Is your Google PageRank important to you?

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It’s highly likely that many of your blog posts will contain links to other sites in them – some may be paid links, others are to fellow bloggers or general interest sites. Most of us probably add them without thinking too much about it, but should we pay more attention to the type of link we are using? Jac from Tinned Tomatoes explains why perhaps we should…

You may have heard of the “nofollow” debate, if you haven’t, read on.

The words “nofollow” had no meaning to me until a month ago, when Helen over at Fuss Free Flavours brought it to my attention. There is a raging debate about it at the moment.

So what is “nofollow”?

“nofollow” is a little bit of code you add to a link to tell Google’s robots not to follow that link.

You might wonder why this is important? Now, here is the thing, there are good links and bad links.

Good Links

Linking to other blogs and relevant articles in your blog post is a good thing and Google positively loves this. Google hates a site that is insular and goes nowhere. So continue these friendly links that help us to promote each other. They are also great for your readers, who can follow them to read more about a topic.

Bad Links

Bad links are broken links, links to spam, links whose keywords do not match the website it leads to and sponsored links.

The first three are probably just common sense, so let’s talk about sponsored links.

Sponsored Links

If not handled correctly, sponsored links can really affect your PageRank.  Here is what Google says about it:

Paid links: A site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge webmasters use nofollow on such links.

So, if you are reviewing a product, writing a sponsored post or adding a paid link, remember to add the “nofollow” code and to add a disclosure statement to your post. It is also worth thinking about links that may look like they are sponsored, even though they aren’t. Say you are linking to a big company like Amazon or Tesco. This could look like a sponsored link, even if it is entirely innocent, so do consider adding the “nofollow” to these too.

Adding “nofollow” to a link is easy, but you have to do it manually unless you are on WordPress, where there is a plugin available. Here is how to do it:

Normal link

<a href=”http://www.bigcompany.com”>Big Company</a>

Link with “nofollow” added

<a href=”http://www.bigcompany.com” rel=”nofollow” > Big Company </a>

This seems simple, so why is there a debate? Well, as you can imagine, some companies will want a robot to follow your link to their site as well as readers. These companies may ask you not to use “nofollow” and tell you that it makes no difference to PageRank, but are you willing to take the risk?

Sarah from Maison Cupcake sums it up rather nicely.

“Many bloggers are happy to hoover up sponsored post cash from SEO companies without being aware of risks they take regarding potential Google penalties when posting links in such posts. Most SEO companies don’t care about bloggers’ sites being de-listed from Google and often won’t want to pay you for “no follow” links when they can move on to the next person willing to sell the type of links they’re after. It’s also shocking when you point out Google’s statement on paid links to SEO company staff attempting to place follow links on your blog, how many will try to convince you that you’re not taking a risk at all when clearly their client is their priority rather than you.”

Are you willing to take the risk? Do you already use nofollow links? Add your views to the debate…

Sally is the publisher of Foodies100, the UK's largest directory of brilliant UK food and drink blogs and bloggers. Every day of the week, we promote the UK's best and most exciting blogs about food and drink.

Discussion42 Comments

  1. Well written and useful post Jac. I’ve started to change all my old links to no follow, but it’s a long old process, especially when I can’t remember which posts I need to do it for. I expect I’m not unusual in having lots and lots of Amazon links!

  2. Very useful, would love to see Helen’s post on this too.

    I have recently had a bit of an issue with someone offering money for a post on the condition of a do-follow link. Thanks to Helen @FFF I realised that is was not a good idea. Thanks guys!

  3. I’ve never used nofollow but I also don’t really include links to pages which are not specifically relevant to the content.

    I do link to commercial websites, of my own accord, because I think it’s genuinely useful to readers to be able to easily view the restaurant or product website themselves, but I would think Google would rate these as good links, since they are completely relevant to the content of the post…

    I also link to Amazon, using my Amazon referral account, when writing book reviews. Again, as the content of the post is about the book in question, the link is completely relevant to the post, so my thinking is that this would be considered by Google to be a good link…

    As a reader, I dislike encountering a link to a completely irrelevant site inserted into an article about something else. So I choose not to do that as a blogger. I’d imagine those would be the kind of links that would be considered by Google as bad links. For example, a post about making banana cake, with no discussion on where ingredients have been purchased, containing a link to an online food retailer on one of the ingredients…

    On Page Rank, I confess, I have never looked at mine, and actually, I don’t even know how. I saw a discussion of it in the Blogger Ed forum but didn’t really understand how to look it up, nor what rating would be considered good or bad if I did.

