It’s fascinating how little people know about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), in particular “expert” Search Engine Optimizers.
The thing with SEO is that it’s often better to know nothing about it than to know a little and think you can use all the tricks you’ve picked up on the web to fool Search Engines!
This article is dedicated to demystifying one particular aspect of SEO: the “rel=noffow” property and its effect on Page Rank.
Give me the basics
“rel=nofollow” is a property that can be assigned to links on a website and that will basically tell Search Engines to not follow the links. Most Search Engines support the “nofollow” attribute.
Page Rank is a value that’s used by Search Engines as an overall rating to determine a website’s “quality” or “authority”. It is used together with other factors to rank sites in a certain order on search result pages.
What’s the relation between Page Rank and links?
Inbound linking is one of the most important criteria that’s used by major Search Engines to determine a website’s Page Rank.
The way it works is that each time a site links to another site, a (small) portion of that first site’s Page Rank value goes towards the other site’s Page Rank. When a site gathers many legitimate inbound links that way, it will be seen by Search Engines such as Google as an “authority” in a particular field or topic.
When and why do people use “rel=nofollow”?
SEOs and site owners use the “nofollow” property when they don’t want to “distribute” Page Rank value to the URL that’s linked to (and thus lose a portion of their web page’s Page Rank).
Bottom line – shall I bother with “rel=nofollow”?
When done right, external linking is a good practice both for Search Engine Optimization and for building credibility and long term user retention on your site. For example if you link to web pages that are relevant to the topic and industry of your own web page. But it’s not always appropriate. That’s why most blogging platforms use the “nofollow” property by default in the commentators’ links. This makes sense if you get dozens of commentators with URLs that vary greatly in industry, Page Rank, etc…
As a rule of thumb you should not use the “rel=nofollow” property when:
- linking to your own site’s inside pages (internal linking),
- linking to relevant external pages when it’s natural to do so on your page.
And you should use “nofollow” when:
- links are added to your web page by users,
- and in general if you can’t or don’t want to vouch for the link.
Of course there are exceptions but the bottom line is that you shouldn’t worry about “rel=nofollow” or any other SEO “tricks”. Just make a great yet simple website with great content and relevant stuff and that’d be the best way to spend your time and resources!
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