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October 25, 2007

Google's NoFollow & Small Business Websites

By Li Evans

Stopnofollowtag What gets me about this whole "nofollow", Paid Links & Google nonsense is the fact that not anywhere is it stated in Google's TOS or Google's Webmaster Guidelines about "nofollow".  So, let me ask you - how is a Mom & Pop type of small business just starting out on the web, suppose to know what the bleeping heck a "nofollow" is or what it means, if it isn't easily found on Google's own pages?    If Google hasn't even defined nofollow in their TOS, TOS highlights or their Guidelines, how in the world can anyone who's not an SEO understand what in heck they did wrong or why all of a sudden their rankings dropped? 

I remember sitting in the front row of a session at one of the SES's when both Yahoo and Google reps introduced NoFollow.  NoFollow was about TRUST.  It was suppose to help deter blog & forum spam links that webmasters could not "vouch" for and didn't want to give credit to.  NoFollow was not about ads or paid links or all the rest of this nonsense. 

Now, somewhere along the line, that changed for Google.  Within the last few months, Google wants webmasters to mark paid links, including those in the sponsor areas, as nofollow.  But wait, what about the trust part?   Apparently it doesn't matter that we advertisers trust our sponsors or that their sites are even relevant.  It just seems like this comes about because Google cannot truly detect what a "paid link" is.  Google changing the meaning of nofollow isn't stated in the TOS or Guidlines, so was it just on Matt Cutt's blog or in a Google group somewhere?

I disagree with this latest tactic Google's taken on how to handle paid links.  It seems like just because they can't really determine a "real" paid link for PR is, that they'll go after sites with advertising on it that don't apply nofollow.  If we follow the original guidelines of nofollow, what it was first intended for, Google and Yahoo are suppose to be able to already determine you have a sponsor area if you mark it as such, with no need to add nofollow.

Followmetrust Sites like Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Guide and Search Engine Roundtable all TRUST their advertisers.  If they didn't why wouldn't they link to them?  Do you remember the panel when the search engines reps all said rather loudly - "denote your sponsor areas by notating it the area is 'sponsors', Google will know"?  That was the same panel they announced nofollow at.  I remember that, I remember it quite clearly, I remember that Danny Sullivan moderated that panel, too.  By those sites denoting a "sponsor area"  - all three denote that quite plainly and loudly - it is OBVIOUS they are not selling page rank, they are selling sponsorship.

Now lets flip the coin here, the small business advertisers who are buying these sponsorships - are buying just that - SPONSORSHIPS. If they didn't want to buy sponsorships, why would they agree to be put in the "sponsor" area in the first place - so why penalize those small business sites for adverting in a sponsor area? It just doesn't make sense.

It doesn't make sense, unless Google wants to control all the advertising on all the sites all over the world. 

Sure, it's Google's index - I agree with everyone else when they say Google can do whatever they want.  However if they are encouraging people to make pages that are relevant and not be "sneaky" about it, the least they can do is include everything a site can be penalized for in their guidelines and TOS.

Oursponsors While they are chewing on that , perhaps they could define their rules a little more plainly and come up with a better resolution than this crappy nofollow nonsense and confusion.  If it's a sponsor link, why not have a "rel=sponsor" on the link?  This will allow small business owners to denote it as advertising that is trusted by them, < begin rel=snark >since apparently placing the words "OUR SPONSORS" around the ads isn't apparently working.  < /end rel=snark  >


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Well... what about no follow on your site's own pages? Matt Cutts said to use them to restrict "link juice" to pages that aren't important such as privacy, contact us... etc. My problem was...originally, nofollow was used ...as you stated...for sites you don't trust, but now it's ok to use on your own pages?

Another good point Joe! One that I neglected to point out here too, so thanks!

Google seems like it's trying to "plug the leaky holes in the dam" with "nofollow" so to speak. At least that is how it's coming across to me.

Kind of like one of those cartoons where the character tries to plug the damn wall with is his fingers and toes, then finally runs out of appendages... and then the all the water bursts through and the dam wall breaks.

Yes Li what kills me is there's hidden or no disclosure. We banned/penalized you but we're not saying why.

"Follow the guildlines" but there's not enough in there to give a good understanding of their thinking.

It should be in the guidelines, however it is quite clear. Small businesses are able to pay for an advert as a sponsor. They will gain click through traffic however will not gain in the serps as there will be no link juice passed on.

Are they paying for the clickthrough as you say or are they paying for the link juice?

If it is merely clickthrough then there is no reason for you to not add no-follow and therefore preserve your own page rank.

I personally believe that they are actually paying the link juice hence the whole debate in the first place.

You will still be able to sell link but just need to be slightly cleverer about it, including them in the text of a page, but not the homepage.

The positive thing is that these links have just quadrupled in value.

What about your own recent posts or archives - do they hurt one to have them in the side bar? This is very confusing?

I never thought about the implications of nofollow so in depth before for advertisements. I wonder if any affiliate marketers would change their valuation of adds to include link juice.

Something like:

total ad value= A*Views+B*Clicks+C*Pagerank

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