Google’s “Nofollow” Rule

The major search engine Google has a rule regarding use of the rel=”nofollow” tag/attribute in links, which has generated some controversy in recent months. The rule is intended to prevent websites from gaining better Google search result rankings by participating in link exchanges or sales. This is becoming more relevant in the recent weeks as Google recently performed an internet wide update of Page Rank (PR) and many leading directories and sites that participate in paid link advertising seem to be singled out by Google.

In general, Google and other search engines allow websites with more links to them from other sites to appear higher in search results, considering each link as a “recommendation” for the site it links to. The “nofollow” tag, when added to a link, prevents Google from counting the link as such a “recommendation”, thus not providing any search ranking benefits to the site being linked to.

Google believes that a link which has been purchased or exchanged in a reciprocal manner should not benefit websites’ ranking in search results. Thus its “nofollow” rule calls on all website owners to use the “nofollow” tag when creating such links. According to mattcutts.com (a blog created by the head of the Google “webspam team”), any website which doesn’t use the tag for a link of this type may be penalized. Some have speculated that the recent reductions in PageRank values for many websites were caused by violations of this rule.

This has created controversy and complicated the process of buying or exchanging a link. Some argue that a reciprocal link exchange does indicate a recommendation for each other’s websites by the respective sites’ administrators, and should be counted positively. Website owners who gain a substantial part of their revenue from selling links, or had already exchanged many reciprocal links without the “nofollow” tag before Google instated the rule, are understandably displeased with it.

If the Google “nofollow” rule is to be followed, website owners now have to agree whether or not to use it when exchanging or selling link(s), which may complicate the matter if one of the two owners involved does not believe in following the rule, doesn’t know about it, or lacks understanding of the “nofollow” tag. Some claim that Google’s method for detecting bought or reciprocal links is not effective enough to make following the rule necessary. Website owners who do not believe they will be able to gain any other types of inbound links are especially likely to violate it. In addition to their automated system, Google has a page on their website where anyone can “report” the sale of links to them.

It remains to be seen how significant an effect Google’s “nofollow” rule will have on reciprocal linking and link sales, with the level of understanding and acceptance of the rule among website owners playing a significant role in the outcome. One thought to keep in mind is the that the use of “nofollow” might actually leave an SEO footprint for Google to detect that a site has been “SEO’d”.

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2 Comments

  1. […] here for […]

  2. It is very upsetting – what if you have links within your posts to other or your own posts? And does the side bar count – your archive and recent post links?


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