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Could mass "nofollow" addition be the cause of my penalty?



9:45 pm on Feb 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I always assumed my penalty was because I traded with around 200 sites over a 3 month span. But the fact that my site has been gaining 200+ backlinks A DAY naturally over many years makes me believe I had enough built up strength that google wouldn't care about those additional trades.

One other possibility could be that one day I decided to add "nofollow" to all outbound links. My site is a directory of sorts and we list categorized sites daily. Each of my 50+ category pages lists about 30 of these outbound links to other sites that we approve. I nofollowed all of them on every page. So in one day about 1500 outbound links were nofollowed.

Could that have really screwed up my overall site link profile in the eyes of google? Enough to trigger a penalty? This penalty didn't happen within days of doing this... more like a few weeks after.

thanks for your thoughts..



4:09 pm on Feb 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

If you nofollow INTERNAL links, that can cause ranking problems. But external links? It seems unlikely on its own. Now if many of those sites were linking back and they removed those links (or nofollowed them) that would cut down your link juice and cause a drop, but that's not a penalty.


4:17 pm on Feb 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Somethings missing. You get 200+ backlinks a day so the 200 recipricals shouldn't make a dent in your backlinks profile.

Adding nofollow tags to outbounds will have no negative effect that I'm aware of.

Something else must have been done if indeed you're in a penalty and not in some temporary disappearance from serps.


7:53 am on Feb 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

One more thing... ALL of the links that I nofollowed have a link back to me. Could it be that adding the mass nofollow caused a major alteration in my linking profile which triggered some algorithmic penalty?

My site consists of 80 category pages each with 30 outbound links that I nofollowed. So in one day I nofollowed at least 2400 links.



10:29 am on Feb 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

flicky, what if Google doesn't think that these links are legitimate? Maybe they see them as bought or as exchanged. I know you said that they are give 'naturally' but maybe your definition is different :)?

200 links a day does sound like a lot of links, and we don't really know how they were gotten


2:45 pm on Feb 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

200 back links per day x 30 days (avg) x 3 months = ~18,000 back links. That would raise a red flag to me.


5:41 pm on Feb 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Part of my site is a directory. It is not required to link back, however most people do. It is a popular directory so I get 200+ new submissions a day to the various categories. This is why I said I get around 200 backlinks a day. Keep in mind that most of the sites submitted to the directory never get listed for various reasons, but the backlinks are still there.

I've been getting this steady number of backlinks for at least 8 years, so it shouldn't have triggered a red flag as it's just a normal part of my link profile according to google.

But, about 2 weeks before this penalty, I decided to rel=nofollow all of links to these sites in my directory. We run a program to check for dead links, but what if one of these links ends up in a bad neighborhood? So I figured rel=nofollow would protect me from that.

So knowing that I've had 8 years of steady backlinks coming in and 8 years of linking to these sites WITHOUT rel=nofollow... could adding that to every link have triggered something?

I know, I should just remove it and see what happens, but then what if this was related to something else and it's a timed penalty about to expire? I'd never really know what the reason was.

Some specs regarding my penalty:

1. Lost 90% of my google traffic on November 28th
2. Slow decline in the number of pages spidered according to GWT
3. Some of my best SERPs now show my site in supplementals
4. querying "keyword.com" and "keyword" still brings me up #1
5. pagerank has held steady


7:39 pm on Feb 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

"Part of my site is a directory. It is not required to link back, however most people do."

Sorry but I don't buy that, most people don't unless they are not given a choice like: you don't have to really link but your link may be checked in 24 years. So you have been getting about 200 links a day for 8 years?

Looks like Google has flagged you and thinks that you're using the directory to get non-editorial links, it has nothing to do with 'no-follow'


8:07 pm on Feb 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It is indeed an option as it states on the submission form, but that aside, I raise this other point...

What could I do to convince google that I've made a clear effort to fix this if they think I'm forcing webmasters to put something up and I haven't been? I'm sort of out of luck. There isn't any way to prove this.

I figure my best bet would be to contact my large email list of directory participants and have them do something with the link to me. Maybe remove any anchor text, just have them anchor to my domain instead of keywords, etc... then I can go to google and say "look, these backlinks aren't important to me... I contacted all of the webmasters and had them modify or remove them to prove that. I've also nofollowed all of them to prove they aren't bought".

think I have a chance?


6:16 am on Feb 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

But external links? It seems unlikely on its own

Mass nofollows, however, in theory could be used as a flagging mechanism to trigger a manual review of a website, since 2400 is excessive in almost any imaginable scenario - especially within a very short period of time.


7:11 am on Feb 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lammert is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

A trigger for manual review seems the most plausible reason for your fall in the SERPs. Requesting links on your submission form, then declining most of the submissions and as latest step nofollow the remaining 2400 outbound links would be a solid reason to remove you from the SERPs if I were a search engine, because you definitely try to game the system.

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