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Nofollow and internal redirects: sites that accept links – but don’t link out fairly

May 19, 2008 21 Comments

There seem to be increasing numbers of sites who suck up weblinks, but don't link back out in a 'proper' way - ie in a way that helps the site linked to do better in google.

Instead, they use funny internal redirects, stick 'no follow' on external links, or just don't bother making them hyperlinks.

Newspapers bad at external linking

UK newspaper sites are terrible at this - even when they include web addresses in their stories, they don't bother to make them hyperlinks. Here are some examples:

  • FT.com - this story encourages people to visit www.policyholderadvocate.org but doesn't make it a link.
  • Guardian.co.uk - encourages people to visit which.co.uk/ppi but doesn't make it a link.
  • Mirror.co.uk - also advises readers to visit the which site to claim compensation - but it's not a hyperlink.
  • Express.co.uk - same encouragement, to the same site, same lack of a hyperlink.
  • Timesonline.co.uk - recommends several PPI websites, doesn't link to any.
  • Independent.co.uk - recommends two ppi reclaiming sites, but no links.
  • Thetelegraphandargus.co.uk - support our troops - but don't link to them.
  • Waslesonline.co.uk - please give to wearitpink.co.uk, but no link...
  • Thisisnottingham.co.uk - visit nottinghamrugby.co.uk but not by clicking as no link.

Other offenders

  • BT Tradespace - You register and set up a page for your company. They optimise the page for your company name - and then nofollow the link to your actual website. Presumably an attempt for their site to outperform  yours in google for your company name.
  • Wikipedia - all links, even the attributed sources of its facts, are given the nofollow tag.
  • BBC - redirects via some funny internal redirect.
  • Myspace - redirects all new links added vis MSPlinks.
  • Youtube - the link in your profile is 'nofollow'ed.
  • Newsvine - Someone writes an interesting news story, people vote it to the top of the list ... but rel=nofollow means no link benefit to the site that wrote it. But newsvine gets all the keywords from its summary ...
  • Spock.com - So, I'll spend time telling you which sites are relevant to me for your person search engine. Then you'll create a profile page for me, to help you do better for my name as a search term. Then you'll nofollow all the links to sites about me. Nope.

You might also like
  1. Comic relief: which news sites gave a proper link, and which didn’t?
  2. BBC hoodwinks bloggers with promises of links
  3. External links: the 8 stages of linking-out denial
  4. Nofollow: How to link to someone or something you detest (I’m looking at you Jan Moir)
  5. How many Diggs you need to get the nofollow taken off

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21 Comments »

  • Nate Nead says:

    Interesting post. I saw your response on MattCutts. I'll probably check back for offenders. It would make sense that some of the larger boys are in offense. They don't really have a need for links as much as other companies.

  • Syed Kazim says:

    Nice collection. There are probably many more.

  • HissingSid says:

    Hi,

    At least with the sites you have listed a webmaster should know that if they link to the site they won't get an open link back. What is worse, much worse is folks who exchange links and then remove the backlink.

    One of our competitors use a low cost SEO company to get links, I suspect they are paid per link but the site owner is so dumb they don't check who they are giving links to and whether they continue to get one back. As a result they have one way links in their link exchange using the exact anchor text that they are targeting to direct competitors.

  • HissingSid: True. But sites like wikipedia rely on other people's work as sources for their information. The original source gets no link benefit - and Wikipedia appears at the top of the search results for many terms, because it's an easy place for webmasters to link to (many of whom don't know what nofollow is if they're just running a blog).

    I just noticed this site - for people who support turning nofollow off on blogs, and finding a better way to fight spam: http://www.bumpzee.com/no-nofollow/.

    I submitted by business to the freeindex recently. Spent ages filling it in, and then discovered they only link to you if you link to them with a huge logo! So that's half an hour I'll never get back.

  • Thanks for the comment on my blog :)

    Yes, I still nofollow comment links on Blog Creativity, but the reason for that is that a large number of commenters are undeserving - one or two comments and they're off to someone else's site for links. I'm thinking of setting a larger number of comments, say 8, before the commenter gets dofollow links.

