than 1%.

I am pretty sure that joomla and word press and other major CMS all have nofollow links, don't they?

and twitter uses nofollow links, as does facebook.

Aren't there tons of content farms along the likes of ehow? Aren't those links all nofollow?

Aren't all the external links on wikipedia nofollow?

Aren't there hundreds of thousands of blogs out there? Aren't those links (and the ones that appear in the comments) all nofollow?

granted, there are blogs that aren't monitored and have dofollow comment links, and granted there are spammers who exploit them like mad and cram thousands of dofollow links into those comments.

Maybe those nofollow links are countered by all the dofollow spam directories out there? Maybe they are countered by all the dofollow MFA sites that scrape google and bing search results? and yes, if you count Made-For-Links article sites, then they are full of do follow links.

But you would think that google would dismiss those kinds of sites from the link graph entirely?

I don't know... maybe someone just needs to hit me upside the head with a 2 X 4 for me to "get it", but I just find it really hard to believe that nofollow links only make up 1% of the link graph of the web.

The best products/websites generate a lot of buzz, which manifests itself in a vast amount of nofollow links in forums, blog comments, social media. And I really mean the best sites, they tend to have a lot of nofollow links.


Yes, that is what I am seeing, too.

matrix_jan




msg:4406933
 12:25 am on Jan 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

nofollow links are worthless for ranking


Question: there is a thread about G loving urls in the text. Just urls no links... Now how can it be that G loves reference to example.com in text, but meanwhile not love an actual link with nofollow.

Thank you

martinibuster




msg:4406935
 12:39 am on Jan 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

A link with a nofollow is explicitly not a citation. That is the purpose of the nofollow: to signal to the search engines that the link is not a citation.

The other thing you are referencing is an unlinked citation. The idea behind unlinked citations is that there are forms of citations outside of the traditional hyperlink that can be counted as a citation. For example, for the purposes of local search, addresses are used as a citation.

What is an unlinked citation?

  • Is it when someone tweets a brand name?

  • When a URL is published but not linked to?

  • When a URL is published but with a redirect applied to it?

  • When a URL is published within a JavaScript?


The point is that all of the above examples show how an unlinked citation is different than a linked citation, and that a nofollowed link is explicitly flagged to not count as a citation.

matrix_jan




msg:4406949
 3:42 am on Jan 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

nofollow is explicitly not a citation

That depends. An unlinked citation in forums, or in a comment, or in youtube video descriptions, or in million other places will automatically transform into a nofollow link. Now from what you say it turns out that example.com is better than <a href="example.com" rel="nofollow">example.com</a>. Personally I think that this in no way can be. For me the later is a handy version of the first, if you refer to it you expect people to follow (people, not robots).

From above I see people bringing examples of webpages that rank well thanks to nofollow link. I'll bring an even better one:

One of the websites I manage contains 99% duplicate content. Duplicate, not stolen. From day one I've managed that website, and never build any links. All the links are nofollow, mainly from facebook, youtube, and forums. And guess what? I's on the same level as websites with 20K+ links for 2 years.

martinibuster




msg:4406961
 6:48 am on Jan 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

All the links are nofollow, mainly from facebook, youtube, and forums.


Let me make sure I have this straight. You're managing the SEO for a site from day one. You have never built any links. And the site has acquired 100% nofollow links from Facebook, youtube and forums- without any effort from you, strictly word of mouth. Is that correct?

And lastly, you are saying that the backlink profile of that site is 100% nofollow and this happened completely on it's own, 100% naturally.

Do I have this correct?

matrix_jan




msg:4406969
 8:25 am on Jan 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Never built any other links then in facebook page, twitter, and youtube. All were done on the websites' pages, didn't post any links to youtube video comments, didn't tweet to others with a link, didn't comment on other's posts in facebook promoting a url. All the links were just updates. Those make up about 1% of the nofollows, the rest is from user shares.

I actually built the website from scratch, and managed to optimize the structure. Still working on it and still see amazing details to which G pays huge attention.

If you do everything right, it won't matter if your content is duplicate on the web, or you have no links.

enigma1




msg:4407707
 2:42 pm on Jan 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

if the vast majority of links are dofollow, does a site with a 50% nofollow profile appear normal? No. It is abnormal.

Ok first of all that clip is fairly old and was released I think around the time NF was not well understood.

Then to give you an example, I post in some forums so say I have 10,000 posts, the admin decides to change the forum layout and include member signatures with each post with the NF attribute. That gives in a second 10,000 NF links which is abnormal but can happen. Also several CMS apps changed the way they exposed links with NF in a single version update thus you have way more NFs than when Matt did the clip.

And in the meantime google changed the way it processes NFs and distributes rank internally in a site. I do not have details as you need to access their code to really know what's going on, but I won't be surprised if the internal rank flow distribution is significantly different now because of the NFs.

but it does not stop trust and relevancy and those are influential in rankings.

As far I can tell it does stop them, what else it does that's the thing. Nofollow it's not literally do not follow, so if you create an orphan page nobody knows about and link it externally or internally with NF, I am certain google will index it and return results from that page's keywords. Now what it will do with competition is another thing. And so to be on the safe side if I do not want to hard-link a page (eg: login) but still have it for visitors I use some js or a post form instead of the questionable NF.

ThisIsOli




msg:4409889
 3:04 pm on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

NoFollow stops everything. However, Google may still use the metric for link spread analysis, they have not confirmed either way.

Trust is indeed non existant, it is a term covering a wide range of trust factors, but Google has confirmed that different values other than page rank are passed via links. Whether they do this for individual factors or for a calculated trust factor based on individual factors is unknown. But everything to duplicate content to the position of the link on a page can affect the value of a link.

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