I know that I want to engage in best practices when it comes to SEO, but when it comes to link building, how do I get follow links and what are nofollow links?
Do I still want them?
What are ways to get the good kind of links?
If I give away too many follow links, does that hurt my page rank score?
Does that matter anymore?
So many questions.
Well this article will attempt to alleviate the confusion around this critical SEO concept.
So you’re searching for links, but you might want to get some clarification on this whole follow and nofollow thing.
Should you be concerned about the types of links you’re getting?
Lets start with understanding what nofollow means.
NoFollow Links, What Are They
Back in 2005, google suggested a way to stop spam and offered a way to prevent links from affecting a site’s page rank score.
People were abusing this rule to sculpt their page rank so google changed this strategy up a bit.
Now they offer a weighted effect on page rank, with priority on regular a.k.a followed links.
Other search engines (bing, yahoo, ask, baidu, etc…) generally follow this idea with some variation.
Before we go on, let’s unpack some of these concepts.
The NoFollow Link
For starters lets cover what a link looks like in html (hypertext markup language).
Here’s a link to this site from scoop it, a social media site that enables you to categorize and share content.
This means that web crawlers implementing the page rank (score assessment) will treat this link differently than regular links/follow links.
The Effect of NoFollow on SEO
Many search engines depend heavily on the number of links pointing to a site (inbound links) and links in a site pointing out to other sites (outbound links) to assess site quality.
The nofollow html tag attribute essentially provides an indicator that search engines should ignore this link.
Many have attempted to game this aspect of search engines. You may have heard of the old school technique of link farms.
Black Hat SEO Doesn’t Really Work Anymore
Yes, this is a dated and no longer effective concept (link farms), and the search algorithms implemented are smart enough to generally know the difference between good and bad links (at least when it comes to google).
Page Rank Algorithm
The page rank algorithm that google initially implemented essentially provided each site a score and distributed that score across all outbound links.
The same score based assessment was applied to the site itself using all of the inbound links.
This idea was taken from the academic world where each scholarly work had references to other works.
By assessing how many works referenced a specific work (paper, dissertation, article, etc…) you could assess the quality, or rank
New World Order of SEO
These days google is using a lot of artificial intelligence so there’s really no telling what the secret recipe is.
Really though, there never was, because black hat search engine optimization specialists were good at reverse engineering the algorithm, but they were still just guessing.
Therefore, it’s quite difficult to game, if at all possible.
So focus on proven and effective SEO strategies instead, and break free of the desire to cheat the game, the game’s to tough to cheat, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
Should I Add NoFollow to Internal Site Links?
There is some controversy about this, because google is somewhat cryptic and vague about how to actually use this.
Matt Cutts (former Google Employee), has urged Webmasters not to focus on manipulating internal Page-rank, which is vague at best.
If you want to follow in another companies lead, you could look to YouTube, which uses nofollow on many internal links, such as help and share.
The Problem with NoFollow
The practice adding nofollow to any user generated content is widespread.
This may help preserve page rank for a site but it inadvertently reduces the benefit of good links in comments.
A huge example of this is Wikipedia.
Wikipedia Hating on its Content Creators
Okay, that subheading is extreme, and I understand their decision. However, like mentioned above this decision has deleterious effects on content creators.
A Wikipedia article can reference external content to increase the richness of the wiki article, yet since all external links on Wikipedia are nofollow, the good internet karma isn’t passed along.
It’s unfortunate that this is a disincentive for content creators.
Now any article that’s referenced in Wikipedia has to actually compete with the wiki article.
A bit tangential but still relevant, is an issue with the google knowledge graph offering a similar disincentive for content creators and creates competition for them using their own hard work, what a world.
Is the internet broken, man, I can’t wait for web 3.0 to gain traction. (Brave, SteemIt, DTube, etc… ). Ecosystems that reward the content creators, using decentralized block chain tech, but more on that in another article.
Link assessment is quite detail oriented and has many nuances.
Follow Links, Do They Still Exist?
Any link without a nofollow is considered a follow link, so if you want to check whether a link you got is followed, just check the source code.
Fast Way to Check For NoFollow
A keyboard shortcut I often use in Chrome is CTRL + SHIFT+ C.
To remember this think shift control to Check the html in the developer environment.
You just need to hover your cursor over the element you want to inspect.
ctrl-shift-c for html of content under cursor
Now you know how to quickly check whether a link has the no-follow html attribute. Pretty cool huh?
Link Building Tips
So let’s say you want more links to your site.
Well, yeah, that’s a no brainier, if you want your site to be successful, you’ll have to put some effort into link building, but how?
Here are some ideas.
Start a link building program and train some helpers on how to reach out to related websites. Find the contact email of the author or site webmaster, and ask for a link.
- Ask for a review for your product or service in exchange for a free trial.
- Offer a link to their site in exchange for some social media shares.
- Reach out to similar websites that talk about concepts your site focuses on and offer the link as a way to expand to info they provide to their readers.
- It all depends on the nature of your site, so think creatively and put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re reaching out to.
- Just like in real world networking, you have to engage with people, and find common ground. Don’t just ask for stuff, find a way to provide value first.
Wait What About NoFollow and Link-Building?
Since google still values links whether they’re followed or not, it’s important to engage in any link building opportunities that you can.
Outside of reaching out to individuals with websites and finding a way to connect, there are many other ways.
Just look to the whole internet.
- Many related sites will allow links in comments, just make sure your comment adds to the page’s quality, because moderators may remove Spam comments. Resist the urge to automate this effort.
- Engage in topic related discussions. For example, if you have tech related articles like this site you can go to Stack Overflow.
- Find your category on Reddit, or Quora, or some other social media forum type of site.
- Create a podcast, a YouTube channel, create other types of content with links to your site.
- Engage in social media, on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Check out this site’s article on how to get traffic from twitter by understanding how it works..
- Learn how to use hashtags to engage more effectively on social media.
- Use tools like Klout to intelligently engage and schedule posts on social media, to stay consistent.
Just like in the analog world the digital world is rife with opportunities, you just need the right lens to look through to see them.
Think creatively and don’t forget that selfish attempts at outreach will fail, so think with empathy and look to provide value first, before you add links or ask for something.
Linking In Greater Detail
If you want to learn more about SEO and implement an intelligent linking strategy I recommend you check out this detailed analysis on linking by MOZ, an authority on SEO.
I hope this article is helpful, and if you want to add some links to related content, just post in the comments below.