No Follow or No Bloody Clue?

in Google,Twitter

I logged into Twitter first thing this morning to get caught up on the day’s news and events, and I ended up reading an interview with Jimmy Wales that included some interesting comments on Wikipedia’s implementation and use of rel=”nofollow”. In the article, he states that he was “opposed to the change, and only reluctantly agreed to it after Matt Cutts of Google recommended it. I am still not sure it is the right answer.” Naturally I tweeted about the article, and Matt was kind enough to respond:


In the video linked to from his tweet, Matt states that he would support the removal of rel=”nofollow” for users that have earned a certain level of trust within the community. Fast forward 1:28 into the video, where he says “If a particular site does have trust in the person who is making a link, then there’s plenty of good reasons to make that link flow pagerank and take the nofollow off.”

Which brings us back to Twitter. A few months ago, Twitter implemented the use of rel=”nofollow” on profile pages. Rae Hoffman sums up the situation much better than I could, and she hits the nail on the head when she suggests that “it is time they realize that THEY are responsible for determining which of those individual pages is authoritative, trusted and legitimate enough to pass link popularity.” THEY = Google.

This is where things get rather confusing. Based on the comments Matt made in the video above, the onus is apparently on webmasters to determine which of their community members are trusted enough to create clean links that flow Pagerank. In real life however, we have numerous examples of Google pressuring companies to implement “nofollow” or face the prospect of being penalized. It would appear that we have two conflicting positions being forwarded by our friends at Google. What does this mean for webmasters and publishers? What are your thoughts?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dianna Kersey 04.03.09 at 15:25

There are two reasons why a rel=”nofollow” should be used and carefully crafted.

1. To prevent search engines penalties from making your webpage appear that it is selling links to fraudulently to inflate page rank. The algorithms had to dish out penalties to sites in constant violation of link farming. By implementing a nofollow on an external link from a page, you prevent the “appearance” of selling links.

The best way to GIVE an external link credit is to hyperlink from the keyword phrase that best describes the page you are linking. Use an editorial style of text linking – three words before and after the keyword phrase – and you will give a strong authoritative link that Google desires and is trusted.

2. The rel=”nofollow” is an excellent tool in preventing precious Google Juice flow flowing to pages that do not need to rank in your site, but can’t be disallowed from the robots.txt file. Utilizing smart siloing in the SEF architecture link building by using this tool properly will help contain th linkflow funneled into the pages that need to rank.

Hope this helps clarify what a positive use of hte nofollow can truly do :)

admin 04.03.09 at 17:21

Thanks for stopping by, Dianna. I too tend to nofollow links to pages that serve no ranking value (ie. terms and conditions, help, login, etc), but that’s about the extent of my intentional nofollow use. Don’t take this wrong way, but if you are using nofollow in a preemptive effort to signal to Google that you aren’t selling links then they have indeed won the PR war. And by PR I mean Public Relations, not PageRank. :P

Gregory Kohs 04.03.09 at 19:52

It’s late for me now, so I don’t have the energy to look up the evidence. But, no doubt, when Jimmy Wales ordered that “nofollow” be implemented on Wikipedia, it was clear that it was his directive. Then, he shortly thereafter said something to the effect of, “No, I didn’t order it. I merely made it clear to the lead developer that I no longer objected to his adding “nofollow”.”

A couple of days later, the developer (I think it was Brion Vibber?) commented something to the effect of, “Sorry, Jimbo, but that’s not how it went. You ordered me to implement “nofollow”, so I did.”

That exchange was sort of lost in the sands of time, I believe because it took place in the days before most of us came to realize that a good portion of what Jimmy Wales ever utters as “fact” actually differs significantly from the known reality.

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