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Using No-Follow on Internal Links Cause a Drop in Rankings?

Noticed a site dropping in SERPS with no-follow on internal links

     
4:17 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I have noticed a competitor's site placing no-follow on internal links to pages that are not on topic/theme, i.e. privacy policy, contact, user agreement, etc...

I assume they are doing this to preserve or funnel PR to their most important on-topic pages.

I have noticed the site has gradually been losing positions in SERPS over the past several months. No, they are not being out SEOD, if that is a word, by their competitors. I also realize that we can't hold and analyze this in a vacuum, so there is no need to speculate about other factors that could cause of a drop in rankings.

I would like to know others thoughts on whether or not placing no-follow on internal links could hurt a site in the eyes of Google.

For example, could placing no-follow on internal links hurt a site's trust rank, thus possibly hurting their rankings?

Also, if you donít feel that it would hurt a site, would placing no-follow on internal links serve much of a purpose at all?

4:39 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Well placing rel="nofollow" on existing links on a site would impact several things.

Only part of which is strictly PR related, depending on how Google looks at things the related link text should be made moot, the page that is doing the link just had an update done to it, and the page linked to should have also lost an IBL. So could this affect ranking etc? Yup.

5:39 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Let's take a very naive look at this. The rel=nofollow attribute was introduced to combat blog comment spam. It was supposed to mean "I don't vouch for this link."

What message does that send if the link goes to one of the pages on your own site - especially to contact information which certainly you would "vouch for"? I think the message is very clear: "I'm trying to manipulate Google's rankings for my urls."

5:53 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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theBear,

I understand what you are saying about a specific page being linked to, and the potential loss of ranking due to the loss of an IBL, but I was thinking more along the lines of a site losing trust with google rather than an individual page ranking due to the use of no-follow as a part of internal linking strategy.

6:22 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I think the message is very clear: "I'm trying to manipulate Google's rankings for my urls."

Yeah, it should, but remember at one of the site review sessions at last year's Boston PubCon when Matt Cutts gave positive feedback to a site owner who used nofollow on contact and other incidental pages?

Matt gives out a lot of good, usable information. In this case I think he's just muddied the waters.

6:42 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Tedster makes a great point. Whenever I visit a site that turns all pink (with the firefox extension) I think this guy is trying to game the system.

The problem right now is that Google keeps changing the rules, sure it was developed for comment spam but now includes pay-per-post, affiliate links, untrusted sites, yada yada, when will it end?

As with all well intentioned search engine issues too much of something at some point becomes spam. Having the webmaster put in keywords in a meta tag was a great idea, until the 2nd day when some wise guy figured out he could stuff it full of irrelavent words and rank for those as well.

Eventually you know this will become a spam indicator as well, if you are trying to funnel your pagerank to certain pages and artificially influence Google they may start watching for it.

I think we're going to see some real messes coming up because of this nofollow thing. It was designed to stop people from influencing the natural rankings with spam links, but of course stopping something from influencing the natural rankings is influencing the natural rankings, so somebody is going to try to take advantage of that.

7:26 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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What message does that send if the link goes to one of the pages on your own site - especially to contact information which certainly you would "vouch for"? I think the message is very clear: "I'm trying to manipulate Google's rankings for my urls."

So are we saying that rel="nofollow" on an affiliate link is a bad thing? I pull the affiliate link out of my database sometimes, and the link to it has the nofollow attribute also.
7:47 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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What message does that send if the link goes to one of the pages on your own site - especially to contact information which certainly you would "vouch for"? I think the message is very clear: "I'm trying to manipulate Google's rankings for my urls."

I don't agree with this 100%. vbulletin for example uses rel=nofollow on links going to things that have no business being followed. Things like "view user's profile" or "view users posts" etc etc.

It is used in vbulletin to prevent indexing or following of things that, though important to the site, offers nothing to surfers in a search engine.

If "I'm trying to manipulate Google's rankings for my urls." were true there would be no well serped vbulletins because of all the nofollow urls, but we all know that's not the case, many vbulletin sites do very will and are packed with these tags...

