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Google Changes Rules On Nofollow – Forgets To Send Memo

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Oh sweet “nofollow!” I use you on my blog to keep my link juice from spilling out onto the shady, dark world of the Internet underbellies. I even use you to sculpt my sites, hoping to wrangle PageRank and content into my own little silo of SERP love. Yet you are fickle and have proven to be a lying, cheating bastard.

You might be asking, “why all the prose?” And by prose, I know you mean really crappy melodrama. It’s because Google keeps changing the rules, but keeps their public message the same. I find this both irritating and also brilliant. Such is the case with the infamous rel=”nofollow” attribute.

The nofollow attribute is supposed to behave. It’s supposed to not let search engines follow its links. It’s supposed to do what we’ve been told by Google what it’s supposed to do. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do that. Instead, relevance and juice still seems to get past it. How do I know this, because we’ve experimented with it — experiments I’m unwilling to share to protect the identity of the not-so-innocent.

The biggest place that we’ve seen the offense is with blog comments. We’ve recently found that the anchor text and links that are supposed to be nofollow’d by Google are doing quite well. In fact, we’ve done (loose) experiments with unique anchor text — using the anchor text only on blog comments that were nofollowed — and have found them ranking #1 and #2 on Google. Let me repeat, we never built any other links with anchor text remotely close to the anchor text we used on those comments, yet we got results from it as if it had been dofollow.

We’ve only seen this recently in the past few months, which leads me to believe that Google is fiddling with their algorithm and changing the rules with nofollow once again. But like the government, we won’t find out about it until it doesn’t even matter anymore.

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10 Responses to “Google Changes Rules On Nofollow – Forgets To Send Memo”


    dude, don’t even mess with sphinn – if it wasn’t said by a keynote at a conference no one over there is going to believe shit.

  2. Well someone better tell that to Mr. Cutts who was “told by his engineers” that the minor flaw was fixed. I have suspected a competition of mine pulling this off also for my local area with nofollow comment blogs. I would love to see the keyword experiment though.

  3. Frank Levert

    Nothing surprising to me. The nofollow tag was kind of dumb anyway considering we can already use sitemaps and robots.txt files to let Google know what is important on our website. If a website refers to something external, I think that “something” should be used as a reference or it is going against the nature of the Internet. Same thing with penalties Google gives to websites for linking to “bad” neighborhood. Why should someone be penalized for blogging about email spam and link to the problematic spammer? It would be like saying “I won’t watch CNN anymore because they talk about war”. Penalize the spammer not the person linking to it! This said, I’m into SEO so of course I was playing by the rules and using nofollow tags on my own website but still…I wish it had not been put into place at the first place.

  4. I also noticed this. In my opinion Google only values nofollow links when looking at freshness. The better ranking is only for a short period of time.

    To me it makes sense that Google does this, because lots of blogs and social media sites define ALL the links as nofollow (Twitter for example). If Google ignores these nofollow links, the blogs will be ignored completely.

  5. patrcik

    Things are still complicated around nofollow/dofollow. rapid changes in social media dictate new rules for search engines like google.

  6. I first saw this (that nofollow is not used anymore by google) in WebCEO documentation. I must say that I also belive that this is true. But any way this attribute I think it is take care as when you search for link: website, the nofollow links will not appear. Right?