Aug 7 2007

The nofollow tag, robots.txt and leaking your PageRank

A nice blend of flavor aye? :p – I get many questions regarding PageRank and how to keep from leaking that valuable substance(*laughs*), as well as how to properly use the nofollow tag. Many don’t realize it but the nofollow tag can be very valuable for use on your own site not just for outbound links. In this article we have an example of a webmaster who saw a HUGE increase in traffic from google after implementing some simple nofollow/robots restrictions.

This article may help you funnel your SE value through to the pages that need the value and stop value from being leaked into hundreds of worthless pages you don’t want ranked.




Until fairly recently the nofollow tag was still being valued in Google(not like a regular link but still had some very little value) – we recently concluded an experiment which proves that Google no longer values the nofollow tag. To prove this we found an obscure keyword, we then took an established website and had bloggers and website owners link to this site using the keywords we specified as well as the nofollow tag attached to the link. We got about 50 links with the nofollow tag, we waited over a month(longer than necessary) and yet no where did this site appear for the selected keywords. The websites linking to the test site ranked but not even on Yahoo or MSN was seen a ranking for our obscure keywords for the test domain. There is no doubt that none of the three currently value any link with the nofollow tag.

Why/when/how should the nofollow tag be used?
The nofollow tag was introduced to a great extent to combat the large blog comment spam issue however its uses are many. Its main idea is to tell search engines “I am not affiliated with this site, I do not trust this page and/or do not want to pass any value to it”

This is very useful for keeping your value from being linked to a bad site or worse to be associated with that bad site which could possibly harm your rankings.

Many webmasters assume that by linking out you leak value/pagerank or whatever, that you will rank higher if you save your value by nofollowing all or most of your outbound links. This is a sad, what if all webmasters began thinking this way… how hard would link building become?Webmasters should not be afraid to link to good resource sites related to their niche.
Link to sites you believe will be beneficial to your visitors even if it is your competition. Sometimes offering your visitors an alternative can be a larger benefit than pretending your the sole provider in your niche and it will lower the chances of them actually leaving your site… yeah I know that sounds strange but it works sometimes.

I can’t prove 100% that this is so but I also believe Google gives more authority to sites which link to other authority sites in the industry, sites who aren’t afraid to link to the experts in their niche… I believe Google somehow attributes this to a good webmaster and somehow gives them authority for it. Again I can’t prove that but alot of evidence seems to support it… either way it is a good idea to share the love.

Leaking PR…
The biggest way in my opinion to lose link value or what some people mistakenly call PR is by reciprocal link exchanges. Probably the easiest and worst way to leak link value is by reciprocating with un-related, low quality sites. This can hurt your site and you are likely to lose positions randomly over time… the days of link exchanging for rankings are gone… Only reciprocate with sites who give you a link on a content page and which are relevant, others will greatly dis valued.

The second worst way is site-wide links. These draw value from all your pages and are not a good idea… I would nofollow all sitedwide links or give the webmaster only one link. Sitewide links are also disvalued, I believe how many pages the link is on may play a big role but just the fact that it is a site-wide link seems to be grounds for disvaluing.

Many people don’t realize you can even lose value through bad link management of in-side links, yes links on your site pointed at other pages on your site. Scripts such as forums, blogs, content management systems and others can cause link value to be carried to multiple versions of a page(duplicate content) and can cause you to rank lower than you normally would.

For forums I highly recommend using a sub-domain instead of a sub-folder… this acts as a separate domain and hence will not effect the rest of your site like it would if you installed the forums in a sub-folder. Make sure you remove session ids, 301 duplicate pages, mod re-write the urls to static and of course 301 those dynamic urls to the static versions. This will help your forums posts to rank for the topics being discussed, give more value to each page and make it easier for users to return to a specific topic.

Also with forums you should use the robots.txt file to tell the robots to stay out of the members profiles, members list, register and login pages. This saves value from being passed to pages which do not need it… also try and install a plugin which nofollows all urls in signatures and posts of users under a certain number of posts, say 50. That way you reward members for their support of your community yet don’t give link value to spammers.

Increase Google traffic by 1400%…
Many know Jeremy Shoemaker a.k.a ShoeMoney. He was advised this year by Aaron Wall of SeoBook to nofollow certain pages on his site, surprising to some his rankings increased greatly and of course so did his traffic. Jeremy claimed his traffic from Google increased 1400% which is quite hard to beat :P – If you want to see what he put in his robots here it is:

http://www.shoemoney.com/robots.txt

Based on simple robots exclusions I have used in the past I know it works and I know it can have absurd positive effects on your rankings… if your serious about taking out your competition you will want to check this out, implement nofollows and robots exclusions on your site where appropriate.