8:05 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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So if rel="nofollow" is not a wise move to preserve PR to only on-topic pages, should you make javascript links for view cart, account login and/or add to cart?
8:29 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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If you don't want a page indexed why not do it the right and only sure way of doing it with robots.txt or a NOINDEX tag?

Nofollowing the links to a page doesn't stop someone else from linking to the page and getting it indexed that way.

8:49 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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its certainly something the big sites are all doing....however it would be very simple for google to only take notice of it for external links to keep it in the context of its original purpose
9:55 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hi
But what about situation if one page has multiple(2-4) links to one internal page. Should i mark them with nofollow except one?
10:04 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I overused the rel="nofollow" attribute on my site at one stage and when I removed a lot of the nofollow links my rankings most definitely improved.

My reason for doing it in the first place was to stop the indexing of pages on my site which could be perceived as duplicate content.

A more specific description of the pages is in question is this - imagine lists of items with each item having a 100 summary. These items are pulled from the DB and I had different "views" of looking at or categorising these items. I thought that having all the different category pages (the category pages of course have overlapping items) indexed was a bad thing from a duplicate content point of view and also from the perspective of dampening PR. I planned to direct all proper links to only the one category view page so as to increase it's ranking (I justified this as rather having one page in the top 10 than 10 pages in the top 50).

Somewhere my thinking was flawed, however, because when I eventually removed the nofollows and allowed all pages to be indexed my rankings got better.

I have still got nofollows on certain pages though e.g. privacy policy, contact us, terms and conditions that just wouldn't be relevant from the point of view of being listed as search results.

This isn't particularly conclusive but maybe some of you will find it useful.

10:37 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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people will use this while they see the huge sites doing very nicely thank you doing exactly the same. However as has already been said, rel=nofollow has nothing to do with indexing. It is simply stopping the linked page getting a vote from yours and so is purely a pr tool. To stop indexing you would robots.txt and use meta=noindex tags. Therefore how can google view internal rel=nofollows as anything other than pr manipulation. Internally it has no other purpose. Either they will feel its legitimate to filter your own pr as you see fit in your own internal voting system or they will conclude it will skew their results because only savy webmasters will be doing this.

Whenever I visit a site that turns all pink (with the firefox extension) I think this guy is trying to game the system.

but it goes pink with meta=noindex..not just rel links.

I think the biggest confusion is people think it literally means what it says..nofollow..but it is not a nofollow tag..its a no vote (pr) tag

11:14 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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rel="nofollow" - it's a curse on the web that should never have been invented. Either something is a hyperlink, or it isn't. Anything in between, overall, makes little sense. Google would do well to ignore it.
11:48 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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It's certainly a curse but I use it on all pages that link to "reply to ad" "contact advertiser" etc, which all have zero content and look the same other than the ad id.

Yes I'm paranoid about it, to the point that I also put "noindex" on those same pages.

The pages definitely do not have a right to be in the index and I want to make sure that they never rank, waste PR or clutter up my site profiles.

Am I manipulating PR? Maybe. But I also don't want to risk tripping a filter for 10 bazillion duplicate pages.

It serves a purpose whether evil or not.

2:39 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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braap,

Well they could use it to determine that you might be gaming them, however just from the side effects alone the rel="nofollow" can cause damage you don't intend, so I don't see them having to factor it in any more than it is.

tedster,

Yup it says something alright, but it is self correcting ;-).

3:03 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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It kinda feels like one of those riddles you find deep in a labyrinth.

Google to webmaster:

"If you are telling me that you make and post untrustworthy pages, (via rel='nofollow'), how can I trust you that the pages are indeed untrustworthy?"

Ugghhh. I'm getting dizzy.

5:14 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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First, you don't need to do both nofollow and noindex.

Second, Matt Cutts always said that nofollow could be used for other than to stop blog spam.

I use nofollow for my PDFs as it's the easiest way to keep them from being spidered.

For those of you who are thinking nofollows caused a drop in PR how much were you using them?

