Good Link. Not-so-good Link. Do you know the difference?

Everyone who surfs the internet knows about links. Links take us from place to place, from page to page, with a simple click of the mouse.  For most people, if you click on a link and get to where you were headed, it’s a Good link. If you don’t go anywhere, or land somewhere unexpected, it’s a Bad link. Case closed.

Until you concern yourself with improving your rank in the Search Engines. 

Search Engines rank websites based on hundreds of variables; some related to content on your own site, some related to how the internet perceives your site.  One of the most important variables is how many times others link to your website.  And it’s not enough that someone links to your site.  The link has to be a “good” one.

What’s a “Good” link?

We’ve already defined what a user believes to be a good link; one that takes them where they expect when they click on it.  From a Search Marketing perspective, a good link is one that Google and other search engines will follow to your site as they probe other sites.  Good links give “link credit” to the site they link to, and generally raise that site’s search ranking.  Not-so-good links can still be clicked on and take the user to the intended location, but they do not impart any link credit to raise a site’s ranking.    

How can you tell?

Some time ago, Google introduced the link tag “nofollow”. From a user’s perspective, “nofollow” links work just like any other.  But when Google’s crawling engine encounters a “nofollow” tag, it does not impart “link credit” to the site being linked to.  Thus, if an associate links to your site from his, but tags the link as “nofollow”, there’s no ranking benefit to be had (at least in Google’s eyes). The tag shows up something like this:

<a rel=”nofollow” href=””>Sewell Internet</a>

So what’s a Website Owner to do?

Whether you are actively cultivating links or just acquire them in the course of doing business, take a moment to check the code behind the link.  If there’s no “nofollow” tag, that’s good.  If there IS a nofollow tag, consider contacting the site that is linking to you and asking if they can remove the nofollow tag from your link. 

Should you pursue links only from sites that do not use nofollow?  No.  Not every search engine uses that tag, so some may in fact give you link credit for nofollow links, even if Google won’t.  And there’s always benefit to having your link out there, as users can still click on the link and get to your site. 

It’s not that the nofollow links are bad, just … not-so-good.