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Do no-follow links count for search engine rankings?

Actually, the rel=nofollow attribute should prevent search engines from following special links. Some webmasters might have found out that nofollow links will help your search engine rankings though.

What is the rel=nofollow attribute?

The nofollow link attribute has been introduced by Google in 2005. It is intended to reduce the effectiveness of link spamming in blogs and online forums. A link with the rel=nofollow attribute looks like this:

<a href="" rel="nofollow">Example</a>

The official claim is that links with the rel=nofollow attribute do not influence the search engine rankings of the target page. In addition to Google, Yahoo and MSN also support the rel=nofollow attribute.

Links with the nofollow attribute don't count. Or do they?

This month, the webmaster of a gaming site did a little test. He wrote an article about the SpiderMan 3 game in one of his blogs and then he added comments in other blogs.

The comments in the other blogs contained links to his SpiderMan 3 article. The special thing about these links was that they contained the text "piderman 3" and a nofollow attribute.

After a few days, his site ranked on the first result page on Google for "piderman 3".

Does this mean that that Google counts nofollow links?

Some webmasters think that the experiment might prove that Google counts nofollow links. However, a few factors can also influence the ranking of the article page:

  • The search term "piderman 3" appears on the page as part of "SpiderMan 3". That means that the page can also rank because of the words on the page. As the article was posted on a blog page, the word also appears in the website navigation links on the site.

  • Google does not only search for the direct keyword occurrences on the page and in link texts. Google also searches for misspelled versions of the words and related keywords.

    If you search for "piderman 3" on Google then Google will ask you "Did you mean Spiderman 3?" so they know the correct term that you were looking for.

Unfortunately, this little experiment cannot prove whether Google counts nofollow links or not. The data is not good enough.

However, it is indisputable that links are extremely important to get high rankings on Google. To get high rankings on Google and other major search engines, it is important to have both optimized web page content and good inbound links.

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