    On another topic that’s in my mind at the moment, would welcome either comments or perhaps a new Foodies100 article, on Google’s stance to duplicate content. I know Google does not like duplicate content across different sites (so will be removing content from my old blogspot site now that my WordPress one is up and running) but have also been advised recently that they don’t like internal duplicate content. It’s what they class as duplicate, in this case, that is confusing me. Each post exists only once on my blog, but categories and tags for each one mean that you can access that post from different pages of the website. I can’t imagine this could count as duplicate content, because surely Google is clever enough to understand categories and tags are about clear navigation and not about duplication… but now I’m not sure.

    I could use noindex links on the categories and tags, but this carries its own negatives, making it harder for people searching on Google on those categories or tags, to find my content.

    Help!

    • On the issue of internal duplicate content, I am sure Google wouldn’t consider different pathways to the same content to be duplicate – many articles on blogs and websites are included in more than one category so would be accessible via more than one URL, but are effectively the same post.

      But..

      Many blog platforms will remove the follow on category posts but not the category itself so a search will turn up the category home page and specific posts, but not posts within categories, if you see what I mean?

  4. In addition to this debate it is worth looking at the code of the badges in your sidebar. Especially the ones showing blog rankings, or the vote for me badges for various awards – many of which contain follow links and logos to both the awards / site and the sponsor.

    Google is not to know these have not been paid, and they could incur a penalty.

  5. oh god, now i’m really confused…

    i’ve just written a post about Lincolnshire Poacher cheese and have included a link to their website but it’s just a basic link http://www.lincolnshirepoachercheese.com/ not like the one described above… do I need to make this ‘no follow’ and if so how?

    By the way, the post is not paid for by Lincolnshire Poacher, it’s just an article about cheese scones but I want to include the link as I am keen on promoting local producers… what do I do in this situation?

    • You can choose in each post which links you want a follow and which you want a nofollow. You will see either a little red dot or a green tick. The red dot means the link is no follow and the green tick means it is a follow link. You can click on these to change the type of link.

  6. I have to say that this discussion gets more complex by the day……I feel like screaming!!!!!!
    I work with British Seafood Organisation, a NON commercial company promoting British fish and seafood, and I am proud to work with them. We receive boxes fish every two months or so to cook with and promote as a British product on my blog.,….where on earth do I stand on that?
    I also LIKE to promote British artisans now and then, even though I receive NOTHING from them, it appears that that may be dodgy now.
    I mean can I be penalised for receiving a few bags of flour and fish even though I disclose them?
    The rules seem to me, to be more applicable to bloggers who earn their living at blogging and receive HIGHT cost items regularly….. or am I missing something here?
    I went through lots of my posts yesterday adding now follow only to be told by an SEO expert on twitter, that the links I was adding no follow to were okay and google liked some of the links….. apparently, of you add TOO many no follow to good links, your rank is also affected!
    What I think we all need is a definitive list of what is ok, what is not ok and what is discretionary according to your status as a blogger……it is all so confusing right now!
    THANKS Jac for raising this subject, very well written, thanks!
    Karen

    • Re the fish I’d say it was payment in kind and I would use no follow link. Probably the box of fish you get is worth £50 at a time and at the end of the day they aren’t giving you product for the fun of it, they’re banking on you promoting them with the added benefit of linkage.

      I agree it would be helpful to have a straight answer from someone re value of product that a no follow link would be required. In cases where it is ambiguous I feel most comfortable using no follow.

      I suspect after the ASA ruling this week about Rio Ferdinand and Katie Price tweeting pics of chocolate bars we already have our answer re value of product making a difference how they treat cases? i.e. it doesn’t.

    • I would add the nofollow Karen, the companies you stand by will still get the traffic from your blog and also a very positive image from your support and this is worth a lot, because your readers trust you and your judgement.

      I know the SEO you are talking about and since some of what he is doing is a business, he is trying to persuade bloggers not to use the nofollow, really just for his own benefit. I wouldn’t take the chance Karen. It is quite simple. just add the nofollow when promoting a company.

  7. For what it’s worth, like many things in blogging, the best thing is to be mindful of your choices and actions.

    IF you regularly accept paid links on your blog and you don’t make them nofollow then you will run the pretty slight risk of being penalised by search engines.

