When is a link not a link?

It’s a well know fact that building natural links to your website is a sure fire way of improving your search enginebuild a website position. Our blog Search Engine Optimisation – Inbound Links, explains the importance of building links and how to go about getting them. At Reason8 we supply you with a few level of links to get you started. We also recommend that you actively source more links from relevant websites.

Briefly, links are like votes to your website. The more votes you have, the more authoritive (important) your site is seen to the search engines. For these ‘votes’ to carry any real weight they need pass some benefit from the source site, to the linked site. However, this is not always the case.

Not all links provide SEO benefit

Just because there is a link in place it doesn’t necessarily mean you get any SEO benefit.  We define a link as a piece of text or an image that links one site to another. For that link to provide you with the maximum amount of SEO benefit it needs to be ‘followed’. A followed link allows some of the credibility from one site to flow into another.  However, many websites deliberately prevent this flow from happening. Why? Too many outgoing links can be detrimental to a website. So they use the ability to ‘no follow’ a link to control the SEO benefit they give to others.

To stop SEO credibility passing through a link, webmasters place code in the background of the website. This code allows the link to work, but tells the search engine not to pass any credibility. The search engines still see the link, track where it goes but don’t attach any importance to it.

How to avoid ‘No follow’ links

The mutual exchange of links has been a common practice for many years. Although if you are giving out a link as well as receiving one you don’t get as much benefit.  There is still a case for using this method to build up your link profile. But there are a few pitfalls.

If you are embarking on a link exchange with another company you need to ensure that the link they provide you with is ‘followed’. Many webmasters have been tricked in these exchanges. They provide a bona-fide link and in exchange get a ‘no followed’ one.  In this scenario they lose out as they in essence get nothing in return. When researching a possible link partner look at their website first.  Try to establish whether or not the links they already provide are followed or not. This will give a good indication as to the value of any link they may give you.

How to identify ‘No follow’ links

There are several ways in which a webmaster can ‘no follow’ a link. To be able to identify them requires a reasonable understanding of the code that creates the link. Without this it is impossible for the lay person to detect it. This is why so many site owners are caught out.

If you use Firefox to access the internet (recommended for site owners) there is a free tool available. The tool when downloaded is automatically added to your internet browser. As one of its many features it highlights all the links that are ‘no followed’.  It can be turned on and off with a click of a button. At a glance you can see if a link on your site or any other is gaining any SEO benefit from its source.

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The tool can be found at http://www.seomoz.org/seo-toolbar

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