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Link Building and the Rel=nofollow attribute

October 12, 2009

Here is a quick point I want to make about link-building since from a number of related articles and forum threads I’ve come across on the web I get the feeling that many are still quite unaware of this aspect of SEO.

The rel=”nofollow” attribute

The primary purpose of link building is to create backlinks to your website, and the more backlinks the better as backlinks are a key (if not ‘the key’) factor in determining your websites ability to rank high in the search results of Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines.

However, some time ago an HTML attribute (rel=”nofollow”) was introduced to signify to search engine spiders that any link carrying the attribute should not be given any weight towards that websites ranking in the search engine.   Here is an example of what this attribute would look like in the context of an HTML anchor code:

<a href=”http://www.example-url.com” alt=”this is an example of nofollow” rel=”nofollow”>example-url.com</a>

(emphasis in bold)

It is surmised that the rel=”nofollow” attribute can be used to levee the amount of link juice* traveling into, throughout, and out of your website. I have even read this hypothesis named as one possible reason that Wikipedia ranks so well for so many keywords across the internet; because they use the rel=”nofollow” attribute on all outbound links, thereby keeping the link juice flowing between their own internal pages through tens of thousands of internal links, thus giving them weight.

(* Link juice is another term that warrants its own separate discussion which I won’t go into.)

Link-building for SEO

I am not an SEO expert but I bring this up for an important reason.  I have discovered that many people still focus efforts on trying to create backlinks to their website by posting in forums and comments in other blog posts.   The problem is most forum and blog software these days, by default, use the rel=nofollow attribute, meaning, of course, that linking from them is largely a big waste of time from the SEO perspective.

I don’t say it’s a complete waste of time because you can still do this to generate some traffic by getting the readers of those forums and blogs to click directly over to your site.  That said, one should still realize the activity adds nothing to SEO.

Most of those engaged in this type of unfruitful activity (I too was at one time guilty) are simply going about to as many possible blogs as they can visit and posting comments like “hi, great article, I couldn’t agree more” just to drop a link there.   Often the blogs content is not even remotely related to their own.

Link-building services

There are a dime-a-dozen services available that offer backlink building.  I have recently paid for a few of them.  They were dirt cheap, so it was almost a no-brainer.  However, out of the total number of links that the service providers reported completing, only a fraction of them actually now show up as backlinks.  The sites were various directories and social bookmarking services, and I will be compiling and posting a report of which sites used the rel=nofollow attribute and which didn’t.  For those of you who do your own directory submissions this should help you to trim the fat from the bone and save you some otherwise wasted time.  Stay tuned for that coming in a later post..

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