Do You Know of The One Thing Google Really Doesn’t Like?

Since we are talking about you writing reviews and such about products and services, you should know one very important thing about Google. They don’t like one thing and that one thing will get your site down-ranked (possibly even de-indexed, but I don’t think it would get that bad, however, very low ranking pages means very minimal traffic):

Money

I’m sure that sounds weird to you. How could the one Internet company that makes an atrociously large amount of money off of the Internet, not like money?

Well… That’s not exactly what that means. Let me clarify what the intent of Google in this area really means. Note also that I’m talking about Niche Websites and different rules apply to different types of websites and searches. Google has specific searches to find products, but most people do not use those capabilities by default (only once they choose a product or if they have been told to purchase a specific product by someone else.)

What Are Search Engines About?

I’d bet you know the answer to that question, after all, you probably use search engines all the time to find all sorts of answers to your questions. When searching for a product, though, you will notice that by default you don’t find a product page where you can just click a Buy button. Instead, you are sent to review pages or professional articles in newspapers (although newspaper articles tend to disappear over time… for some reasons many newspapers don’t seem to think that keeping old articles up is a good thing.)

There is a good reason for that, a review page will talk about the product at large instead of just presenting you the manufacturer’s point of view (which, as you may know, is likely going to be quite positive about that product, somehow…)

So what you search when using a Search Engine is Useful Content. Content that will help you make your final decision and in general that content is not unlikely to have a link to the very item you should purchase (the one being reviewed, the one you were just looking for.)

This is where we have a definitive difference between early adopters and slowpokes.  Early adopters won’t have access to those reviews, but they want to live on the edge. Slowpokes will want to have access to many reviews before purchasing. This gives early adopters an advantage where they can be the first ones to write those reviews and put their affiliate links in there (hint hint). However, watch out, a product lifespan is limited and a website with just reviews is not a good Niche Website. What you really want are reviews, yes, but also you need good How To pages that do not review anything. You can still have affiliate links on those pages, but those would be more like: to do this I used this tool here and it worked for me so I suggest you get the same tool to do that work (and I happen to be an affiliate so I would really appreciate the gesture. For example, in my case, I would appreciate if you would get a Hosting Plan from Bluehost. Thanks in advance!)

This is why you want long posts and not just notes like on Twitter. Actually, to my point of view, Twitter is way more demanding than a Niche Website because you need to constantly go on and on and write new tweets all the time. I tried a few times and really I just can’t keep up with something like Twitter. Some people are really good at it, though. Instead, Niche Websites are a one time off and then an automatic money maker after that.

Note that my page about selecting your Niche Website is actually about this very matter. You want to find a subject you like enough to work on for a couple of months. The website will:

  • Give a lot of details on such and such problem,
  • Offer solutions to those problems, and
  • Include your affiliate links to tools and services.

The website should have 30 or more pages of at least 2,000 words each. After a little while (3 to 6 months) Google will have fully indexed and tested your website to a point where you will start seeing a lot of hits.

So Why Is That Important with My Niche Website?

So… Money is viewed as being dirty by some people and for a Search Engine to be good, it has to have that point of view as well. That does not mean they won’t generate links to products and services in their results. Yet, they know people are searching for good Content instead of just a Product Picture + Buy Now Button. In other words, they try to minimize spending their users’ hard-earned money.

Such a link is most often referenced as a sponsored link. A link to which the website owners has a financial interest.

As a proof of concept, whenever you do a simple search (one or two, maybe three words), chances are you most often get a Wikipedia page. Yes. Wikipedia does not sell anything at all. They actually ask for donations to keep their services up and running. The rest of the time, they just are there to offer content to their visitors. A lot of really good and free content with a lot of very long pages (another aspect of a good Niche Website are long pages, 2000+ words, and Wikipedia follows that scheme—mainly because that’s how an encyclopedia works, but as a result Google adopted that sort of scheme for ranking any website.)

For your Niche Website, that means you want to make sure that all the links you create that are affiliate links, all include the “nofollow” relationship (you can also mark all external links with “nofollow”, see for more details about that below.)

Although the “nofollow” was not an official W3C feature for a long time, it is now defined in HTML5, and all Search Engines have known about that keyword for a long time and understand it as expected. This means your website, as far as you are concerned, does not pass any juice to the other website (which is not exactly true, but clearly you do not endorse the other website with a “nofollow” link.)

