There’s a blogging guideline that is a dealbreaker for me, and frankly…it’s broken a lot of recent would-be deals.
And that’s JUST FINE with me. I’m a stickler for disclosure, for following the rules and for following best blogging practices, and the clients and partners that I do work with appreciate (I hope!) that I have their best interests in mind as well as my own.
The controversial policy? Using something called “no follow links.”
How and When to Use No Follow Links for Sponsored Blog Posts
I require it on all paid/sponsored posts (and have spent hours going back and fixing older posts).
WHAT ARE NO FOLLOW LINKS?
[Tweet “What are no follow links and when do bloggers need to use them?”]
Exactly what they sound like. When you add a link in your post that directs people to another URL, typically, Google and other search engines will actually follow those links, increasing the other site’s page rank and credibility. When you add a small piece of code to the link, your readers can still click through and all appears the same, but the search engines do NOT follow through.
Links=endorsements, which is why brands would prefer that you don’t add the code. They want your Google juice, and your good standing with search engines. But Google doesn’t think it’s fair that brands can essentially buy higher Page Rank and SEO — so it requires that you essentially disclose in your code, by using no-follow links on all paid posts.
HOW DO YOU CREATE NO FOLLOW LINKS?
As of April 2017, there’s an important update to these instructions. As part of a new security measure to protect against what is actually an old threat called “Tabnabbing,” WordPress now automatically adds two attributes to your external links:
In a nutshell, that stops hackers from being able to go between the link and what opens in the browser, and change that behavior (accidentally tricking your visitors into going somewhere they don’t want to go). Are there SEO and analytics implications? Sort of. This is a really good breakdown and worth your time to read.
But this does NOT add the nofollow attribute, which is still required for links. And it should not affect internal links. If it does…you may need to speak with your developer to ensure that there’s no other conflict at play.
So, how do you build the nofollow link?
It’s super easy, if not a little bit aggravating. A standard link will look like this:
To make it no follow, you need to go into the code and add the part you see in bold and italics below:
<a href=”http://EXAMPLELINKTHISISNOTREAL.com” rel=”nofollow“>
If you also want it to open in a new tab, which is my standard practice, you’ll also want to add a target destination.
<a href=”http://EXAMPLELINKTHISISNOTREAL.com” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow“>
or, what you may end up with thanks to the WordPress update is (if you enter the HTML, switch to visual and switch back, it will likely be updated automatically):
<a href=”http://EXAMPLELINKTHISISNOTREAL.com” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow nopener no referrer“>
[Tweet “The easy way to create no follow links for sponsored posts!”]
One more point: the link itself won’t look any different to you or to your visitors. So if you want to double-check that it is being properly loaded, you can either look at the source code (scary to some) or use the MozBar, which I think is awesome and quickly shows which links are which:
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T USE NO FOLLOW LINKS? AND WHY DO BRANDS HATE THEM SO BADLY?
What happens? Nothing, at least not immediately. It’s not like Google runs scripts all day looking for links that should be changed and somehow shutting down your blog (keep in mind that Blogger is a Google product, though…and while you’re at it, that WordPress.com-hosted sites are not supposed to have advertising or sponsored posts of any kind).
But Google is very, very smart. And it will catch up with you. That could mean you’re penalized and your own Page Rank and SEO suffer (and if you’ve ever had issues with any Google products, you know it’s nearly impossible to get this type of penalty reviewed or reversed) OR worse. Not worth the risk.
So why do most brands hate them? Why do so many refuse to engage in a contract with the no follow requirement? Because they know that they can only increase their online reputation through links and endorsements of a lot of powerful people…say, bloggers. It’s hard because many of these brands have cool stuff and would benefit from your Google juice but it’s just not the way things work. I make it very clear to my partners that this protects them as much as me — because we’ll both be penalized if we break the rules.
[Tweet “Don’t forget to do this when you’re posting sponsored content…”]
WHEN IS IT OKAY TO USE DO FOLLOW LINKS?
Do follow links are GREAT for everything but paid posts, link/anchor text schemes (see here — I guarantee you’ve been pitched this by email) or any content that you don’t trust (for example, you’re sharing news about a rumor that turned out not to be true…use no follow links so the rumor doesn’t continue to get credibility).
Links to other blogs? Articles of interest? Products you like but aren’t paid to endorse? Good. Good. Good.