June 22, 2012

DoFollow -vs- NoFollow links: What should review bloggers do?


Update on July 2, 2012: Why do so many small business owners dislike reviews and giveaways now?

UPDATE: After writing this opinion piece I put up another article encouraging business owners to ask bloggers what they are getting when they have a review done. That post sparked many comments (anger from both sides). I was wrong about NoFollow and DoFollow links and as promised I wrote a follow-up post about eating cake :-) Please read! (And don’t listen to my advice below, either. I hadn’t done enough research on this yet and my advice below was wrong.)


By request, I’m writing a post about dofollow -vs- nofollow links in relationship to review bloggers. I was asked to share my opinion so here goes…

As a marketing business and a blog that sometimes offers reviews, I sit on both sides of this issue. My clients rely on back links for SEO when requesting product reviews. I also fully understand the importance of back links when I review a product for a small business owner.

There are some bloggers sending emails back to business owners now stating, “I can review, sure. But I’ll need to use the nofollow rule when linking to your site pages.”

The primary reason a small business asks for a review is because they want the SEO for it. If they have good quality links coming from high quality sites/blogs, that helps their website with search engine rankings. To give these small businesses nofollow links is like offering a child an ice cream cone treat but leaving the ice cream off the top. “Here’s your cone! But sorry. No ice cream for you.”

Here’s the thing…

Mommy Perks was founded back in 2005, before the ‘review/giveaway’ bloggers exploded on the Internet. I’ve watched this market grow and I’ve written articles about the blogs noting that if they don’t figure out a way to offer more than reviews/giveaways, their blogs will likely be short lived. Big businesses can always afford to run giveaways and pay for reviews but small business owners cannot. They don’t have a large budget for free product offers and in fact, most of the giveaways and reviews they run cost them money and put them into the red (financially).

I’ve sensed a slowdown in reviews and giveaways (in regard to small businesses) for months now. Many of them are tired of sending out free products and not seeing enough return from it. They get email after email from bloggers, asking them for free things in order to “appeal to their audience of influential mom buyers.”

{Side note: Yes, I know that some bloggers are inundated with review and giveaway requests and that these bloggers want payment for their time and don’t like getting so many emails from business owners, etc, etc. I’m not writing from this perspective, though. I’m writing from the perspective of the bloggers who want and need freebies in order to keep their blogs going.}

Now… these review/giveaway blogs rely on freebies in order to run. It’s their core. They don’t have a great deal of writing content or educational content on their blogs. They focus on the “freebie seeking” crowd and the moms who enter giveaway after giveaway in order to get freebie after freebie. If these blogs cut the nose off the businesses they get free products from… what then? How many business owners will want to ship out free products if they don’t even get a worthwhile back link for it?

These freebie blogs will cease to exist if they continue requiring nofollow links. I can guarantee you – my clients will not ship free products out to bloggers who don’t give a back link that’s worth their free shipment/product.

Even for the bloggers who are tired of getting hit up for reviews… same thing goes. If they don’t wish to give dofollow links, that’s fine. They will quickly lower their rate of reviews/giveaways and can then focus more on content that doesn’t relate to freebies/reviews. Perhaps these bloggers will purposefully offer business owners nofollow links in order to ensure the slowing down of the requests they get, eh?

From another perspective…

Here’s an article I found that talks about DoFollow and NoFollow links in depth.

According to that post, nofollow links can actually help a website/blog when used correctly. For instance, if you place one dofollow link in the post (the first link at the top, as some experts suggest) and make the rest nofollow, this might benefit the business you are linking to and it may benefit your own site/blog. It also may not… there are always contradicting opinions when it comes to page rank and SEO.

In my opinion, I believe that Google’s main point is that they don’t want to see articles with link crowding. If you place one or two links inside a post, that’s likely relevant to your reader and helps them locate the item/site that you are talking about. If you place 30 links inside a post, though, Google is going to know you are attempting to scam the search engines and you may get docked for it.