5:26 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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To stop indexing you would robots.txt and use meta=noindex tags.

You can't use it for trying to combat duplicate content and spam looking issues with regard to named anchors.

'<A href="page.html#part1" rel="nofollow">Part 1</a>' is the only way to do it.

6:33 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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duplicate content and spam looking issues with regard to named anchors

Is there any indication that there are dup content issues with named anchors?

I use them regularly and have never seen any issues. In fact, most of my highest ranking pages have them, both on and off page links.

6:45 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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As a supplement to the above post, Vanessa Fox states on 11/09/2006:

"Don't worry about links to anchors, because while Googlebot will crawl each link, our algorithms will index the URL without the anchor."

[googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com ]

7:31 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I use nofollow for my PDFs as it's the easiest way to keep them from being spidered.

As others have said above, 'noindex' is what should be used to prevent spidering whereas 'nofollow' is to prevent PR flow. Please correct me if I'm wrong because I have not had first hand experience with 'noindex'.

8:12 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I use nofollow for my PDFs as it's the easiest way to keep them from being spidered.

robots.txt
'Disallow: /pdf_directory/'

would work wouldn't it?

8:33 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I have some pages with <meta name="robots" content="noindex" /> in the head from day one, and they get crawled as frequently as any other. They don't show up in Google's index but they have a TB PageRank of 2.
9:21 am on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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because noindex means what it says..dont index..it doesnt mean dont spider.....the only way to prevent google even looking at the page is robots.txt...

I use nofollow for my PDFs as it's the easiest way to keep them from being spidered.

you really need to state if you are talking about a meta tag or rel tag. The rel=nofollow DOES NOT mean nofollow, only the meta tag DOES.

3:27 pm on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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robots.txt
'Disallow: /pdf_directory/'

This is what I need to do. I'm just not clear how you do a robots.text for a whole directory.

On the discussion on nofollow compared to noindex. I hadn't thought about it before but since Google still looks at the page just doesn't index it could they still count the page against your in terms of dup copy? I use noindex on the my html pages designed to be printable.

3:47 pm on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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As a supplement to the above post, Vanessa Fox states on 11/09/2006:

"Don't worry about links to anchors, because while Googlebot will crawl each link, our algorithms will index the URL without the anchor."

And that's exactly where the problem is.
Several named anchors will cause multiple indexing of the same page, hence duplicate content issue. Add different internal anchor text for the same page and you get spam issue.

Anyway, we need either testing it or a clear statement from Google regarding 'rel="nofollow"' and indexing.
Up to now, all said is very vague.

"I can't vouch for this link" doesn't necessarily include possible content indexing.
As they say:

How do I tell Googlebot not to crawl a single outgoing link on a page?

Meta tags can exclude all outgoing links on a page, but you can also instruct Googlebot not to crawl individual links by adding rel="nofollow" to a hyperlink.

4:06 pm on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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tedster wrote:
Let's take a very naive look at this. The rel=nofollow attribute was introduced to combat blog comment spam. It was supposed to mean "I don't vouch for this link."

What message does that send if the link goes to one of the pages on your own site - especially to contact information which certainly you would "vouch for"? I think the message is very clear: "I'm trying to manipulate Google's rankings for my urls."

bold in quotes is my edit

I thought about what "nofollow" means/implies for a while and I don't think that it means "I don't vouch for this link" but rather " I don't vouch for the content that this links points to". It might be splitting hairs but there is distinction especially with the sites with user contributed content, which plays into putting nofollow on your own links.

Take for example G's own video page video dot google dot com - if you look at all the links to popular categories (top 100, comedy, etc) you will see that they have nofollow on them (even though they point to sites on G's own (sub)domain). However if you follow any of the *category* links you will see that once there links to individual videos do not have nofollow on them. That is in contrast to main video page where selection of links to individual videos have nofollow on them.

7:40 pm on Mar 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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perhaps at some point people will start explicitly stating meta=nofollow or rel=nofollow because simply saying nofollow does not make it clear which tag you are talking about. They are different.
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