    Ironically, you've not linked to any of the site that you mentioned above (BBC, Wikipedia etc.) ;)

    . I'd have linked to them but with a nofollow - a better choice than no links.

  • Forrest says:

    I don't understand what you mean about sites 'accepting' links and not handing them out? Were you hoping these sites wouldn't accept incoming links, that they would be rejected? Does anyone think the BBC should send out "cease and desist" letters to any person who creates a link to one of their stories...??

    Somebody left a comment "At least with the sites you have listed a webmaster should know that if they link to the site they won’t get an open link back." which begs almost the same question. Does anybody in SEO land honestly believe that all you have to do is place a link to the BBC and they'll return the favor? Does anybody in SEO land know what the BBC is? They're not some useless web directory...

    There's more to life than hyperlinks. If you don't believe that, you're going to be frustrated trying to get them out of people who do believe it.

  • Sumesh: when I've installed the nofollow plugin I'll get round to doing that ...

    Forrest: perhaps I didn't phrase it that well. I was just trying to highlight sites that suck up inbound links and deliberately avoid linking out properly. Although there are some sites that don't accept links - or at least there were in 2002: http://www.dontlink.com/ :)

  • Bram says:

    Not really sure about this one, and I don't want to bad-mouth them if I'm wrong, but "Download.com" seem to be using some strange internal redirect thing on their link to my page. Looks like this:

    a href="http://dw.com.com/redir?usraction=101&edId=3&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fbrambarker.com%2F&lop=adtl&oId=3639-5-100149900&siteId=32&ontId=5

    (My "Download.com" page is at http://music.download.com/bram/3600-8272_32-100149900.html )

  • [...] UPDATE: Malcolm Coles has a good post on other major sites that hold back on Google juice when they link, in... [...]

  • Londinium says:

    I wouldn't get too upset with Wikipedia. They use nofollow to try to enure links are included solely because they add value to the article. As anyone can go to the site and add a link to an article at any time (albeit with a chance of being reverted by other editors), this is essential.

    If you spend some time editing Wikipedia and experiencing the battle against spam and nonsense first hand, I promise you'll have more sympathy with them.

  • Dan Wilsom says:

    Intersting article and fair comment.

    This is about about power, right? When I link from my blog I don't do it for SEO purposes. I am more concerned about informing the discussion and joining the conversation.

    We have known for a long time that big players such as the BBC think they are above it. And sadly, as it stands, they are.

    That isn't gonna stop me linking. I'll be doing the oppsosite and seeking better, less obvious, but just as useful links. Farewell BBC, Wikipedia etc...

    Is the comment about BT Tradespace accurate? More info required.

  • Nils Berge says:

    Hi Malcolm

    I thought I'd reply to your post about 'nofollow' links following Dan's comment about their use on BT Tradespace.

    I can start by saying that BT Tradespace doesn't always use nofollows, as you can see by the full links on your own profile page:
    http://communities.bttradespace.com/Member/malcolmcoles/About-me/Default.aspx

    And on many other sites like these:
    http://juliekouamo.bttradespace.com/
    http://arenaflowers.bttradespace.com/
    http://everywoman.bttradespace.com/

    Nofollows are only used in specific areas of the site for good reasons:

    Unfortunately, as you know, there are many people who attempt to manipulate the search engine dependency on links by trying to get as many links as possible from any site that allows a contribution from the public. It's difficult to tell if these people are adding useful or spam content with links to 'good' or 'bad' sites.

    For a large site driven by member content (particularly in the case of BT Tradespace, where some members are paying for premium features), this can lead to a number of issues:

    1. As a quick way to get links, empty pages are created containing only links to other (sometimes 'bad') sites. This leaves the site with a poor user experience.

    2. The site can become cluttered with keyword spam. If random nonsense is constantly added to a site that otherwise has genuine interest, it will begin to lose its attraction for real readers.

