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The No Follow Tag And Its Secret To Preserving Page Rank

The No Follow TagSEO’s have been arguing over the no follow tag for years without ever coming to a final conclusion. In mid 2005 Google first introduced the no follow tag to the world. In the very beginning it was supposedly introduced to fend off spammers.

It was allegedly supposed to reduce link spam, especially blog comments. At the time SEO’s were raping blogs with their powerful commenting tools and seriously reaping the benefits. Blog comments were kicking ass and so were many other easily manipulated link building techniques.

So Google introduced the “no follow” tag as an HTML attribute people could add to their external links to preserve Page Rank. As I’ve mentioned before, Page Rank flows through links and it’s like the search engine currency. (Don’t worry about it if you don’t yet understand)

If you want to preserve Page Rank or simply stop spammers stealing it from you, you can use the no follow tag. When used it stops a link from gaining any search engine benefits. It stops the flow of Page Rank and therefore doesn’t impact the rankings of the externally linked website.

If you’re a technophobe like me you probably have no idea what HTML even means. To be honest you don’t even need to understand the no follow tag to start using it. Here is what the attribute looks like in a normal link:

<a href=”http://www.website.com/” rel=”nofollow“>Anchor Text</a>

Note: the no follow tag is underlined. It’s just a tiny piece of code you can insert into any link internal or external. As I said it was supposed to reduce link spam and in particular; blog comment spam. The truth is it didn’t really reduce the amount of spam, but it definitely influenced the effectiveness of many links.

As I’ve been saying people have been arguing over the effectiveness of no follow links for years. Are they really ineffective? Should you only build do-follow backlinks when link building?

Unfortunately nobody really knows how effective no follow links are. Remember, a no follow link (or backlink) is a link from a site that is using the no-follow tag. I question the effectiveness of no follow links periodically.

It’s stupid really as I’ll never come to a conclusion until I do a case study building solely no follow links to a website and tracking the results. However I’ve read many case studies, countless articles and the truth is evident. They seem to be effective.

But how effective we’ll never really know. It’s pretty conclusive that no follow links still boost your search engine rankings, however they don’t hold the same value as do follow links. Do follow links are just normal backlinks that aren’t using the no follow tag. They are backlinks that are sending you Page Rank.

Back to the origins of the no follow tag, it was also introduced to allow the text link advertising industry to keep running.

Text link ads are contextual links advertisers pay for. They pay for contextual links that get displayed among thousands of websites for their desired keywords. Whenever a blog post or article mentions an advertiser’s keyword, it automatically links it to their site and they pay for it.

As you can imagine, without the no follow tag SEO’s were abusing text link ads for SEO purposes. When text link ads are supposed to primarily drive traffic, not impact search engine rankings. So the no follow tag started off as a tag webmasters used to preserve Page Rank.

Shortly after the tag was introduced, people figured out it could be used internally. By internally I mean with internal links. To this day webmasters are still using the no follow tag to their advantage, and so should you.

Firstly you should use the no follow tag to preserve Page Rank. The chances are there are many holes in your website. By holes I mean external links not using the no follow tag. When you link to a site by default you do follow it which in effect tells Google “hey – I vote for this website”.

Google then responds by improving its search engine rankings in some way or another. Just remember backlinks are the search engine currency; and if you don’t understand backlinks just think of them as votes. Every backlink counts as a vote towards your website.

So when you link to another website, you’re saying “Google, I endorse this website – give it some of my precious PR power”. To preserve your PR juice, use the no follow tag when linking to external sources. Should you use it for every link? No, hoarding Page Rank completely isn’t exactly a good idea.

It’s unnatural for starters. It’s my belief that you should follow links to relevant pages that will contribute to the theme of your site. SEO is all about relevancy. Linking to relevant pages full of exceptional content can actually benefit you.

However, 90% of the time there’s really no need to follow links. The more do follow links, the more holes in your Page Rank pool. As a rule of thumb, only follow links to pages that will contribute to your page’s relevancy. And… Never follow links to affiliate, landing or sales pages of any kind.

As I mentioned you can use the no follow tag to channel your site’s Page Rank and control where it flows. The whole idea of “sculpting” is to boost your rankings and not waste any Page Rank on pages that don’t need it. For example category pages, you do not want to follow them on all pages.

If you have categories in your site’s side bar, you could no follow them on all pages besides your home. Doing this will greatly preserve Page Rank. Category pages don’t make you money and SEO’s generally don’t rank them. The only reason people use them is to evenly distribute Page Rank. On your posts, you don’t want that.

However on your home page, it’s a good idea to push Page Rank through the category pages to all the posts. Besides that, sculpt however you like. There might be a certain page you just don’t want to rank. In that case there’s no point of giving it any PR juice so use the no follow tag.

Now from a link building perspective, I wouldn’t be too worried about getting no follow links. They are mandatory, without them your link profile looks highly unnatural and  could potentially get you penalized. So don’t worry about no follow links, no one really knows the true value they hold. Just make sure the greater percentage of your link profile consists of do follow backlinks from a variety of sites.

In Prosperity,

David Wood

P.S. Leave me your thoughts, comments and questions below. Also opt-in to the email list on the right of this page for more cool SEO tips, tricks and secrets.

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5 comments
PerfectMiles
PerfectMiles

Hello Friends ..

Google has started the transition for its most successful Product Search feature into a more attractive, user friendly service Google Shopping,allowing users to find the best nearby places to shop for their items. This is going to be a totally new way of finding the information on the web. Website Link : www.perfectmiles.com/google-shopping

Micah
Micah

I use a free plugin called prettylink to mask all of my affiliate links. This easily allows me to set all my affiliate links as no follow. Everything else I don't worry about.

Reinis
Reinis

David, could you elaborate a little bit more about the affilate links? I am trying to promote payday loans in my country and I have put a pricing table with affilate links in it. Should i modify them by inserting no follow tag? Wouldn't it damage the possibility to track my conversions. Cheers!

Astro Gremlin@sharpening skills
Astro Gremlin@sharpening skills

I've got my site set on DoFollow everything. It hasn't hurt my ranking. Although my Alexa ranking started going down recently. But it was fine for a long while.

Astro Gremlin@stumbleupon fever
Astro Gremlin@stumbleupon fever

I didn't even know this was possible, Micah. Genius! Keeping DoFollow on for my readers and turning it off for affiliates redirects the juice to my friends who need it. I just got a new aff plugin called Easyazon that allows me to "cloak" or turn off DoFollow for Amazon links. It works - I can see the SEOQuake red highlight that indicates NoFollow. May try prettylink for other aff links. Thanks!

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