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Categories: How to, Internet, Malcolm Coles. Tags: , , ,

Nofollow: How to link to someone or something you detest (I’m looking at you Jan Moir)

October 21, 2009 10 Comments

The furore over Jan Moir has thrown up several interesting SEO issues. Here's a basic one - how should you link to something you detest?

The problem with linking

Put simply, Google counts a link to a page / website as a vote for that page / website. So everyone who blogged about, and linked to, Jan Moir's article on Stephen Gately has, unfortunately, helped that particular article AND the Daily Mail website as a whole do better in Google's results. (According to Yahoo Site Explorer, there were 334 links to the original URL and 541 links to the URL after it was changed - that's 875 links in total)

Google will notice a lot more pages linking to the Mail, a lot more websites linking to the Mail - and will decide that the Mail and that Jan Moir article must be more important than they were the day before.

(You don't need to worry about linking in Twitter, though, as I explain below.)

You can see the effect here. A search for the letter 'a' in Google currently brings up Jan Moir's article first. (Update - it no longer does.) (It didn't used to. Fortunately, at the moment, that article is only on the second page of results for a search on 'Stephen Gately'. Notice, too, they've forgotten to update the meta description).

Jan Muir ranks 1st for a search on the letter 'a'

Jan Moir ranks 1st for a search on the letter 'a'

Here's how to get round it ...

The easy solution - don't link to it. Sometimes you have to, however - in the short term, you may need your readers to be able to read something to make sense of what you've written.

I saw someone suggesting a URL shortener like This won't work as, with most URL shorteners, Google looks at the ultimate link (read this post on the difference between URL shorteners' use of 301 and 302 redirects to understand why).

The best way to avoid your link counting as a vote is to add rel=nofollow to your links.

This means the links will still work as before for normal users - but nofollow tells search engines to ignore the links when calculating pages' importance - in other words, the link no longer counts as a vote. (Google has an explanation of nofollow.)

How to add nofollow

If you've got blogger or wordpress, adding this is easy. Once you've added a link as normal, just click on the HTML tag of the editor where you write your post - it looks like this picture in wordpress.

Add rel="nofollow" in HTML view

Add rel="nofollow" in HTML view

Then scroll down to where the link is. You'll see some text like this:

Jan Moir has written a <a href="">disgusting piece</a> for the Mail on the death of Stephen Gately

The bit code in < > brackets is what makes the link. So you just need to add rel="nofollow" (with a space before and after) inside the bit of code that beings <a href="http: ...

So it now looks like this:

Jan Moir has written a <a rel="nofollow" href="">disgusting piece</a> for the Mail on the death of Stephen Gately

Then click the other tab at the top to return to the normal view. You won't notice any difference there - but you can be happy that, in Google's eyes, you're not promoting whatever you're linking to. Result!

Don't worry about Twitter

You don't have to worry about linking to something in Twitter. Twitter automatically adds nofollow to all links that you tweet. (Thanks to Minifig for the point.) And, likewise, comments in blogs usually have nofollow added to links automatically.

You might also like
  1. Jan Moir: Don’t forget to change your meta descriptions …
  2. PCC rules on Jan Moir: a strange and troubling ruling.
  3. Sidestepping Google Sidewiki: changing URLs won’t help
  4. Jan Moir: Mail readers reject her hateful bile (probably)
  5. Jan Moir: Twitter forces Mail to pull all adverts

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