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DoFollow or NoFollow?: The “I Can Has Backlink” Dilemma

SEO best practises, especially linkbuilding (off-site SEO) has come to the forefront since social networks have built critical mass in the last couple of years. Some ambiguous/enigmatic practices with regards to giving backlinks to users has left SEO specialists like Aaron Wall, Rae Hoffman, Michael Gray, Todd Malicoat, Dave Naylor amused, puzzled, frustrated and at times outright indignant.

[This is a follow up to: Blackhole SEO: Has Google’s Hegemony Spilled into Twitter?]

So the sticking point in recent days (originating from discussions last year) was why Twitter nofollows links from your profile page and your tweets.

Is it because you could be potentially linking to “bad neighborhoods”? Or social spamming links like what some marketers have been doing on MySpace, Squidoo and HubPages and potentially Google Knol?

Here is the thing: the social space and social networks in particular will need some degree of human intervention/curation. That’s why Squidoo has a staff of moderators/volunteers to review lenses, article directories have human editors. The best content review algorithmn still has a couple of years to catch up with user-generated content.

So some human intervention is needed to review content.

i can has backlink

And if users are spending 1-2 hours each day on sites like Digg, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, shouldn’t they gain some outbound link benefit from their efforts? Your users are building a big ball of indexable content that appears in the SEs and brings customers to your social network.

Granted, there will be organic clickthrough on resource links, especially if you post great content, but I don’t understand why the nofollows are there.

Argument #1: Prevent links to bad neighborhood which could deteriorate the originating site’s authority status. -> evolving rules-based content filters + spidering destination sites + some manual review will address this.

Argument #2: Prevent PR leakage – so why aren’t you nofollowing links to Amazon Web Services? If you’re paying AWS and not users, shouldn’t you no-follow AWS and follow users?

Argument #3: Want to build up authority status and PR by keeping PR circulating with the network, using nofollows/redirects to other sites, instead of direct links and minimizing/eliminating leakage. Which is probably the worst un-social message that you’re sending out, especially in a social network context.


Does anyone see the irony in writing a review about a new product or service then pointing to an internal page? Am I the only one who see an overall positive review being undermined by a “but I don’t trust you enough to link direct to you”.


So it seems like there is some old school thinking when it comes to DoFollowing and NoFollowing.

And if Web 2′s big boys become the “Man” where the priority is on maxing out the analytics/stats to boost your branding/visibility/ad rates, it’s just a matter of time before users head over to another hub where users and content are a priority.

6 comments on DoFollow or NoFollow?: The “I Can Has Backlink” Dilemma

  1. AndyW
    March 5, 2009 at 3:41 am (4383 days ago)

    The whole blanket nofollow thing is really lame.

    With just a little bit of thought its easy enough to deter most spammers

    For instance, in the link to my blog my comment policy there are no keywords for a name – if you register then you can put two urls with keywords in your signature.

    Also, there’s a tried and tested psychological trick near the comment section with the display of a pair or eyes and the users IP address – it sends out a message that they are “being watched”

    Honestly, just putting little hurdles like that deters most spammers – because they are lazy. They rush though blogs and social bookmarking sites submitting to anything as they go and so any little bump in the road forces them elsewhere.

    I’ve just tried to find an excellent quote by Danny Sullivan who recently wrote about this practice of “SEO blackhole” – but I can’t remember what article it was in.

  2. JACK
    March 6, 2009 at 5:34 pm (4381 days ago)

    I am a seoer,I agree with your views.

  3. Digital Products Center
    March 6, 2009 at 10:15 pm (4381 days ago)

    The idea to place a pair of watchful eyes near the comment box is interesting.

  4. Leo Dimilo
    March 7, 2009 at 12:35 am (4381 days ago)

    In the grand scheme of things I don’t think it really matters. You do get more spam and one line comments when you do follow though.

    Personally, I no follow for none of the reasons above…I just am too damn lazy to upload the plug-in or modify my wordpress platform.

  5. Condos Toronto
    March 30, 2009 at 12:09 pm (4357 days ago)

    Wow! Got to say that is an A for being creative, and F for etiquette! Thanks for letting us know, don’t know that I would have caught that, I’ll have to pay better attention to commenting.

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