Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Surely the Google spider ignores nofollow? | The 3 golden rules of SEO are more important now than ever.


I was in London yesterday speaking at a seminar being held by the rather exciting and excellent web development company ‘Pixl8’, I was there to help demonstrate their marvellous and insightful ways to a collection of possible future clients and current clients.

One of the other speakers was a rather interesting chap called David Hollands-Hurst, the founder of the Search Engine Marketing experts a451. Unsurprisingly he was there to laud the inbuilt SEO (search engine optimisation) capabilities of Pixl8’s CMS (content management system) ‘Preside’.

David confirmed a lot of our current thinking (because SEO tends to be largely theory based) about what’s currently the best way to rise above the chaff (and competitors) in the search engine rankings. As we well know the days of SEO gimmicks like doorway pages (and other dangerous pursuits that are more likely to get you dropped from listings than rewarded by them) are long gone.

Three golden rules of SEO
For your website to perform well in today’s search engine listings you need to adhere closer than ever to the three golden rules of SEO (this is my own simplistic introduction);
  • Build your site correctly Code it correctly, and make sure it passes W3C validation. Google have also been hinting that how fast a site loads will impact on its ranking.
  • Generate high quality useful content - Content is still king! Regularly add useful content to your site, don’t change your site around for the sake of it, search engines need to see you as an essential resource for their customers and don’t take kindly to you trying to manipulate their results!
  • Develop useful and relevant quality inbound links Don’t bother amassing thousands of irrelevant links to your site, it’s a waste of time and could even damage your ranking. At worst a sudden surge in irrelevant inbound links could be seen by search engines as you trying to spam their results.

Social Networking and inbound links.
The bulk of David Hollands-Hurst’s presentation focussed on the importance of social networking with regards to your inbound link building campaign. I won’t go into detail, if you want to know more then I recommend contacting David’s company a451 as they can tell you far more than I can!

David told a fascinated room about the benefits of spreading content around the various social networking sites, all with a keen eye on how they link back to your own website. Something that piqued my interest was David’s mention of media/ content heavy sites like Blogger (the platform I use for this blog) and Flickr.

For years I have been making useful and insightful comments on content created by other people on these websites. Primarily this has been either just for fun or for shameless self-promotion. In the last few months I had slowed down a little in my comment campaigns upon discovering that a lot of forums (and most definitely Flickr) append any links I leave with the HTML attribute rel=’nofollow’.

Nofollow 101
Nofollow is a HTML attribute developed (conceptually at least) by Google themselves. The idea behind nofollow is that it acts as a brake for search engine spiders, it quite literally means that if a spider finds a nofollow link it won’t follow it. Nofollow is a dead end, a full stop, thereby linking to your site from a nofollow link won’t help your rankings at all.

The nofollow attribute came about partly as a way of stopping spammers from trashing forums and comment boxes around the web. I have used it on a forum I run in Ipswich as it makes it clear to spammers that they’ll be wasting their time leaving their filthy business on your site.

The nofollow catch 22
It is common knowledge that with the virulent rise in social networking search engines will have to factor in the amount of noise and chatter surrounding your website in the social networking world when gauging how important you are to their users. Google have come right out and made it clear they will definitely be paying attention to this chatter.

Google will have to use their spiders to figure out how many links you have coming to you from the world of social networking, but if the majority of links to your site have the nofollow attribute then how will that work? Have Google really shot themselves in the foot by encouraging websites to use nofollow? Have they slammed the door on their own spiders?

The short answer is ‘probably not’; logic dictates that Google are more likely to ignore nofollow than they are to adhere to it. They have to, how else would they gauge the importance of your web presence?

The conclusion
I’ve decided to ignore nofollow for now, and to carry on what I’ve been doing for the last few months and continue to organically and slowly increase the number of inbound links to my websites through useful comments on social networking sites.
I’ve written a blog post going into some more detail on leaving useful comments on third party sites for the purposes of SEO here - http://lawsie.blogspot.com/2009/11/comments-on-social-networking-sites-for.html

You can read more about the nofollow attribute here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nofollow

Find out more about a451 here - http://a451.co.uk/