    3. Brief blog comments or short pages about 'the best car insurance' or 'cheap mobile phone deals' are not always relevant to the blog post or the site they are added to. This makes it harder for search engines to understand what the primary content is about. Irrelevant content dilutes the tone and value of quality content added by other (sometimes paying) members with good intentions.

    4. Links are added that point to irrelevant content. Links to other sites don't just indicate sources, they can create an association. If a comment on a 'school dinners' news story on the BBC website included a link to another site about 'My fast-money secrets' it would not be seen as a relevant connection and the page may not rank as highly as a similar story on another site with appropriate links.

    5. Links can be added pointing to pages the site would not want to be associated with - see Google's information about not linking to bad neighbourhoods: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66356

    6. As the number of followed outbound links from a site increases, the value they transfer will diminish. Allowing a site to become a link free-for-all would reduce the value of its links to zero. This would mean the members who do take the time to add quality content are punished by those that simply seek as many links as possible.

    I’m guessing that one or more of these issues are the reason you’re using nofollows on this blog.

    In general, the opportunity to have your name in front of a large, attentive, targeted audience should be taken to promote yourself or your business, not just seen as another place you could get a link from.

    As you mentioned in your post, most sites usually do show a link to the URL you provide when adding a comment or building a profile so the audience can click to read further information about you or your business. If you add interesting content, more people will follow your links and may become customers or repeat visitors of your site or blog. This may not be the main reason for making a contribution, but it could become the biggest benefit.

    I'm not saying that all sites should, or even need, to use nofollow links to avoid these types of issues. People are free to build a website about whatever they want and link to any page they like. If it's your site, it's up to you. If you're running a shared site that some people pay to use, you need to consider the implications.

    BT Tradespace was built as a virtual meeting place for businesses and shoppers to do research, discuss and do business, not a website directory offering free 'link juice'. If it were, people would probably not visit it. When was the last time you visited DMOZ.org to find or review a local shop or business? Many members using the site as it was intended are seeing great benefits – finding new suppliers, attracting new customers AND getting more traffic to their websites.

    I hope you'll understand why the use of nofollow links is necessary at the moment and is only in the best interests of our members.

    Cheers
    Nils

  • Hi, Nils. Thanks for the reply. Those are all good reasons to use nofollow.

    But ... what I don't understand is why you don't nofollow the forums or personal profile pages, but you do nofollow the company ones.

    This seems the wrong way round to me.

    If a small business adds a tradespace, they run the risk of your pages outranking their 'real' site (as their tradespace is covered in their company name, but the link to their site is nofollowed).

    Whereas you currently allow people to stick what links they like in their personal profiles and don't nofollow them (despite all the issues you raise above). (NB not advocating you add nofollow there!)

    This is obviously a conscious decision, and it just seems to smack a little of those free directory sites who want you to link back to them or pay them before they'll make the link to your site a hyperlink or followed.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have to pay to have the nofollow lifted from your company tradespace it seems to me (or is there some other way to remove it ...?)

    PS And thanks for the reminder - I have now turned my dofollow plugin back on (turned it off when switched theme recently).

  • And perhaps one of us should point out the nofollow meta tag to these people ..:
    http://paul-smith.bttradespace.com/ and http://richard222.bttradespace.com/ - setting all that up must have taken them ages, all to no SEO avail ...

  • art brighton says:

    surely this all seems fair, newspapers need to be balanced and wikipedia has to above suspiscion. journalists could slip in their mates sites for SEO purposes in a way that they couldn't blatantly advertise them in print.

  • Hey I just found this post looking for BT Tradespace and if they nofollowed.
    From my experience they appear to be following all my outgoing links on my profile. I imagine it is only a matter of time before they start nofollowing them though.

  • [...] they’ll get better at linking out some time soon, too … Written by Malcolm Coles - Visit [...]

  • Chris says:

    How can you find out what links you have and which of these are no follow I seem to have foud 11 so far

    thanks

  • [...] Sites that don’t link out fairly Written by Malcolm Coles - Visit Website [...]

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