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Nofollowing External Links the SEO Ladys View

Written by David Harry   
Thursday, 28 February 2008 16:09

Young Guns of SEO - Ann Smarty

Ann SmartyBefore I start, let me first state that as a rule I don't nofollow outbound links (well, at least I try to keep away from that :) ) . My attitude towards nofollowing is very simple and straightforward (you can call it womanlike) - I tend to never use it at all.

Why? No matter how hard SEOs try to persuade people that links are not votes (they are just links) and nofollowed links do not mean people hate you (it's just that they try to control the mysterious 'PageRank flow'), their voices won't be heard.


A nofollowed link is still a good way to make enemies among webmasters (even if the link under question was not pointing to their own site) who seldom remain untouched when they see rel="nofollow". I've found that it is much better for your 'PageRank flow' to build connections and generously and openly link out than to try to control it by nofollowing your external links.

However there are definitive reasons behind using nofollow (or the meaning people apply to a nofollowed link once they see it). So here are some (most often not-too-wise) approaches to external link nofollowing:

Emotional approach = I don't like you but your site is a great [preferably, negative] example of what I am talking about, I hate linking to you but have to.

Tit-for-tat approach = ok, I remember when you last referred to my site you were using 'nofollow' - now watch me, I am doing the same thing!

Nofollowing Links - the SEO Lady’s ViewYou-know-better approach (this one actually makes sense) = the guy is using nofollow when linking to his own page (e.g. 'feed' link), ok then I will nofollow my link to that page too (after all, that's for him to decide).

I-will-play-your-game approach = ok, this site always outlinks using nofollow (you guessed it right, read: wiki), so why wouldn't I?

Ugly-URLs approach = oh, you are using those awful ?s=%E8%E3%F0%E0%F2%FC-type URLs, probably you don't care much about SEO, so enjoy my nofollowed link!

I-am-greedy approach = ok, I already linked to your home page just a few lines above, isn't that enough for you? I will nofollow my link to your other page then.

Bad-guys approach = this guy is saying 'black hat' throughout his site; Google must hate him for that. If I link to him, Google will hate me (also).

I-hate-my-competitors approach = these guys are in the same business as me, if I link to them, they will rank higher in Google.

And to conclude, let me give you a small piece of advice: if you don't feel using direct URL to refer to another site, you better refrain from linking at all. To me 'normal' usage of nofollow is when it really makes sense (e.g. I might nofollow a link to dynamic search results for example just because this link isn't really important to the site's owner) but once I feel I am governed by emotions I better do without outlinking at all. Ironically, most people tend to try to see the 'message' (like one from the above list) you were trying to send with your nofollowed link (even if there was none). And it is wise to avoid this emotional coloring at all if you care about your online reputation. After all, you never know...


Dave here; Just wanted to thank Ann for relenting to my never ending harrassment to come ride along the trail with us for a spell. For those of you not familiar with this emerging SEO Consultant and all around Social Media Ninja - Drop by her blog, Make friends on Sphinn (or SEOmoz) and check out her Stumble profile ... hell, buy her a drink while your at it... it's dusty along the trail.

To hear more tales from the Young Guns of SEO - Stay tuned



+1 # TheMadHat 2008-02-28 19:31
Ummm, I see this applying to the SEO/internet marketing/blog sectors but not the mass population of ecommerce and most informational sites. Linking to content that parallels your industry but isn't particularly that relevant could cause a dilution of your "hub authority" I guess I'd call it.

Sometimes I want the resource there for my user, but I don't want to flow link juice away from me to a semi-related topic so I will nofollow it. Internal linking aside it's the same thing as siloing, third level push, etc.

I'm not sure which category that falls into. maybe the "I'm here to make money so if you don't like the link which could be beneficial with or without the nofollow then cry me a river" :cry:
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0 # Dave 2008-02-28 19:51
I certainly wouldn’t be passing the competition link love on a commercial site, or generally send much love of any kind. When it comes to the blog though, I only use them when I don’t trust the neighbourhood or simply being an ass to folks that piss me off….

