Using The “rel=nofollow” Tag To Boost Your PageRank?

By | April 12, 2006

Edition #36 – 4/12/2006

Today I’d like to bring some clarity a rather confusing topic, which you may or may not be familiar with…

The issue of using “rel=nofollow” in your HTML link tags has been around since Google introduced the effort to reduce blog spam a little over a year ago.

Here’s how it works. You put the rel=nofollow in your link, and the search engine will IGNORE that link. The robot will not follow it.

Blog spammers often post comments to gain a “vote” from that page toward their PageRank (PR), which boosts their search engine rankings. By using the “nofollow” attribute, the site no longer receives a vote. The initial hope is that this will eventually slow down blog spammers (especially automated ones).

While I don’t think there is a lot of conclusive evidence to prove whether the “nofollow” attribute has helped curb spam, there are several other important ramifications involving its use.

PageRank hoarding: It’s a commonly held theory that having too many links on a page will reduce your PR. By implementing the “nofollow” attribute, you can make it look to the search engines like there are fewer or no links on the page.

For example, if you have links to 10 different products, plus navigation links to 20 of your own pages, you could implement the “nofollow” on your 10 external links to possibly improve your PR.

Obviously, you would NOT want to put “nofollow” on links to pages that you desire to be spidered and indexed. However, you might want to put “nofollow” on your internal links, as long as there is a site map or other uninhibited way for the bots to get to those pages.

The big controversy with that technique, is that it could also backfire at any time. It is unlikely, given Google’s widespread implementation and suggestion, but they could silently begin treating “nofollow” differently.

For example, they might begin to place less authority or ranking weight on pages with lots of “nofollow” links on them, or they might index them less frequently.

There is also a contingency of webmasters who consider anyone using “nofollow” to be a link spammer (I think that’s ridiculous though).

Link swapping and buying: If you engage in any reciprocal linking, or if you buy links on other sites, you NEED to be aware of this. If your link partner puts the “nofollow” on the link to your site, then you’re not getting any PR benefit from that link.

Worse yet, if it’s a reciprocal link, you’re helping them while they shortchange you. Whether you’re buying or swapping links, you should make sure they don’t use the “nofollow”, or if they do, at least be aware of it.

Bad neighborhoods: Google has made it fairly clear that they discourage linking to what they call “bad neighborhoods”. Unfortunately, they aren’t explicit enough to tell us who those neighborhoods are, but it’s probably stuff like porn and gambling.

The “nofollow” attribute may allow the possibility of linking to bad neighborhoods without your site being devalued. Once again the fear is that Google may some day use the “nofollow” attribute to seek out and find those who link to bad neighborhoods. Again I think that would be unlikely, but feasible.

What is Eric’s Opinion?

First I don’t think it’s anything to be overly worried about, but if you’re going to play the SEO game then you might as well take it into consideration.

I personally use the “nofollow” on a lot of my outgoing affiliate links. I’m doing this as an attempt to avoid “bleeding” PR to affiliate program providers’ domains, and also to avoid the appearance of affiliate bridge pages, since they’re not.

For example, search engines to not like to send traffic to pages which are designed to send the traffic directly to another site. They’d rather send the traffic to the final destination to begin with. While there are perfectly valid reasons for this, it is obviously a major concern for affiliate marketers who create legitimate websites not with the intention to “trick”, but to assist their vendor in acquiring targeted traffic.

If you’re linking to bad neighborhoods, I’d say go ahead and use “nofollow”. If Google ends up using it to penalize you someday, you’re in no worse position than you are today, so you’ve got nothing to lose (you also might want to consider a new niche).

In general, I’d say use it where necessary, but use it with caution and in moderation. Try to build your sites in such a way that you don’t have to use it very much. In other words, don’t build link farms.

If any of you have any experience or comments about using “nofollow”, I’d like to hear it.

Coincidentally, I’m not using “nofollow” on my blog comments currently 😉

3 thoughts on “Using The “rel=nofollow” Tag To Boost Your PageRank?

  1. Dody Herison

    Hi, eric

    Do you know, how to realy make a site get 10 top position in search engine?
    And how do the keyword work form start to 0 till the keyword have good rank in search engine?
    My website is about to promote other website to get top rank and make their web to easy found from search engine….

    thank’s for your support…
    I’ve hear about no follow. yes it’s really can bost rank….
    thank’s eric

    best regard dody herison

  2. Terry

    Hi Eric,
    Very interesting article on the ‘no follow’ tag.
    my only question is – where or how to apply it to a link ? and how can I spot it in any reciprocal links?

  3. Eric Post author

    You would use it like this…

    a HREF="" rel="nofollow"

    To spot in in reciprocals, you would need to view the source code and see if the nofollow attribute is being used. I believe the Firefix browser also now has a tool that can highlight nofollow links.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 50 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here