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Andy Capaloff
February 28, 2017

Follow Links in Sponsored Posts: Why You Should Resist The Money

Follow Links v Nofollow Links

I’ll keep this article as concise and informative as possible. If you have a blog with decent traffic, chances are, you will receive inquiries for sponsored content. Some of these solicitations will include the demand that you include follow links (sometimes called ‘dofollow links’). It can surely be tempting to accede to this requirement and take the money.

Read on to find out why this is one temptation you really should resist….

GOOGLE DOESN’T LIKE IT!

Sorry for shouting, but I needed to get your attention for this point if no other. In an environment where you rely so heavily on search, surely this is the best reason not to do something.

In an environment where you rely so heavily on search, can you afford to upset Google?Click To Tweet

This is what Google has to say on the subject. I strongly suggest that anyone who is already taking sponsored content with follow links, or anyone who is considering it, reads the whole article. But here is the most important bullet for you. It is in relation to “link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results”:

“Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”

Did anyone spot the surprising aspect of that sentence? “Buying or selling”! In other words, it isn’t only the blog where the paid links are published that endanger their business by posting paid follow links. The company paying for the links could also be penalised, as expressly stated in the article.

“This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

And how can such a penalty affect you? This article from Mark Walters, aka SEOMark, spells it out:

“In some instances, your site may be completely removed from Google’s index. However, the most common scenario is that it will drop 10-100 positions in the search results for multiple keywords”

Nobody needs to tell you how that could affect you!

Here’s one more thing that Mark cautions: A penalty may not be imposed immediately. It could come months or even years later. So just because you’ve got away with something until now, doesn’t mean you’re scot-free.

What Actually Is PageRank?

It’s quite frustrating trying to find a really good definition of PageRank that just about everyone can understand. Here the wiki on the subject. And here’s the short form of what it is:

“PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites”

Note, it isn’t actually the rank for a page. It is a ranking system named after one of Google’s founders, Larry Page.

What Is a Nofollow Link? And What Is Link Juice?

These questions are best answered in reverse sequence.

As explained by woorank:

Link juice is a colloquial term in the SEO world that refers to the power or equity passed to a site via links from external or internal sources. This power is interpreted as a vote of recommendation toward your site and is one of the most important factors in determining your site’s search ranking (and PageRank).”

And Nofollow links? Google explains:

“In general, we don’t follow them. This means that Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links. Essentially, using nofollow causes us to drop the target links from our overall graph of the web. However, the target pages may still appear in our index if other sites link to them without using nofollow, or if the URLs are submitted to Google in a Sitemap”

Why Nofollow Links Are Still Good

For potential content sponsors, please read this article from the highly respected Moz, regarding why nofollow links are still great for you. It was written by Nicole Kohler, who was once on the ‘other side’.

Here are two points that stood out for me:

  • ALL links build awareness of your brand – even amongst those who may not click
  • A Nofollow link can still bring you qualified leads and actual customers

To quote Nicole directly, regarding her buying a service due to seeing a nofollow link:

  1. I became aware of Buffer through someone else’s Twitter link
  2. Followed Buffer on Twitter
  3. Engaged with their content
  4. I tried, subscribed, and ended up forking over $10 a month (well worth it!)

Here’s my own two-cents worth:

When I am reading articles, therefore a potential consumer, I have no idea whether a link is follow or nofollow. Clearly, a huge majority of people will not have the slightest idea that such a distinction exists! If I am intrigued by what is written about your product or service, I will click. If I really like what I see on your site, I may buy. The type of link will not be in my thoughts.

 

So here are my questions to you:

  1. Why are you following the Content Marketing route?
  2. Do you want PageRank or customers?

And because #2 is really a trick question, the following bears repeating:

If your products or services are good and you have a solid marketing strategy, you will achieve both PageRank and customers. If, on the other hand, you do anything to piss Google off, you can forget about traffic coming in via search, and I wish you the best of luck!

So dare I say, please don’t try to bully bloggers! Yes, many will feel pressured to take your money. But you might just be ruining their business…… and harming your own.

What Do You Think?

Have you ever been pressured to include follow links? Have you ever actually posted a sponsored article or link without adding the nofollow code? Do you have any thoughts or advice on this subject?

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Andy Capaloff

Andy Capaloff is the COO of Curatti. Prior to moving into the world on Content Marketing, Social Media Management and the day-to-day running of a Digital Marketing company, Andy spent over 3 decades in various aspects of IT. It is here that he honed his writing and technical skills, and his ability to ask the uncommon questions.
  • I wonder if this effects affiliate links? I write an article on my blog and sometimes includes links to products on Amazon, of who I am an affiliate. I have never understood this topic that much even though I write a blog and have since 2005.

    • If you have affiliate links, you need to disclose that and make it nofollow. There are quite a number of authoritative articles on this subject. Basically, you may never be penalised for not doing this. But perhaps, 2 years down the road, you could find yourself in hot water. The best policy here is one of safety. For your part, there is no harm in you using nofollow for an affiliate link. Amazon will not mind. They will expect it.

      The caution I make in this article is that some people offering sponsored posts, tie their money to the usage of dofollow links. And although it may be tempting to take the money, that temptation should be resisted