Here is my advice for business owners and bloggers:

We should not rely solely on Google for our websites, blogs or businesses. They modify their rules often and leave everyone scrambling to learn, change and jump through hoops. Just when you think your site has finally reached top search status, something changes again and you could fall through the cracks after spending thousands of dollars and hours climbing the SEO ladder.

Something to ponder…Remember Klout? So many business owners and bloggers worked hard to build up their scores. Then everything changed and most scores plummeted, leaving folks angry and bitter. “What?! I worked hard for my Klout scores and now everything has changed! What a waste of my time!” Remember the Google Friend Boxes? “What?! I worked hard to get those friends by requiring that every giveaway entrant follow my WordPress blog. And now Google removes my friend box from my WordPress blog? How dare they!? What a waste of my time and resources!”

My opinion…Build a community of your own. Build up your social networks, buddies, friends and supporters. Use ethical and legitimate ways to get your name or links out there and stop making Google your #1 marketing guru. My husband knows a great deal about SEO and we both try to keep up with the changes in order to inform our clients. At the same time, I have never viewed Google as my #1 marketing tool and I’m better off for it. I’ve built a loyal community of readers and friends, business owners and bloggers. I’ve posted quality content, self-owned images and I’ve happily dished out legitimate links in the articles and reviews I’ve written. If that’s ‘hurt’ me in the search engines, I have yet to notice it. It’s certainly NOT hurt me when it comes to my own community of loyal readers/moms/business owners. I have done what I’ve done for them and in turn, they have done much for me.

Business owners should ask for DoFollow links if they think it will help them. Bloggers who want to keep up with their freebie/giveaway/review blogs should agree to post DoFollow links (at least one of them) if they wish to continue building those relationships with the business owners who keep their freebie coffers full.

Bloggers who are more concerned with page rank than with building relationships with business owners should offer NoFollow links and not worry about burning those freebie bridges.

Now…If you continue to view Google search results as your only ace in the hole, you’ll spend your time worrying about what’s coming next and how you will need to modify when the algorithms change again. Because they WILL.

As for me, I’ll continue putting people first. Our mantra has always been to do “what makes sense for the reader.” Google states that they build (and modify) their algorithms to help the searcher. So as a website or blog owner, do what makes sense for the reader! It’s that simple.

Ask yourself, “Does this DoFollow link make sense in this post? Is it relevant to my readers? Can it help them? Does it make sense to put this link here?” If yes, do it. If not, don’t.

In regard to the sale of links and comments on blog posts

Google doesn’t want to see you write an article about prescription drug abuse and then sell paid DoFollow links on that page that go to a dog grooming business. That makes no sense, right? Someone who does such a thing is likely attempting to trick search engines by writing a post that would gain good search results followed by the selling of links that go to sites that have nothing to do with the content. In such a case, Google wants to know that they should NOT crawl or index that link for the sake of SEO (so in this case they want to see a NoFollow link). In fact, your site/blog will get punished for it. So… is the $100 you’re offered for the tricky link worth the loss of your page rank? You must consider this before selling bad links inside your articles, etc.

Think like the reader… if you read an article about pharmaceuticals and that word has a link that takes you over to a site about golf courses, wouldn’t you be annoyed? Well, that annoys Google, too. Also, if you put spamming comments through on your blog posts that contain DoFollow links to totally irrelevant sites (Viagra, etc), Google doesn’t want to give credit to those links in the search results. Therefore, you can use a plug-in that makes blog comments “NoFollow” in order to weed out the spammers. Google did this to protect and help the website searcher.

On the other hand, Google has stated that they understand blogs and sites sell advertising links and graphics. This is a core part of online real estate! Websites and blogs make money with the selling of links and ads and Google is aware of this. Gosh – they do it too, right? Google is FULL of paid ads, links and everything in between. What they do NOT want is the selling of non-relevant DoFollow links that are placed in a way that attempts to scam their search engine.

So…run your business and blogs in an ethical way. Link to sites and pages that make sense and don’t try to use black hat tricks to pimp the search engines. If you are not doing anything spammy or tricky, you should do just fine when using DoFollow links.


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