When should you tag your links nofollow? What if a company who wants to pay you for text links or to write a post specifically asks you to follow their links instead of use the nofollow attribute on them? These are questions that come up all the for bloggers who are interested in monetizing their content, and Google has some pretty clear guidelines:
When to use nofollow (according to Google):
If you can't or don't want to vouch for the content of pages you link to from your site — for example, untrusted user comments or guestbook entries — you should nofollow those links.
Google partially bases search results on the 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.
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank:
This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
Ultimately, the “spirit” of Google's guidelines is to prevent webmasters running amok with link schemes,
bogus directory sites, and all around crappy websites, therefore, keeping the internet devoted to high-quality content.
But once you start monetizing your blog and getting pitches & emails from companies who want to feed off of your PageRank, you have to be hyper-aware of Google's guidelines. The consequence of taking guest posts, text links and sponsored content and not using nofollow on the links is that your page rank could be penalized by Google, and you could end up not indexed, and absent from search until you get it sorted out.
My response to that is never mind Google…what about your readers? We use nofollow, etc., so as not to be penalized by Google, but what about our readers? Shouldn't we care about them more? And not want to be penalized by THEM by their going somewhere else?
Our readers should be FIRST in our minds, always, and if we write and produce content for THEM, then what's to worry? If all they see is sponsored content, text link/anchor text heavy posts, and “un-natural” linking, what's to keep them returning to your site?
Please understand, I'm not an expert on this; I can only speak to what I've done, and how I've handled links in the 10+ years I've been doing this. And here's the thing, I WANT to pass page rank on to the sites I link to. I BELIEVE in the products I talk about, the stores I feature, and the items I review. I'm happy to have my blog act as an “endorsement” for whatever I link to, because I would never link to or recommend anything I wouldn't be willing to try myself, or have tried already.
(I have only ever used the nofollow tag a few times in the content on my blog, and I decided I would never again post content or take text links that I'd have to use nofollow. But that's just me. I do not use the nofollow tag on links to items I've received to review – because if I didn't want to endorse the product, I wouldn't link to it!! – although I think according to Google you should)
Then again, I have no idea what my Page Rank is, or if it's worth anything at all, but the idea behind Google's guidelines is that blogs/sites should be protective of their Page Rank and not “pass” it on to links they can't vouch for. Well, if you can't vouch for a link, why would you include it in your content to begin? Am I wrong?
When I receive emails pitching guest posts or text link advertisements I automatically delete them based on just skimming the content.
I don't know, when I receive emails pitching guest posts or text link advertisements I automatically delete them based on just skimming the content. (But then again, I also delete emails where my name is spelled wrong and that include bad grammar, so I'm pretty brutal…). I moderate all my comments and check the links to make sure they're something I can recommend clicking.
Maybe I'm safe from Google penalizing me, or maybe I'm not, but I'm okay with that. I do get a lot of search engine traffic, so I would be genuinely hurt if that disappeared altogether, but I don't *think* I'm doing anything to jeopardize that. But then again, I'm no expert; I only do what I think is right for my blog and my readers.
[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]