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How Can No-Follow Links Affect Your Search Engine Rankings – Can They Be Harmful?
Posted by Cameron Francis on October 15, 2013 in Link Building

It is common knowledge that links to your site is a significant component of your ranking in search engines. If your site doesn’t have links it will not rank well. In addition, if you don’t have high quality links to your site, your site will not be crawled very often.  Normally, search engines will find your site due to back links on other sites that point to your site. This is website crawling, and search engines are engaged in this practice billions of time each day. Directing search engines to visit your pages is vital to your rankings.

Two types of backlinks are in existence, do-follow links and no-follow links. These two types of backlinks are quite different and you must realise why this is so, if you want better Google search rankings. Do-follow links are the links that search engines crawl and follow to your site. Do-follow links are much more important with respect to your search engine rankings than no-follow links. No-follow links aren’t followed by crawlers and will not cause them to visit the pages of your site. Nevertheless, no-follow links are still a consideration when identifying your search engine ranking. Consequently, it is important that your site have both types of links pointing to it.


Acquire A Balance Of No-Follow And Do-Follow Links

It’s important to have a mix of no-follow and do-follow links. If you have only do-follow links, it appears unnatural to Google. Nevertheless, if you only have no-follow links your page won’t rank well. You need to have a balance between these two types of links. A good rule of thumb to follow is a ratio of 3 do-follow links to each no-follow link. This type of link profile will help guarantee that your site is ranked well by Google.

What Happens If You Get Numerous No-Follow Links?

What occurs if you obtain a large number of no-follow links, like links that you get for the purpose of direct traffic generation? Will that have a negative effect upon your search engine rankings?

SEO pros have understood for quite a while that placing no-follow in a link is a good way to notify Google that you have no desire to pass page rank for this link or that you may not trust the site that this link resides on. Therefore, if a big number of no-follow backlinks are pointing to a site, does this have the potential of raising a red flag to Google that the website is not trust worthy?

Matt Cutts of Google says that typically no-follow backlinks cannot harm your site’s rankings. However, if you are generating comments on a huge number of blogs, even if they are no-follow, and if you are annoying people and they are reporting you as spam, Google may penalise you for spamming.

Fortunately, blog comments normally leave a specific footprint that is easy to detect. Cutts did mention a particular example where a massive number of blog comments caused a problem, even though the links placed were no-follow, since they were placed on a massive scale.  Therefore, even if your links are no-follow, if Google detects a massive action that appears to be manipulative or deceptive, they will take action in this case.

So, Google makes an exception if they detect large-scale abuse. However, the majority of the times, no-follow links are deleted from the link graph as Google is crawling the internet, and no-follow links should not have an effect on your site from a search engine algorithm view point.

Cutts says that in the future this may change if some type of spam loophole is detected. However, generally as long as you are engaged in regular, building of direct traffic and you are not doing anything disruptive, you should have no problem with no-follow links.

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Cameron Francis


Cameron Francis is the CoFounder & Managing Director of ETRAFFIC, Melbourne's #1 Creative & Digital Marketing Agency. For over a decade Cameron has been providing growth marketing and digital strategies for over 2,000 small businesses, start-ups & entrepreneurs around the country.

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Cameron Francis is the co-founder of The eTraffic Group which started as a 2 man start-up from his lounge room, to a 50 person+, multi million dollar company.

For over 10 years Cameron has been providing growth hacking and digital marketing strategies for small businesses, start ups & entrepreneurs. He helps companies like Retreat Caravans, Melbourne Real Estate, and Roth Newton grow their revenue.

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