I have worked with exclusions and nofollows quite a bit lately so if you have questions or need help with your site to make sure you are not leaking value send me a comment and I will help you out.

That covers the basics of using nofollows, leaking PR and the like. If I failed to explain something just scream it out and I will try and update the article…

If you have further questions regarding this topic or would like a specific question addressed in our next article just make a comment to this article or send me an email.

Copyright © 2007, 1st-rankings Co.
This article may NOT be redistributed in any way, shape or form. If you would like to link to the article we would appreciate it.

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6 Comments on this post

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  1. BeachBum said:

    I am just learning about nofollow, but really don’t mind if outbound links will “leak” some of my PR. I feel that if you don’t try to cheat the system, things will work out. As for the internal links I did not realize that too many would hurt my ranking. Thanks for the info.

    BeachBum

    August 7th, 2007 at 1:52 am
  2. mARIA said:

    iN WHAT WAY DO INTERNAL LINKS HURT MY WEBSITE, pLEASE tAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE FOLLOWING SITUATION: I HAVE A MAGAZINE TYPE WEBSITE (CONTENT ONLY) AND i WANT TO MAKE ALL RELEVANT MATERIAL TO ONE SUBJECT AVAILABLE AT 1 OR MAXIMUM 2 CLICK AWAY. i USE RELATED ARTICLES FROM ALL AREAS. LETS SAY I TALK ABOUT SONY eRICCSON AND I PUT IN LINKS OF RELATED ARTICLES OR ITEMS FROM NEWS, DOWNLOADS, REVIEWS, CUSTOMER COMMENTS AND SO ON. DOES THIS SITUATION HURT MY RANKING? IF THE ANSWER IS YES, THEN WE COME BACK TO DECIDING WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT: USABILITY OR SEO.
    tHEN AGAIN, I READ SOMEPLACE THAT TIME ON SITE AND BOUNCE RATE ARE ALSO TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT BY GOOGLE, AND WHAT BETTER WAY TO INCREASE BOTH INDEXES THEN BY PROVIDING RELATED ARTICLES.
    aLSO, i LINK SOME OF THE WORDS IN AN ARTICLE (LESS COMMON) TO A GLOSSARY – DOES THAT HURT MY RANKINGS TOO?

    tHANK YOU FOR THE ANSWERS!

    August 7th, 2007 at 9:58 am
  3. Pkudel4 said:

    Why shoemoney blocked sitemap.xml? Blocking index.php to keep one instance of the domain hopepage also seems a bit crazy:)
    this comment box is driving me crazy – when you misstype captcha your message is cleared… low

    August 10th, 2007 at 12:46 pm
  4. visio said:

    @ Pkudel4 Sitemap.xml should not be spidered by googlebot, you should have an html version for that, the XML is for the sitemaps on google and is best to keep out of the index.

    You also want only one instance of each page so a index.php instance is a duplicate of site.com and is not needed. May seem crazy but believe me it isn’t, just try it. – Note that just changing one thing may not result in a noticeable change in rankings.

    August 10th, 2007 at 1:01 pm
  5. visio said:

    BTW Pkudel thanks for alerting me to the fact that the captcha causes that issue.

    @ Maria I would say to keep all pages less than a click away use a sitemap.html page and list all your pages there… if those links are all to pages with just a snippet of text then I would definitely add it all to the same page…

    You should not consider linking to your pages as hurting your rankings if those pages are quality, relevant and useful to your community, if so then you are fine. You should be nofollowing and disallowing those pages which are not necessarily for Googles use, duplicates of pages etc.

    bounce rate is a factor in google and yes any way you can combat that will help you both in conversions and google rankings.

    August 10th, 2007 at 1:06 pm
  6. pkudel4 said:

    VISIO – in normal practice IMHO you do not link to your sitemap.xml file from any of your pages.. you say that it should be available to google, does google use different bot to read xml sitemaps? according to index.php – I would 301 redirect from index.php to site.com, remove all references to index.php from the site, but defo I would not block it in robots.txt… It looks like we haave different opinions… sweet :)

    August 28th, 2007 at 2:17 pm

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