You Oughta Know: No Follow Links

It’s 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.” I require it on all paid/sponsored posts (and have spent hours going back and fixing older posts).

No-Follow-Links

WHAT ARE NO FOLLOW LINKS?

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?

It’s super easy, if not a little bit aggravating. A standard link will look like this:

<a href=”http://EXAMPLELINKTHISISNOTREAL.com”>

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“>

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.

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.

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Comments

    • 3

      says

      For SURE moving forward…but I’d go back and edit old links as fast as you can, or delete posts that may no longer be relevant. This isn’t a new rule, but I think a lot of bloggers (myself included) are really just coming to terms with what it means.

  1. 13

    says

    Still learning about this topic, so glad you posted!! I just noticed that in WP in the All In One SEO there is a box you could check next to “Robots Meta NOFOLLOW” – wondering if that’s enough to do?

    • 14

      says

      Is the box on a per-post basis, or across the site? You want to be very careful when using shortcuts to assign no follow links, because it may designate ALL links — the paid and non-paid — as nofollow and that itself may trigger Google’s spam alerts (if you build an entire site of links and none carry juice that may be as suspicious as the alternate).

      If you’re able to do it on a per-post basis, you may be OK (I don’t use that plugin, so I want to couch my answer).

      • 15

        says

        It’s on a per post, but now I’m thinking may not be good shortcut if there are multiple links in post. Thanks for the reply and for the post!

  2. 18

    Dee says

    question….what about if you do a review but are not PAID but are given the product for a giveaway. Links or no-follow links? Thanks so much.

  3. 24

    says

    reason #2300 bajillion why I love your blog: i learn something new all. the freaking. time. LOVE it.

    Thank YOU for sharing and teaching :) :)

  4. 27

    says

    You just cleared up every question I’ve ever had about no follow links in one post. I’m super impressed and very happy because this was super helpful!

  5. 30

    says

    Well handled Katy! I heard the difference between follow and no follow links explained an additional easy way that helped me understand the concept. People can follow a “no follow” link, bots cannot. Bots and people can follow “follow” links.

  6. 31

    says

    Very helpful post. Thanks Katy. I now have a clearer idea when do use and when not to use no follow links. Because I was living under the impression that you’ve got to have many outgoing links on my blog and ‘no follow’ links don’t count as outgoing links at all.
    Thanks

  7. 33

    says

    Katy,

    Thank you so much for posting about this, and including the no-follow code! I had to read it a few times to understand it, and how to create no-follow links. Now I can go back and fix links on a few (not too many) past posts.

  8. 34

    says

    Great information – I have done very few (maybe 3?) sponsored/paid posts in my life as a blogger, but this is good to know!

    I’ve seen a few “no follow” plug ins and look pretty handy…except for the fact they no follow every single link, which doesn’t seem all that helpful considering there is a lot of friendly blogger linking that seriously helps blogger’s Google juice (love that term!). Just a thought for anyone looking for a quick solution!

  9. 38

    Robin Wilson says

    Thank you for explaining this so that a newbie blogger like myself now completely understands! This is not something that I came across during any of my “pre blogging” research.

  10. 40

    says

    This is great! Also nofollow Guest Blogger post too as Google is currently doing a crack down on those also because Guest Blogging has became spammy.

  11. 43

    says

    Hi Katy:
    I am really happy to find your site. Thanks for the great post. Wondering how you notify brands as to your no-follow code policy? Is it something you mention right away at the beginning of discussions? How do you bring it up?

    Thanks for the input!

    • 44

      says

      Hi Amy!

      Great question (and thanks for the kind words!).

      I let brands know very early on about all of my policies: clear disclosure and no-follow links. It’s usually something like:

      In order to protect both of us, I do follow white-hat blogging steps: per FTC requirements, I disclose when I’ve been compensated in any way for my work, and per Google’s TOS, I use no-follow links in any sponsored posts. You can read more about both of those things at THISLINK and THISLINK and I’d be happy to discuss the details.

      Honestly? Most agencies and brands understand these rules and know that it’s for their own protection, so I don’t often get pushback. When I do, I really question the true desires of the brand.

      I also include the policies in any and all contracts, so there are no surprises.

      Best of luck!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] You Oughta Know:  No Follow Links via Katy Widrick because Katy is my go-to source for all things blogging and social media, and this is a super important read if for bloggers who do any paid or sponsored posts (and I’m adding this as a to-do project for my own blog). [...]

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