nofollow

A large amount of what I do at Electric Dialogue revolves around link building. So I suppose it is only natural that I’d be interested in nofollow links and their potential value to my work.

During my own research I thought that approaching a handful of people (who I knew to be experts within the SEO industry), and asking if they’d be interested in contributing to this piece, would help other people find answers easily to the questions I used to have.

Fortunately, they all kindly agreed and here we are!

Right, here’s how it worked. I asked each of our experts the same five questions about nofollow links and they answered with their own two cents worth (unaware of what each other had said). Pretty straight forward.

So without further ado let me introduce our guest experts (although I expect you’ve heard of them before): Gianluca Fiorelli, Jon Cooper, Ruth Burr and Paddy Moogan.

gianluca fiorelli

Gianluca FiorelliILoveSEO


1. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being incredibly and 1 being not at all) how valuable are nofollow links to a link builder?

“Good question. My first answer should be: “Depends on what do you mean by valuable”.

Let me explain. If you are looking for a direct SEO value, as saying “rank signal”, surely a followed link is much more useful, even though – but that’s a theory which was never confirmed by Google or someone else – it is possible that Google gives a “trust” value to a nofollowed links from authoritative sites (as it seems doing from co-citation). So, in that case the value should be 5.

Instead, if you are thinking at link building as a way to put your site in front of your audience in sites it is following, then the value of the link, even no followed, rises to 10. Personally, even if I’d love to have it as follow link, what I look for from sites as the New York Times, The Guardian, Adobe or, in our industry, SEOmoz, is the visibility and the organic traffic that link can offer me. And visibility and traffic can lead to links… followed links.”

2. What does, or doesn’t, make nofollow links valuable?

“I think I’ve already said what make a nofollow link valuable in the previous answer. What doesn’t make them valuable? Having a nofollowed link in a site that doesn’t own authority and doesn’t drive traffic and visibility to my site.”

3. When is the most effective time for us to use nofollow?

“When you want to follow the Google guidelines, hence whenever you link to something not editorially (for instance an affiliate link or a “paid link”). Or whenever you think a link may be interpreted by Google as not genuinely editorial.”

4. How has the value of nofollows changed in the last 3 years?

“I don’t think its value has changed that much during the years. But, yes, possibly it is considered as a co-citation by Google, and what we have seen is that co-citation have a stronger force right now in how Google shapes the SERPs.”

5. What do you predict for their future in link building?

“To predict is always hard when it comes to SEO and Google. Sincerely I don’t think that nofollow links will change as a value in the next future, but – yes – possibly they will be more important as a trust signal when present in authoritative sites and a taken as a popularity signal as if they were co-citations.”

 

jon cooper

Jon CooperPoint Blank SEO

1. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being incredibly and 1 being not at all) how valuable are nofollow links to a link builder?

“It’s hard to quantify something that isn’t a standalone indicator of something (i.e. it’s like saying “how important are apples to your diet?”), but I’d say a 3 or 4.”

2. What does, or doesn’t, make nofollow links valuable?

“They’re still valuable because a lot of dumb webmasters started abusing the nofollow attribute, meaning Google has started to ignore it more & more over the years and has started to treat it more like a regular link. I also know a few spammers who really don’t care if the links they’re getting are nofollow, because they’re still linking great with them.”

3. When is the most effective time for us to use nofollow?

“There’s never really a time, but rather, it’s always relative; to me, I’d only go after nofollow links if I was trying to fit the mold of what a typical high ranking site’s link profile looks like for a specific keyword. If they all have 15-20% nofollow links, then I’ll try and get some so I can be in that range too.”

4. How has the value of nofollows changed in the last 3 years?

“As I said, Google has started to treat them more like regular links (in my opinion and from my experience) because so many webmasters abuse the attribute to try and keep link juice from flowing out of their site (i.e. something like a WordPress plugin nofollowing all external links), and I’ve seen more & more spammers not caring whether they’re getting a lot of links that happen to have the nofollow attribute.”