    IF search engines are a significant source of traffic/income/happiness for you, then you might want to mitigate this risk and make paid links nofollow. If search engines don’t especially concern you, well, do what you like!

    For those worried about whether legitimate, unpaid links on your blog might somehow end up being a cause of drama, I think there really are bigger things to worry about. What’s the point of blogging if every time you link to another blog or website, you’re panicking about whether someone is going to punish you for it?

  8. Great post – thanks Jac!! It’s hard to get straightforward info on this vexed question and your post is very to-the-point.

    I think in answer to some of the questions, we need to bear in mind that:
    a) the value of what you receive in exchange for a link is not relevant – so there is no financial limit after which a link becomes “sponsored” automatically. Also, a “paid” link does not have to involve cash – if a company sends you a free bottle of wine of packet of rice, that’s also a “paid” link, albeit payment in kind.
    b) as I understand it, Google’s bots do not care whether you disclose that the product is free – they are merely looking at where the link is going. So disclosing a freebie and using a no-follow link are two separate issues.

    But as Sally says, unless you are a fairly high-profile site and you depend on Google traffic and search rankings to maintain that profile and attract sponsorship and income, or unless you accept £20 from every Tom Dick and Harry to stuff your posts with links to chef’s clothing (!), appliances you don’t own and suchlike, then you probably have bigger fish to fry than worry about the chances of being penalised by Google.

  9. And in answer to Romanianmum, you are looking at the link as it appears in the “what you see is what you get” edit mode. You need to go to the html view of your post (ueually a tab at the top of the editing window, depending on what platform you are using) to see the html code as Jac demonstrated in the main post – then you will see where to add the no follow tag. Hope that helps!

  10. I see blogger now gives you a tick box option to tick for a nofollow link. not sure if it has always been there and I not seen it as I had no idea what it was until a few weeks ago when I started a following a conversation on this and review and sponsorship stuff.

  11. Karen (S Booth) I have to say I totally agree with you! This is getting far too confusing and to be honest I’m not too fussed about page rankings etc. I write my blog because I want to.
    The free stuff is good but not my main reason for doing it.
    I’ve got far too many other important things to worry about in life without all this.

  12. I think the issue here is paying for a link.

    Where you are given a product and *specifically* asked for a link.

    Where you are given a product for review amd asked specifically to link back to the site in question.

    That is a paid link.

    If you aren’t given something and specifically asked for a link, I cannot see the harm if, in your editorial opinion, you decide you want to link to them.

    I will raise the spectre of the ASA though and if you receive goods and you give an opinion on them you have to legally disclose that you received the goods. It is born from the “Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Practices” and is specifically outlined as a criminal offence for failing to disclose. The ASA will knock on your door long before you get hauled off to court though so don’t worry.

    All in all the only reason you have to care about getting penalised is if you get your traffic from Google. If you only ever get traffic from other blogs, email marketing and paid campaigns then you don’t have to worry about a Google penalty.

    However you do have to worry about disclosing anything you have received for free if you give an opinion that could sway consumer opinion.

  13. Thanks for a very useful and informative article.

    I’d noticed the option, on blogger, to select ‘nofollow’ and didn’t properly understand it, so thank you for making it so clear & simple to follow (slight pun intended!).

  14. I think this article is a bit misleading. Telling bloggers they should only do no-follow links is robbing them of a chance to make money and closing off a lot of opportunities for their site.
    It’s true what you say about most SEO companies not caring about blogs, but they do care about the links, they don’t want to see your site’s page rank going down any more than you do. They don’t want the post the link appears in to look spammy and they don’t want your site harmed in any way.
    That’s not to mention the SEO companies that actually do care a lot about bloggers and want to see their blog grow and become really good.
    No-follow links are useless and nobody will pay you for them, that’s something that you failed to mention above.

  15. Helen at fuss free was helpful and pointed me to this article when I first started blogging.I was not aware of this “no follow ” I have been approached for posts however as soon as I say that links are going to be no follow, I usually find I get no further communication from that agency.
    This is a dilema, do I stick to no follow rule and loose the opportunity or not add the ” no follow” and get the work?
    I would love some advise on this. What do other bloggers do in this situation?
    Also what happens if you change the link to no follow after a post has been published?
    How can someone check if a link is follow or no follow?

    Blogger has now added a box that you can tick to have follow or no follow it saves messing around with html codes.

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