Quite a few months after I started blogging, I started hearing about “nofollow links”. Either from fellow bloggers or from companies reaching out for collaborations. All I knew was that certain links needed a certain code so I wouldn’t get in “trouble”. I thought I had a comprehensive understanding of what I was doing, but last summer I found out the hard way that if things aren’t done 100% correctly, Google can get you. Here’s how and why it matters.
Why Nofollow Links are Serious Business
What are Nofollow links?
From my understanding, every time there is a blog post or web page, search engine bots will go through it and attribute a certain amount of value (like a score). When they come across links within that page, the links give their value, or “juice” to the source of the outgoing link. It’s like the link is saying “I trust this source”. If you have a big, reputable source linking to your page, then you just received a lot of trust/juice and then Google will put you higher in the search rankings.
If you are being compensated in any way (product, money, experience, etc.) then the link you use pointing your audience to the product, company, etc. should not be saying “I trust them” because you are biased. If the search engine bots catch this then Google will label your site as spam and your place in the search engines (and page views) is drastically reduced. It’s a good thing that this system is in place because it identifies spam. When it comes to honest bloggers however, it can be a bit of a challenge making sure every link is correct. In order to make sure the search bots know which links to ignore (saying that you aren’t giving your value to the outgoing link) you need to place a “nofollow” code in front of each link that you are affiliated with or don’t know.
What does Nofollow look like?
Here is an example of the nofollow value when assigned to a link.
<a href="http://www.example.com/" rel="nofollow">Link text</a>
You can enter this in your hyperlinks manually, which is what I originally was doing, or you can use a plugin and make your life a lot easier. A friend turned me onto the Title and NoFollow for Links Plugin, where you simply check a box and it adds the nofollow value for you.
What will happen if you don’t correctly assign nofollow?
I previously mentioned that Google (or another search engine) can label your site as spam and destroy your page rankings. I had heard of this, but I hadn’t actually heard of it happening to anyone that I knew. Then I had this delivered to my inbox.
I mean, what?! I thought I had been correctly assigning the nofollow value to every link I should have. I had turned down numerous collaboration offers because they required follow links. By no means am I a mega blogger either. Yet somehow, somewhere, someone reviewed my humble site and found violations. So what did I do? I submitted a reconsideration request, but not before I went through each and every link from every.single.post since the creation of this site. It was daunting and super annoying, to put it mildly. I think it might have led to my “blogging break” that I still haven’t fully recovered from.
There were quite a few links from when I first started blogging (before I knew about this world of SEO and nofollow), a few where I just didn’t click the correct box on my plugin, or affiliate images I used where I was unsure how to assign the nofollow value (but assumed it was already done).
After submitting my reconsideration request (which included a detailed description of the changes I made and how I would proceed going forward), I had to sit back and wait for Google to review my site.
Hallelujah, a few weeks later I received another email stating I had been reinstated.
The purpose of this post was not to vent, but to prove that you really can get in “trouble”, even if you thought you were doing everything above-board. Don’t let companies or people pressure you into using follow links because you are protecting your site’s ranking as well as theirs. Take it from me :).
What can you do to prevent being penalized?
–Go through old blog posts.
I know this is very time-consuming, and time is not something that bloggers usually have a lot of. But believe me, it will take a lot less time than having to go through every post and submitting a reconsideration request.
If you don’t understand how to assign nofollow code to an image or link, either figure it out or don’t use it. Don’t assume anything.
-Double check your links before hitting publish.
I usually finish posts late at night, and kind of in a hurry. Sometimes I thought I clicked the box, but the click didn’t register. Just double check all your external links to make sure the nofollow value is assigned.
Do you have any advice or nofollow stories of your own? Holler at me in the comments below!