5. What do you predict for their future in link building?

“I think the trend will continue. I don’t think nofollow will ever go away (still has the same purpose for which is created for, i.e. for blog comments), but I do think Google will continue to give it a little bit more weight if we continue seeing a lot of people abusing it, which doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.”

 

ruth burr

Ruth BurrSEOMoz

1. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being incredibly and 1 being not at all) how valuable are nofollow links to a link builder?

“Like so many other things in SEO, the answer is “it depends.” I’d rather have a nofollow link that drives traffic than a followed link from a sketchy site any day.”

2. What does, or doesn’t, make nofollow links valuable?

“Link building should always, always be done with driving traffic in mind. If it’s not a link that a real person might see, click on, visit your site and then buy something, the value of that link goes way down, followed or not. If you can get a great link from a reputable website that your target audience visits a lot, then I say go for it. Obviously you can’t have all nofollow links, all the time, but a mix is fine.”

3. When is the most effective time for us to use nofollow?

“I think nofollow links have value as part of a branding play. A link or a piece of content from a site whose audience is very similar to yours is a great way to build awareness, whether it’s followed or not.”

4. How has the value of nofollows changed in the last 3 years?

“One thing Wil Reynolds has spoken on at MozCon and a lot of other places is the idea of RCS (Real Company S%$&). The idea is that as an industry, inbound marketers need to move toward practices that are about real, quality business practices and marketing tactics rather than trying to find ways to trick or game the search engines. Worrying about your mix of nofollowed vs. followed links is a great example of something that online marketers could be focusing less on.”

5. What do you predict for their future in link building?

“These days inbound marketing is more about building quality content and a strong brand. If you’re building good content and good relationships with a community who shares and links to your content, you can be less concerned about whether individual links are followed or nofollowed. The best links build themselves!”

 

paddy moogan

Paddy MooganDistilled

1. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being incredibly and 1 being not at all) how valuable are nofollow links to a link builder?

“It’s not quite as black and white as that! As a “pure” link builder, I guess the answer would be 1 because they don’t flow PageRank and therefore don’t affect search results. But as a marketer, if a link is nofollow but sends me a load of traffic (and customers) then it is very valuable!”

2. What does, or doesn’t, make nofollow links valuable?

“There are two main ways they can be valuable in my opinion. The first is what I mentioned previously in that if they send good traffic, then they are valuable. The second way is that if you get coverage and a nofollow link on a very high profile website, then you may get followed links from other websites as a result of them seeing this coverage.”

3. When is the most effective time for us to use nofollow?

“I’m not sure there is an effective time because most of us would not actively seek nofollow links. But if I were to get a nofollow link, I think the most effective time would be when I can get one on a website that has lots and lots of relevant traffic to my industry so that I know that I’ll at least get some benefit.”

4. How has the value of nofollows changed in the last 3 years?

“I’m not aware that the value has changed at all to be honest. I have always felt that nofollow links can, in certain circumstances, be counted by Google. But that is just my own speculation and I’ve felt that way for many years since I first tested it. Aside from that, I don’t think it’s changed much.”

5. What do you predict for their future in link building?

“I think more websites will adopt nofollow and it will grow to be a slightly bigger percentage than the single digit percentage it is right now. I can’t see Google or any other search engine changing how they handle it. There is an argument to say that they will try and figure out when to actually ignore it, but I think this is a bit too granular for Google to put their resources into and they have bigger priorities!”

Round-up

Wow that’s a whole lot of information! So here’s a quick round-up; the general consensus seems to be that it is hard to say definitively what the value of nofollow links are because it depends on your aims.

The pure link builders out there would argue that because nofollow links are not thought to pass value they are only a tiny bit more useful than no link at all.

However, others take the view that SEO is no longer solely about increasing rank. Instead it is about traffic, revenue and brand management; which means even if a link is nofollow it can still be of major value if it attracts a lot of traffic etc.

With regards to their future all of our experts don’t expect any dramatic changes in how they’re handled by search engines. Some predict that there may be a small increase in authority, but will still never be viewed in the same way as followed links.

There you have it

Thanks again to all of our expert contributors! If you have anything you want to ask them, you can get in touch with them via Twitter or the comment section below!