My friend runs an extremely niche social community with more than 30,000 active members. Members can have their own blogs and they have a very popular forum. The members are very dedicated to the community and are always adding new content. While writing a new post for the community the other evening, I realized that every link users add in the community, whether in the forums or their own private blogs, was a “no follow” link. It reminded me of a discussion I had with my friend a couple of months prior about improving SEO. Changing the “no follow” link is one of those things that was so obvious I ended up missing it.
There are several SEO issues to consider if you make all links “no follow”.
Even though outbound links are a small part of Google’s algorithm, they still count. If all your outbound links are “no follow”, this choice could potentially count as a negative strike against your site. You’ll also have a hard time attracting guest bloggers if every outbound link is set to “no follow.” The first problem is that your community may not be their primary target audience. As bloggers they count on guest posts to create backlinks for them. Without the SEO benefit of a backlink, one of the main reasons to guest blog is gone.
Internal links are extremely important for SEO. They are how you help Google figure out what you think is the most important or relevant page for a certain keyword phrase or topic. Without the ability to say a certain page is about a certain topic and that page is the one you want to have ranked on search engine results page (SERP), you’re leaving it up to the search engine to decide for you.
If you have numerous pages about the same phrase, canonical links don’t count because it’s unique content. You might end up with the wrong page showing up or no pages showing up in the top ten SERPs.
So what can you do to remedy a “no follow” issue if it is automatic to your community or site software?
Look Through the Help Section
Look through your software or systems help sections in your community. If there is an FAQ on how to turn off automatic “no follow” linking, then you may want to read through it. You’ll also want to make sure you only turn “no follow” linking off in areas where you can trust your community membersÂ to not abuse it; like in direct blog or forum posts by members. You can always keep the commenting and public copy set to “no follow” so you don’t end up with a ton of porn or bad outbound links.
Looking through all your settings is important. Doing so helps ensure that you’re giving Google and Bing a great experience on your site. Besides making sure your site is easy to crawl and having a site map, check to make sure you have “no follow” and follow settings set up appropriately. By enabling trusted contributors and bloggers to not create bad backlinks, you’ll not only be able to get better participation, but you’ll also be making Google’s algorithm factors happier.
About Adam Riemer
Adam Riemer has been an Online Marketer for over a decade. Having worked in house and on his own, Adam Riemer helps both large and small companies develop, execute and analyze Marketing campaigns for ROI and branding in both the B2B and B2C world. You can reach Adam or find out where he is speaking or which Clients he is working with by visiting his blog at http://www.adamriemer.me or follow him on Twitter @rollerblader.