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The SEO community has known for a long time that links using the rel=”no follow” attribute do not pass pagerank. Most marketers ignore these links as part of their SEO mix and see no value here. While Google has acknowledged that these links do not pass pagerank, they have never said that these links “provide no value to webmasters”.
I don’t propose that link builders allot a budget for building no follow links or start to spend lots of time acquiring these. However, I do believe that it would be wise for many people in the SEO industry to reconsider their stance on no followed links. Those who are in the most competitive and most lucrative industries may want to pay a little bit more attention than others.
You can see a discussion some of the different types of value that can be gained from no followed links below.
A link from a relevant source can provide targeted traffic that can convert just as well as any other kind of traffic. Don’t forget that the ultimate goal of internet marketing is to acquire targeted website visitors that will convert.
A hardcore devil’s advocate (I’m hardcore, but not this hardcore) could even argue that in some cases – the best links are links that provide lots of targeted traffic but still use the no follow attribute. This link has zero SEO risk with regards to either being “spammy” now or turning into a “spammy” website 4 years down the road. If you fill a job position that is more in the realm of ad buying and customer acquisition instead of SEO, I’m sure that you can relate to this. You want to be known as the person who brought in all of the great web traffic, not the guy who accidentally got your website penalized by getting involved with a “bad neighborhood” on the web.
A visitor does not even have to click on your link in order for you to obtain some value for your brand in this fashion. If you can get your brand name out there in front of your targeted audience, you are receiving valuable branding impressions regardless of whether or not anyone actually clicks on your links. When looking for branding impressions, you can often assume that if you are getting zero clicks, you are not likely to be getting many quality impressions either. However, this doesn’t mean that you are receiving zero branding impressions and obtaining no value at all.
To put these first two points in perspective, I like to ask people if they would accept a link from CNN’s homepage if they knew that it would be no followed. The answer is usually a resounding “yes”. Most link building opportunities don’t involve big names like CNN, but the same principles still apply elsewhere to a small extent.
While we know that today Google is not passing pagerank through these links, this does not mean that Google will never pass any pagerank through any of these links and that Google will never figure out a useful way to use the data. There is a difference between passing pagerank and using data generated from a no follow link.
If you really want to build a link profile that will be sustainable over a long period of time, I suggest using the mentality that you need to build up a link profile that is similar to that of an authority website which has had no manual link building. This includes having no followed links regardless of their value. A large authority website is going to have lots of links that use the no follow attribute.
For all we know, Google may eventually start to look at the % of your link profile that consists of no followed links and use this to try and determine if the website has had manual link building done by an SEO or if it has acquired backlinks naturally. Some SEO tools that are used by the marketing community already offer this capability.
We also must also consider the possibility that Google will not always be the most important name in the search engine industry and not all search engines will always work the same. In other words – Google may never change how they feel about no follow links, however someone else might eventually treat them differently and that someone might turn out to be important. Ultimately; our interest is in “acquisition engines”. Right now search engines are filling this role nicely, but the web is young and it is not immune to changes, innovation, and new engines that can drive targeted traffic to your website.
One of the biggest overall changes in the way that Google has valued websites in the last few years has been the usage of user data for ranking purposes. This area of search is evolving quickly and information about how “user data” is incorporated into the SERPs is still fairly scarce. It should be acknowledged that even though no followed links may not pass any pagerank, this does not mean that useful user data cannot be collected by Google and used along with their other user behavior data.
For example; If someone clicks on a link that points to your website and that user has a high time-on-site and high number of page views – in some cases Google is able to see this through their data collection methods. This implies that the link was useful and it points to a website that is useful.
The user data is still meaningful and they do reserve the right to use it. They can even use the data while still saying that “no followed links do not pass pagerank”. Do not mistake that last statement as Google having said “no followed links cannot provide any value to you or our algorithms”. The marketing services that we offer here at seo4anyone incorporate the sentiment of all of the principals above into our strategies (with some followed links too of course). You can see the plethora of services that we offer to our clients on our SEO Services page.
Anyone out there in the marketing world is welcome to comment below. I suspect that the SEO gurus won’t agree with the points made here as much as the brick & mortar marketers. If you disagree, let us know why. If you agree and you have found benefits from your no followed links in the past, I hope that you will share your experiences with us in the comment box below as well.
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