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The problem for me is that nearly all of these links have a nofollow tag. Thus, even though they are "natural" links created by other people without my involvement, Google doesn't give the site any credit for them.
So in this case it appears to me that Google has negated the effect of its own original idea of using naturally-acquired links as a measure of the quality of a site's content. In fact, considering the web as a whole, I would guess that Google is disregarding millions of naturally acquired links because they have a nofollow tag.
I want credit for decent OBLs from my site.
A community - no matter how small or how big - should take responsibility for its content.
These are things that have been forgotten in the unfortunate paranoia that's been created about linking out. Much of the paranoia, IMO, has been excessive. Google is not going to penalize a site for an anomalous bad link. It does leave a site responsible for the overall pattern and quality of its outlinking and for the maintenance of these links.
I hope that once webmasters start understanding that there are rewards for good outbounds, and that nofollowing outbounds does not conserve PR, some sort of healthy link ecosystem will revive. Links that are carefully selected or monitored in the first place are probably going to be easier to maintain.
Beyond that, on social sites, forums, and blogs... good content attracts good community, and good community creates good content, so the efforts towards good quality are self-enhancing.
Google is not going to penalize a site for an anomalous bad link.
That is a very important point - and I can verify from experience that this is so. I have one client who maintains a significant link resource for their market. They do a quarterly, hands-on inspection for links to bad neighborhoods, and every quarter they find a few.
They have never seen a rankings or traffic impact from hosting these links to bad neighborhoods. The overall picture is healthy and valuable with an occasional exception - and from what we cab see, that's what counts for Google.
Site owners are running scared. The ones that provide genuine links out keep using nofollow.
I don't, and I link to thousands of outside Web sites (sometimes from the home page).
... ummm ... okay then. Good for you. What does that indicate? Unless you can get the hundreds of thousands of others that ARE using nofollow because their scared to follow your example, it's not really much help.
What about the millions who haven't even heard of "nofollow" and wouldn't know how to use it if they had?
The webmasters that create fast loading sites with good content and clear navigation are mostly aware of nofollow -- or are becoming aware -- so the problem at this point is the general misunderstanding about its usage. That misunderstanding in large part can be attributed to the name "nofollow", which sounds like it stops the bot cold in its tracks.
Since Google started everyone on this road, I really think it's up to them to clear up the confusion. Perhaps adding a video instruction link in Webmasters Tools would be one way to inform. Until there is an understanding (not likely in the foreseeable future), we should expect to see nofollow where it is not really necessary.
I seriously doubt if it will happen, but seems like it would make defining / deciding to use the attribute easier for webmasters...
Maybe someday they'll let us just call them what they are and then they can decide how to handle them...
We don't need an expansion of nofollow. It needs to be scrapped.
When it's used appropriately, it's on a page full of UGC, possibly with a large volume of unmonitored links. For a visitor arriving on such a page it's likely to be a bad experience, because following any links is likely to lead to spam or worse. It's as good as saying "this page is full of junk". Nofollow makes webmasters complacent about the quality of the links they're displaying, and that's bad for the internet as a whole.
When it's used appropriately, it's on a page full of UGC, possibly with a large volume of unmonitored links.
Yep, that was the idea when "nofollow" was adopted by all three of the major search engines. It's still a valid usage, and if idiot Webmasters don't know any better, that doesn't make "nofollow" any less useful in its intended role.
I can see "nofollow" being useful to search engines in other ways beyond its intended purpose--e.g., as a signal of possibly low quality when used throughout a site, or as a way to help search engines discount reciprocal links that Webmasters are granting only grudgingly and for the wrong reasons. A bit of work by human quality evaluators, combined with a black-box analysis, might reveal some valuable data about the types of sites that misuse the "nofollow" attribute.
A bit of work by human quality evaluators, combined with a black-box analysis, might reveal some valuable data about the types of sites that misuse the "nofollow" attribute.
Not that I disagree with you. I think a carefully crafted combination of nofollow stigmatisation and weighted scoring of the OBL would do wonders for webmaster responsibility and value-add to the user. Not to mention sorting the end-user-oriented sites (with out-linking and link maintanance) from those that couldn't care less (prolific NF users) and those that don't maintain their site (link rotters).
Would that lead to a retraction of an MC statement
Times change, and search engines obviously need to monitor and react to what's happening in the real world. If excessive and inappropriate use of "nofollow" became a problem, then it wouldn't be unreasonable for Google and its competitors to respond accordingly. Just because Matt Cutts said something in 2007 or 2008 doesn't mean he and Google couldn't look at the situation differently in 2010, 2011, or 2012.