That reminds me… better go an nofollow that link to the MadHat… gotta be a bad neighbourhood by now, no? bwwaa ha haha ha…

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0 # TheMadHat 2008-02-28 20:49
I guess I'd fall under the bad guy category. Nofollow my link eh? well nofollow this! blackhat ( blackhat ( blackhat ( blackhat ( and more blackhat ( :D
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0 # James Callahan 2009-05-17 15:58
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0 # James Callahan 2009-05-17 16:02
Man I'll have to try it again to see if I can be as cool as you midphase coupon code. here's to you madhat!!
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0 # Dave 2008-02-28 20:56
hey man.... wats wid da KW stuffing.. plus dats no way to target link text for those guys... ug....
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0 # Ann Smarty 2008-02-28 22:14
@TheMadHat: agreed, I should have included you-earn-plenty-of-money-so-you- will-probably-do-ok-without-my-follow-link approach (for commercial sites) :P but as the one who do seo for commercial sites most of the time I do not want to encourage anyone to nofollow links to them...
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0 # Sebastian 2008-02-29 15:45
Well, if you can't link out without condom, but the link adds value for visitors (no URI copy+paste operation or searches to find your worst enemy's crap), pull it client sided and none will notice. Everybody will believe you're a nice guy. I seriously thought about making a WP plugin with this functionality.
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0 # Ann Smarty 2008-02-29 17:28
Did I deserve that you let me know once you do? ;-) I want to be the first to know!
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0 # Sajal Kayan 2008-02-29 19:22
I nofollow comments on my blog (default for wordpress), didnt mess with it as i dont research and pick links there.
On the other hand if I see a site which runs on user generated content nofollowing links, it just pisses me off. Ive seen some of these around and its very bad. Maybe wikipedia is an exception to this. I still visit/participate in spite of this.
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0 # Jim Spencer 2008-02-29 19:24
Another consideration might be that a no follow surely tips the hand indicating that an SEO is on the scene.
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0 # TheMadHat 2008-02-29 20:25
@Jim - nofollow is standard in practically every CMS it doesn't really tip the hand. And SEO on the scene isn't really a bad thing in moderation.
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0 # Ann Smarty 2008-02-29 22:36
@Sajal Nofollowing in the comments is standard - I really don't think it now means anything. So no worries about that at all.
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0 # Japanese SEO 2008-03-03 21:22
Hi Ann,
Pretty interesting article.
I've introduced it on my blog, translating into Japanese.
(I'm a Japanese webmaster.)
Sure, I linked to you without nofollow. :P
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-1 # zrce 2008-09-04 11:54
artikle. i like it!
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+2 # Chaitanya Patel 2008-10-15 04:47
Rel="nofollow" is boundary for spammers, i found many a times, you won't see spammers at nofollow blogs, but you can definitely see stupid spammers at nofollow blogs with thanks, great and nice comments.
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0 # Jignesh 2008-11-07 22:30
Above i can see spammer "hossein". he actually didn't know how to place links. How SEO companies can afford these stupid spammers, i am not very much engaged to webmaster community but DP is full of spammers, if you want to meet spammer any time just login to your digitalpoint account.
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-1 # Ami Patel 2009-01-21 03:48
Is that true, external nofollow links can pass PR juice? I found somewhere and its true what i personally feels but m not sure on this thought!!!
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0 # Jack 2009-04-08 20:08
I´m agains nofollow tags, but certain links do need this tag!

Nice Post!
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+1 # James Callahan 2009-05-11 00:33
I haven't been able to determine if there is a difference between "external nofollow" and the plain-old "nofollow". I did check my Google analytics and some of my backlinks are of the "external nofollow" flavor. If you find out that external nofollow will actually pass PR juice, please post back to this blog. I'd like to get to the bottom of this "mystery"
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0 # online forex trading platform 2009-05-15 04:40
Usage of the nofollow tag is really getting out of hand. Google needs to be able to count links for pagerank to work. As more authority sites begin to implement nofollow tags, googlebot will only be left to count links on lower quality sites. This could wreak havoc on relevancy.
I would put money on googlebot using a custom/site specific interpretation on the nofollow tag. Wiki article links are generally highly relevant, and much more trustworthy than most other websites such as major online newspapers that sell links to the highest bidder
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0 # midphase coupon code 2009-05-17 15:46
yeah, I agree. there comes a point where most sites will just revert to nofollow. Then the SEs will have to rethink their ranking algorithm.
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0 # Barry Welford 2009-06-24 10:25
Great post, Ann

OTOH by now Google has thrown so much confusion around this nofollow tag and most web page creators will be unaware any way. ... so I hardly think you can draw any logical conclusions from the presence or absence of the nofollow tag.

If the Google algorithms are assuming so, then that will just throw more noise into the system. However that will help to preserve the secrecy around how the algorithms really work.
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+1 # casino bonus 2009-07-04 12:41
Do-follow links are a good way to get uprank at Google! Google recently updated its PR & my blog is PPR3 now :P

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