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As a blogger, one of the things the majority of us try to stick to is Google’s guidelines on how our blog posts should be structured. Their best practice gives advice on how you should go about presenting blog posts in order to rank in the search engine. But what is frustrating is when we are asked to break these rules in return for payment. In particular, companies or brands asking for a follow link for payment. So I thought I would put together a little guide on what a follow link actually is, and why you shouldn’t use them in this instance.
So in order to explain what a follow and no-follow link is, you need to understand the purpose of a link overall, in terms of its SEO value. Whenever a website links to an external website, the external website will get a little bit of an SEO boost. So these external websites will want to build up as many of these links as possible, as the more links present, the more SEO benefits the website will receive. For example, your blog links to a brands website, so you are giving them some valuable “link juice“, and this is something that Google pays a lot of attention to when it comes to ranking.
The number of links present definitely has value for search engine rankings. It sort of gives Google a nudge in showing them that if a website has a lot of links going back to it, then it must be a popular web page, therefore it should rank highly in the search engines. So you can see why a brand may possibly be asking for a link back to their website – they want to rank higher in Google. It is also worth mentioning that the more reputable a site is (so websites like the BBC), the bigger boost the website will get from a link back to them.
When it comes to the type of link you can provide, there are two: a follow link and a no-follow link. The main type of link that you will automatically be using would be a follow link. This is the type of link that pushes all the “link juice” benefits and helps the website you are linking to rank higher in the search engines.
In comparison, a no-follow link does not pass on any of the “link juice” benefits and therefore does not give the linked website a boost in the search engines. So the main purpose is usually to provide awareness of a website. Linking to a brand’s website from your blog will still be of benefit even if it is a no-follow link because your followers may be interested in learning more after reading your post or even making a purchase from them. Put simply, a no-follow link is just a signal to Google telling them not to count the link in any form of SEO page boosts.
You can see from the description above just how much value a follow link can provide. So you can understand why you might be contacted by a brand asking for a follow link on a blog post in return for payment or a product. But this is completely against Google’s guidelines. Follow links that have been paid for by a brand would probably not have appeared without payment so are therefore not organic. They are basically paying for that all important “link juice”, and paying to get to the top of the search engine results is not a fair way of getting there, is it? Therefore if a company has paid for a link in a blog post (e.g sponsored post), Google urges bloggers to use no-follow links for the following:
Basically, even if you have been sent a product as a form of payment, all links going back to the company/brands website should be no-follow. You can read more about the official guidelines of Google’s Official Webmaster Central Blog.
I will be honest, at the moment, Google isn’t paying too much attention to follow/no-follow links. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t always watching! You never know when Google will release a new update that will penalise anyone caught using the wrong type of link for paid for opportunities. With that in mind, I am always conscious of using no-follow links for any type of paid for opportunities.
Google has so much authority over everything. Can you imagine how easy it would be for them to ban your blog from ranking in their search engine? You would receive no traffic from them, and I don’t know about you but the majority of my blog traffic comes from Google so I definitely don’t want to piss them off! It most definitely is not worth the risk, and also the credibility of your blog.
The worst thing is that both parties involved risk being penalised. So both your blog and the link to the brand will eventually be discredited by Google. So you have to think to yourself, is it really worth it?
After all that, you are probably thinking so when should I actually use follow links? When you are writing a blog post about a product you absolute love, that you have paid for yourself, you are free to use follow links. If you haven’t been gifted the product and you purely just love it then go ahead and give the brand some of that all important “link juice”.
Google is super smart so I’m pretty sure it will be able to tell if you have been gifted the product or not. I always make this clear in posts where I have been gifted a product by putting a disclaimer at the bottom of the post. That way Google should (hopefully!) be able to tell that when I have been using follow links on blog posts where I have paid for the product, it is the correct link because there is no disclaimer at the bottom. Well, that is my thinking behind it anyway!
Using no-follow links in WordPress is actually super easy. You just need to install a plugin. There are a few different ones out there, but the one I use is the Title and Nofollow for Links. Once you have installed and activated the plugin, you can go into your blog post as normal and go to the place where you would normally add a link. When the little pop-up comes up, you will see the addition of a new tick box that says “Add rel = “nofollow” to link”. All you have to do is tick the box and your link will be marked as no-follow. Easy!
Again, adding a no-follow link to blogger is just as easy as it is in WordPress. All you have to do is go to the normal place you would to add a link and again there will be a little box which says “Add rel = “nofollow” attribute”. Just tick that box and you are good to go.
So there you have it! My absolute beast of a guide on how you should be using follow/no-follow links in your blog posts. It can be a lot to take in at first, but I think just go by the rule of if you are compensated in any way, shape or form, you should be using a no-follow link.
The reason I felt so compelled to do such a comprehensive guide is because of the situation I come across on a regular basis. I get a really exciting email land in my inbox. A super cool brand wants to work with me in return for some of their products or on some occasions even wants to pay me, but they are looking for a follow link. Regardless of however big the brand might be, or how much I would get paid, I will ALWAYS politely decline the opportunity. It is so frustrating because these brands know how detrimental these links could be for both my blog (which I have worked hard to build up), so why would I want to ruin all that for £20?
It is so frustrating because these brands know how detrimental these links could be for both my blog (which I have worked hard to build up), so why would I want to ruin all that for £20? For me, it just isn’t worth it. But I will admit, it does get a little bit annoying when you see all those amazing opportunities you turned down because of the link situation appear on other bloggers websites… All I can say is, stick to your guns and do what is recommended because like I mentioned earlier in the post, you never know when Google could change and start penalising wrong links. It would not be fun to have to trawl back through endless blog posts and change all those links…
If you are interested in getting a few more blog tips, have a read of my post on optimising your blog posts for Google.
Were you aware of no-follow links? What do you think of them?
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Georgia | Cambridge Beauty and Fashion Blogger
UK Beauty blogger with a hint of fashion and lifestyle in the mix. Just using this blog as an excuse to justify my excessive shopping habits…