NoFollow - how do nofollow links affect your website?
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NoFollow - how do nofollow links affect your website?

Don't think for one minute website owners are saving their PageRank by using the "nofollow" tag - they're not! They may actually be causing their websites some harm by NOT allowing relevant outbound links to be followed. This affects YOU too.

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If you've landed on this page, you already probably have some clue of what its all about - the use of the "nofollow" tag.

Why is this little tag significant, and how does it affect you?

Let's start with the basics. Everyone knows backlinks (or incoming links) to your pages are valuable to your website - right? I tell all my clients to make sure they work towards obtaining as many relevant backlinks as possible to their pages - not just their home page. There are two reasons for this:

NoFollow example 1) The link can generate natural traffic from another website directly to yours - people read an article, see your link, and click on it to learn more - simple.

2) Search engine optimisation. Generally, the more links to your site, the more "respected" your website will be by search engines - and the higher your Google PageRank (PR) value will be.

So, you create good content, upload it to your website, then proceed to link back to it from perhaps Twitter, DIGG, or maybe even get a link back from sites like Mumbrella if you're very lucky.

Here's the catch: unfortunately, a lot of social media websites are awake up to this now - and they add a little tag commonly referred to as the no follow (written as rel="nofollow") attribute, which was first introduced in 2005, to external links.

What effect does nofollow have on outbound links?

NoFollow When a search engine crawler visits a page with your link in it, if the link has been assigned a "nofollow" tag, that is exactly what will happen - the search engine crawler is being told DO NOT follow this link. Thus, it won't count the link as a backlink.

Website owners use the "nofollow" tag for a couple of reasons:

1) To prevent their website being used for SEO purposes, hopefully encouraging quality content only, rather than repetitive articles and other content from search engine optimisers and other people taking notice of "must have backlinks" advice.

2) To prevent "PR leakage". In other words, the Pagerank of a particular page can be affected by the number of outgoing links. This is called "pageRank sculpting".

Why you shouldn't use a nofollow tag

With regards to #2, this is a bit of a fallacy because you may be surprised to know Google DOES take into account outbound "nofollow" links when calculating PR for the page the links appear on - and, STILL passes on PR to the destination page - albeit, a percentage of the PR it would normally assign to a link which does not use the nofollow attribute.

Matt Cutts, a senior and well respected Google employee said this in June 2009:
So what happens when you have a page with "ten PageRank points" and ten outgoing links, and five of those links are nofollowed? Letís leave aside the decay factor to focus on the core part of the question. Originally, the five links without nofollow would have flowed two points of PageRank each (in essence, the nofollowed links didn't count toward the denominator when dividing PageRank by the outdegree of the page). More than a year ago, Google changed how the PageRank flows so that the five links without nofollow would flow one point of PageRank each.
So you can see that if you are trying to retain your PageRank by using "nofollow", that's not how it works!

Google (and other search engines) EXPECTS to see outbound links. If I write an article about "trademarks" for example, I'm going to link to IP Australia at some stage because Google expects that is a natural state of affairs - linking good content to more (and relevant) good content.

Matt goes on to say:
In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.
If you are hungry for more information about nofollow, visit the personal blog of Matt Cutts - and no - there is not a nofollow on this link :).

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