Whether you are just starting out with your WordPress blog or you are a veteran blogger, knowing the differences between links is important. No matter where on the internet you surf to, you will see and use links. There are two important types of links that should be paid close attention to; the follow link and the no follow link.
To understand why each of these types of links are important, you would have to know what was going on before Google started changing the internet landscape. Modern search engines came to life in the 1990’s with Archie, which searched the file names of a document. The subsequent search engine types did the same thing until Google came online.
Google changed the search parameters so that the average user could easily find what they were looking for. Instead of the end user having to remember specific file names or specific addresses, Google allowed the user to use keywords that would return relatively proper web pages.
Because of that, a new metric was born, page ranks. The SERP (Search Engine Results Page) returned results that were pertinent to the keywords used. However, for a page to rank well, it had to be credible. Google’s algorithm took the number of links that pointed to a site as being a sign of the credibility.
Then it almost fell apart. Thanks to what are now considered Black Hat SEO tricks, many websites used this opportunity to literally spam every available comment spot or forum post that they could find so that they could raise their site’s ranking.
SEO & Links
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and links have a murky past. According to Google’s algorithm, the more links a site has to point to it, the better. That ideology was quickly abused when everyone visited other websites just to drop a link off to their site. This practice is now deemed as a Black Hat SEO practice, but it made its mark on the internet when some sites were ousted as the best match for something less credible.
Google’s response to this was the defining HTML tag ‘nofollow,’ which made it possible for webmasters to allow links that pointed elsewhere but told search engines not to count it. The spamming comments and irrelevant posts started to die down.
Simply put, links that are considered follow links to add to the site’s credibility where they point to. Google places a significant emphasis on having high content displayed on their SERP, and still use links as part of their algorithm. So, it is still possible to give another site a little love by using a follow link.
A part of the credibility comes from who handed out that link. A small site providing a follow link to another small site may be good for them. A small site giving a large site a follow link doesn’t do so well. A big site giving a small site a follow link is as close to gold as one can get online. So, the origin point of links does play a significant role.
No Follow Links
No Follow links, on the other hand, don’t help out in page ranks. They did cut out a lot of the spam content people suffered through.
WordPress made it easy for webmasters to use the no follow attribute, by making them the default types of links that could be shown within comments. Even Wikipedia uses a metric ton of no follow links to avoid boosting sites.
The HTML code behind no follow links is pretty straight forward and looks like:
<a href=”http://www.examplewebsite.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a>
It’s that rel=”nofollow” that made all the difference to how links would be treated. No follow links can point to legitimate websites, and most are, but for ranking purposes, they give no credit.
Why You Want to Use No Follow Links
The reasons you would want to have a no follow link include:
- Reduce Spam – WordPress already flags user generated comments as no follow automatically.
- To let search engines know about irrelevant pages – This is especially handy when you have downloadable material you don’t want people to download without getting there legitimately.
- Protect your ranking – if your embeddable content gets used on less reputable websites so that your ranking isn’t brought down with it.
- Avoids link building scams – You can reduce the likelihood of being used in a link building scam
Incorporating the no follow tag is quite simple with WordPress. In some cases, only checking the associated box when creating a link is all you need to do. However, not all themes have this coded in. If your theme doesn’t have this option available, then the use of a plugin is recommended.
Simply install and activate the Title and Nofollow For Links plugin. The plugin works out of the box, meaning you don’t have to configure anything and it will let you turn any link on your website into a no follow link.
As you can see, no follow links do have a very important role. They may not give the target site much of an SEO boost, but a well-placed comment or forum post can turn into a referral for your website.
The reason we have a no follow attribute is to decrease the amount of spam we would otherwise encounter. Since no follow links don’t count towards page rank, it promotes the creation of relevant content before a do follow link is granted. Other reasons you may want to use the no follow attribute is paid content and linking anywhere that Google considers untrusted content.
Using the no follow attribute is as simply installing a plugin, or depending on your theme, natively checking the appropriate box. Whichever method you choose, remember to check the box and improve your own ranking and credibility.