Follow you follow me
There’s an interesting way in which some websites break Google’s webmaster guidelines, by allowing people to pay for links.
Some clients are surprised that Google has a set of guidelines to help website owners know what to do (and what not to do) if they want to get good results from Google. Well, they do – after all, if websites don’t have a strong chance of being at the top, Google doesn’t really have a business.
If a website breaks the guidelines, it can be removed from Google’s index entirely. Trust me, that’s not a place you want to be.
These guidelines are important for Google to protect the integrity of its search results – and stop spammers from always being at the top.
One of the more interesting guidelines is that if you sell a link to another website, you don’t pass page rank down that link.
What does this mean?
Well, page rank is one of the key ways in which Google assesses the popularity of a website. Page rank is a numerical score – just as an example, a website might have a page rank of 4, which is solid. The BBC website has a page rank of 9, which is outstanding and ranks it among only a few in the world with that score. When a website links to your site, it passes a percentage of its page rank to you, increasing your score and making your website more popular.
All well and good.
But Google wants to track natural links only – the ones which are genuine ‘votes’ of approval for a website. So, they came up with the ‘nofollow’ attribute, for webmasters to add to links which are paid, or ones where they don’t want to flow page rank outwards.
It looks like this:
With the ‘nofollow’ in place, the link works as normal, but Google won’t pass page rank between the sites.
A good example of where this should be used is banner advertising – these are clearly paid links. This can be frustrating for website owners, as implementing a banner campaign has been seen as a quick and easy way of boosting page rank. Since this is actually against Google’s webmaster guidelines, it becomes a risky strategy, since those sites could be removed from Google’s index at any point.
And, if you own a website that displays advertisements or paid sponsored links, then your own website could be breaking Google’s guidelines.
When a website is removed from Google’s index, there is little warning and no advice whatsoever on why it has been removed. So, you could spend days hunting for the reason. When you fix a site and resubmit it, it gets checked by humans – so if you missed this particular problem area, you could find that your site doesn’t get put back in.
It’s not worth the risk – either check yourself or get your webmaster to check.