To Follow or Not to Follow

Google’s Page Rank brought with it a series of changes in how people promoted their websites on the internet. And how websites were perceived. Since the day Page Rank got introduced, SEO changed in many ways. Before Page Rank days, webmasters would link to sites purely on the basis of providing a link that would be helpful to the visitors or for reference purposes. Linking wasn’t that rampant, it would happen naturally whenever a webmaster considered something valuable enough to link to. Or, there would be largely one-way links from directories etc…There wasn’t so much of hullaballoo associated with links as such.

With the increasing popularity of the internet, more and more businesses launched their websites. Ranking on search engines started getting tougher. And then Google came up with the Page Rank. Page Rank became and has become one of the major factors in determining whether a website is a popular web site or not. Linking to a website these days is so completely dependent upon the Page Rank of that website. Essentially, if you have a good Page Rank, most websites will patronize you and you would be flooded with requests from webmasters to link to their site; there would various kinds of requests, reciprocal, one way, three way…

Today, new web sites find it increasingly difficult to get links from authoritative sites. They struggle to get links from anywhere. They have to establish themselves first before proving that they are worthy of linking to. In a way this is good, because a lot of spam sites get established like this, and they need to get eradicated. But some good sites suffer because of this too.

Page Rank now forms an integral part of a Search Engine Optimization process. It is a sort of yard stick. Every webmaster wants to increase the Page Rank of their website. In fact the obsession is so much that at some point websites with very high Page Ranks were selling link space on their web pages. This led to a lot of not very favorable SEO practices. Search engines and webmasters have tried since to clamp down on these practices. The “No follow” concept took flight so as to curb malpractices such as spamming by commenting and other malpractices.

The fall out of this is that now a day’s most webmasters will likely use “No follow” attribute for any link that they provide . This means that there would not be any Page Rank value transferred on to the page that was linked to the webpage. This practice is a good way to check sites that try to gain Page Rank by linking to high Page Rank sites. These sites are not really the best in terms of content or usefulness to visitors, they are just looking for short cuts to increase their page rank and perhaps abuse the system.”No follow” works very well for these sites. But should good sites also get the same treatment?

No Follow

For many webmasters the predicament remains; to follow or not to follow.

According to Matt Cutts ” I would not rely on widgets and infographics as your primary source to gather links, and I would recommend putting a nofollow, especially with widgets.”

I think that makes sense because these links happen by default because of the embedded code, and sometimes we are not even aware which sites these embedded links link to. These have led to a lot of unfavorable practice. Implementing a “No Follow” for links like these makes sense. The value of these links cannot be in any way compared to links that a webmaster provides naturally as a reference.

In my opinion, webmasters should continue to link to websites that they find useful for their visitors. As long as the objective to link is clear, one cannot go wrong. Remember, a website does not start off with a high Page Rank. Page Rank happens because of implementing SEO practices. And a web site gets a Page Rank because of a link from an authoritative site or a directory or any web site that considered the site important enough to link to, and most certainly those sites did not use the “No follow” attribute.

Why should we not return that favor? Especially if we think we are linking to a deserving site.

The internet is all about linking. People and search engines discover and come across new sites because some sites link to them. There are people who will abuse the system but thankfully we have sophisticated search engines who are constantly trying their best to curb these practices. And why just search engines, almost all of us can figure out if we are linking to a good or bad site. It is for us to decide whether we wish to “No follow” a link or just allow it. But by following a “No Follow” for all links we may be doing a disservice to a site that perhaps deserves to be noticed.

All said and done, if we were to just disable the Page Rank from our tool bar, what would change?

To me life would become stress free, and it will be nice to discover websites without any preconceived notions. By not constantly discarding websites on the basis of Page Rank alone, and by going with our instincts of what is good or bad, we might chance upon some very good sites. Google has hundreds of factors that they consider for ranking a website; Page Rank is just one of those factors. So, why do we have this obsession for Page Rank?

Imagine if Google were to publish some more of those hundreds of factors! We would become obsessed about how to score the perfect figure for each of those factors so that we are at the top of the search results. This would certainly drive most of us crazy!

I say let search engines do their job, and as webmasters let us continue to do what we are supposed to. A good website that employs all the SEO best practices and is useful to its visitors will get noticed sooner or later.

About Ranjana Jha

The internet has been a great source of interest to me. I have been involved with website promotions and SEO since the late 90s. Those days SEO was not as well-known or wasn't really the top priority for most businesses. The whole SEO concept was still at its nascent stage. It is interesting how SEO has evolved over the past decade. My objective of setting up this website is to share my experiences and help your business attain a higher visibility on the internet.
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