At BrightonSEO last month the subject of links with rel=”nofollow” generated quite a bit of debate both in the workshop we ran and in the PR and SEO roundtable that we attended, so we thought it would be worth clarifying a few reasons why we never say no to nofollow links.
What is a nofollow link?
“nofollow” can be added to the rel= attribute of a hypertext link, informing search engines (particularly Google) that you, the site owner, do not think that link should count for ranking purposes. It’s used when placements have been paid for (e.g. advertorials) and protects both the brand buying the link, and the site owner selling it, from penalties. Theoretically there’s no “SEO value” (link equity, PageRank) passed through a link using the rel=”nofollow” attribute – and bloggers especially are prone to adding nofollow to links whether you want them to or not. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.
First of all, when thinking about no-follow links we probably need to take a step back and consider the overall strategy and what we’re trying to achieve. No strategy should have the sole aim of generating links, there has to be other objectives otherwise it will never be (or look) like a natural strategy.
All of our strategies and placements have multiple objectives aside from just generating links, all placements must have traffic-driving potential, be opening the brand to a new audience, driving social engagement etc.
So here’s my top three reasons why we as SEOs or PRs should never be saying no to nofollow links:
1. They have traffic driving potential
You should only ever be trying to generate a link from a website relevant to your client’s core offering and that has a genuine readership and audience. If you are doing this right, then all of the links that you place should have traffic driving potential to your client’s site which also means there should be the chance of generating a conversion. I’m not saying that every link should drive thousands of visits and conversions, but there needs to be the chance that people seeing the link would want to click on it and have some chance of converting.
2. They can lead to followed links
By getting a nofollow link on a genuine website with a large audience, you open up the chance of other bloggers seeing this and covering the story themselves. The chances are they will also link to your client and they may not no-follow the link which means that you will end up with follow links as a result of the original no-follow link that was placed. We’ve seen this happen on multiple occasions when we gain a no-follow link on an authority site with a large audience this nearly always translates into followed links from other bloggers.
3. They may help with rankings in the future
Finally, as most of you will have seen there has been much speculation within the SEO community about whether no-follow links actually do pass any value – Google has always said that nofollow links will not pass PageRank but there have been studies that seem to show that nofollow links do help sites to rank.
Most recently, Simon Penson’s post on Moz – The Panda Patent: Brand Mentions Are the Future of Link Building looks at Google’s latest patent and how nofollow links and even brand mentions with no link at all may well be a part of the algorithm in future. Also, in Matt Cutt’s most recent video he talks about being excited for the next algorithm update that will look at how Google measures authority.
I think the key to running a successful, natural SEO campaign is having a mix of follow and nofollow links. As SEOs we need to not be saying no to nofollows or putting pressure on journalists and bloggers to make links followed but just accept that no-follow links bring other benefits and as long as the links are in-line with the overall strategy you should still see success for clients.