Search Engine Guide guest author Bill Hartzer has an interesting article this week on the new "nofollow" attribute that has been introduced by Google. The idea behind the attribute is that Web site owners may add rel="nofollow" as an attribute to any typical href link and thus instruct Google to ignore the outgoing link on their Web site. Google has stated on their site that link tags containing the attribute will be ignored when Google is spidering their site, Yahoo! and MSN Search are following suit.

There are some pros and cons to this new attribute and search engine marketers need to think about how it might impact their marketing efforts. The attribute is a godsend to webmasters running blog sites, or other sites that allow user comments to be added because it helps protect them against blogspam and guestbook spamming programs designed to automatically drop links into sites for the purpose of inflating PageRank. On the other hand, unscrupulous Web site owners could choose to use the attribute to block all legitimate outgoing links from being spidered on their sites. As such, the attribute has been embraced by the blog community and will soon be integrated into many of the popular blogging software programs.

So how does this new attribute affect the small business marketer? Well, if your site features a blog, forum or guestbook, the tag gives you the ability to block the impact of link spam, thus making it more likely that individuals using those techniques will move on to other projects. After all, there's no sense in building automated guestbook and blog spammers if there are no benefits to be had. On the other hand, marketers that are working to build perfectly legitimate reciprocal and incoming links may find that their efforts are being thwarted by Webmasters that aren't interested in sharing the wealth.

In my opinion, the availability of the new attribute serves to reinforce the idea that users should be seeking quality incoming links that will benefit the users of the sites linking to them. Site owners should also focusing on content that is unique enough and valuable enough to make other sites want to link to them without even being asked. The new no follow attribute is unlikely to be picked up by the average Webmaster for sometime to come and few outside the SEM community believe there is any value to blocking the spidering of outgoing links. That supports the idea that building legitimate links, rather than seeking to trade links with every other SEM on the planet is going to be the strongest long-term plan for your site.

Creative programmers have had ways to block the spidering of outgoing links for quite some time anyway, this new tag simply makes it easier for the average site owner to exercise some control over the outgoing links on their site. How they will choose to use it, and even if they will choose to use it will remain to be seen. Speculation is that Google may implement the reading of the attribute as early as their next update, which could cause some significant shuffling of the results in some of the more competitive arenas.
January 20, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > New No Follow Attribute Could Impact Link Campaigns