I have been hit with an outbound site-wide penalty, which isn’t too bad for me as I only lost my Page Rank.. I didn’t lose my search engine rankings. But now I am left wondering if I should nofollow all external links to avoid a Google penalty hitting my site again?
I seriously don’t have time to deal with Google penalties every five minutes so I thought I would investigate the topic.
Google Told Us That Links Improve Rankings
I am from the old school and I have been around when link exchanges were the only way to get links and guest posting did not even exist. You see, Google told us that highly quality links improve our rankings. But unfortunately, later they changed their minds.
To quote what the guidelines said in the past:
“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.”
What??? This was right Google and that is what webmasters were doing. I was supplying awesome content to sites and they would give me a couple of links to some related content on my site. I worked hard for those links as getting the content into some blogs was not easy. But you opened your big mouth about links actually counting when it comes to rankings. Maybe Google caused the spam linking we have now.
But then the wording changed, without any notice.
“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”
You can read the whole definition for search ranking here. Now it’s saying that YOU shouldn’t create a link yourself and that you should wait until someone else does it for you. No promoting your site, just sit there and wait and hope that others will do it for you.
The change was first spotted by Erik Baeumlisberger.
Google officially changed it's tune on links (who noticed this?) pic.twitter.com/SuVradsQxD
— Erik Baeumlisberger (@Baeumlisberger) June 18, 2013
But Link Building Turned Bad
But linkbuilding still got out of hand and Google then required the use of “nofollow” in more instances than it was first intended.
But there was always a problem here.
The definition for a high quality site, high quality content, and a high quality link was never really defined. What we thought was high quality might not be so in Google’s eyes. So what links were we meant to NOFOLOW?
The other problem was that I started getting links in 2006 before all these rules existed. Nofollow was only for comments but it was our choice entirely. Now in 2014 I am tarnished with a Google penalty for not using nofollow on links that I was not meant to trust and for letting them have Page Rank juice. These links are not even paid links (ha I wish they were now).
The Trust Issue And Nofollow
Is Google telling me I should only trust big corporation sites that rake in millions because they always have trust worthy content? I haven’t heard of anyone getting in trouble for linking to WordPress, Wikipedia or even Google.. Hmm.. ???
Does this mean that the little website owners can’t be trusted? At what point can I give them a dofollow link and trust them?
Google tells me who I can and can’t trust by making me add nofollow to links out of fear. The website owner doesn’t really have a choice of who he links to normally.
Yes but when WE DECIDE who to trust, Google might not like it. Of course whatever Wikipedia decides is ok though.
Taking of big corporations and passing a juicy page rank, here is a shot of the Official Google Blog and a guest post from John Koenig.
In this example they link to a Youtube video called “Avinash Kaushik Interview on Web Analytics Storytelling” using the anchor text “data storytelling”. Why didn’t they embed the video instead of linking to it? I guess they want to take people to their other web property and pass on link juice at the same time. Also the link to Measureful is exactly what the company is called but being published here, that company stands to make money from this..So is this a paid link like an affiliate link?
Avoid A Google Penalty And Nofollow Guest Posts
We all know that recently the top guest blogging network, Myblogguest got penalized by Google. That was one sign of things to come but here’s another.
So here is the proof that you should nofollow guest posts as Matt states in this comment that you should even nofollow a high quality guest post. Hmm that is interesting. So the guest poster supplies a 2000 word article and can only ever have nofollow links. Nice one. So the blog owner doesn’t really get to decide if they would endorse that persons links or not? That is Google’s decision I guess.
So it’s OK to do quality guest posts and have nofollow links. What else are they going to change to make their jobs easier? I guess the more nofollow links they see the less they have to notice the link.
To Nofollow or Dofollow – That is The Question?
A Dofollow link was a link that was almost like a vote for the site your were linking to. Now people are to scared to vote. What if you vote for the wrong site by accident? A site that Google doesn’t approve of. What if you link to a site they do approve of but don’t use the right anchor text? Oh shit we might as well NOFOLLOW.
Well we know what happens, you get a Google penalty. To get the penalty removed it might be easy, if you find the exact error they penalized you for, but it might be hard if you can’t find the problem. The real problem is, Google won’t come straight out and say why you have a penalty, they make you sweat it out.
So should we nofollow links on our blogs? Yeah probably if you want to play it safe and stay off Google’s radar. See this article showing three ways to nofollow external links.