Technically, this means the link will have an attribute with that “nofollow” keyword as follow:

<a href="https://www.bluehost.com/track/alexiswilke/"
   rel="nofollow noopener"
   target="_blank">Get Bluehost Now!</a>

As we can see, I have a rel=”…” parameter in the HTML code and it includes the “nofollow” keyword.

I also put the “noopener” for safety because I also have target=”_blank” to open the page in a new tab, otherwise the destination website can modify your page and could replace your affiliate links with theirs and you sure don’t want that to happen! (although frankly, it is a low risk for affiliate websites.)

Note that there is a space between “nofollow” and “noopener”, however, those two keywords have no spaces within themselves. Also, the order in which they appear is not important as long as they are there.

Now… if you follow my steps to build your Niche Website, you are going to be using WordPress and lucky us, there is a good plugin that takes care of that automatically for all of us!

Any Other Content Which Should Have “nofollow”?

Yes. The main one is any type of ads. The “nofollow” was first created to combat spam, but Google quickly saw a benefit in making it useful for a wider reason: any sponsor link. That includes ads. After all, you get paid for publishing ads on your website.

If you use a system such as AdSense to add sponsor links, then the “nofollow” will automatically be added. You don’t have to worry about it. On the other hand, if you create a website which ends up getting over 100,000 hits a month, let me tell you that you can very easily get ads that pay you well on your site. Ads that you directly sell to your sponsors for $200/mo. or more. And those ads would be created by you so you need to remember to make sure that you put the “nofollow” in their links. Of course, if you use any type of 3rd party system to put ads then it should be done automatically so you shouldn’t worry about it.

The “Nofollow for external link” Plugin

I strongly suggest that you install this plugin your WordPress Niche Website. This way, any external link (and thus any affiliate link) will automatically be assigned the “nofollow” relationship.

You will find the plugin in the WordPress Plugin repository and you can automatically install and activate it. All your links will immediately be Google compliant.

Note that by default it will also automatically add the target=”_blank” attribute. This means links to external website pages will automatically be opened in a new tab. I find that very practical.

Note that this plugin, contrary to some others that offer the “nofollow” feature, will automatically add the “nofollow” and not offer an option to turn that on or off. This is one reason why I like it. I have other websites that I manage with a different CMS (Drupal to not name it…) and at least at the time there was no automatic “nofollow” feature module (Drupal “plugins” are called “modules.) It means that for every single link you create you must remember to add or not add the “nofollow” as you feel like on that day. You’re likely to make a lot of mistakes in that case. Yet, if you prefer to have the option on a per link basis, there are other WordPress plugins that you can use for that. So far, the two I tested had the “nofollow” feature turned off by default. Very risky, if you ask me.

I have several websites and would like to pass juice to each other. How do I do that?

If you already have more than one website, you may want to add links from each one of those sites to the other(s).

For example, I like to put links to my Astronomy for Amateurs Niche Website so that way it gets more credits from me here and vice versa, I can add links on my Astronomy website back to this Niche Website / Internet Affiliate Website. Link juice is useful. However, as mentioned above, the juice does not pass when a link uses rel=”nofollow”… So the Nofollow for external link plugin has a feature to allow us to remove the “nofollow” from some specific domains. This is found in the plugin settings.

There is no direct link to the settings from the Plugins page, instead, look for a Menu entry in your administrative area. At the time of writing it was:

Settings » NoFollow ExtLink

On that page, I currently have two settings:

  • Apply nofollow to menu

This option should be checked. It will mark all the external menus in your Theme menu as “nofollow”. If you’re like me, you do not add external links in your menus, but just in case you were to end up doing that, it’s safer, I think.

  • Exclude Domains

This is the feature you are looking for. It has a large box where you can enter any number of domain names that are to be used without the “nofollow”.

So say you have niche.example.com and website.example.com and you want to add a link on your niche.example.com website to the website.example.com then you would add the website.example.com domain name to this box and the “nofollow” won’t be added.

You can do that for any website you want to support. For example, if you have links to the Wikipedia website, you may want to add wikipedia.org in that box. (Some people at least say they very much dislike that website, but frankly, an encyclopedia is extremely useful!)

Now Let’s Verify that It Worked

Once you installed the Nofollow for external link plugin, you want to verify that it worked. So what you want to do is go to one of your posts and verify that the links are as expected. This means the rel=”nofollow” is defined on all the external domain names that you did not specify in the “Exclude Domain” setting.

The best way I’ve found to verify is to go to a post using a browser where I’m not currently logged in. Note that if you use caches this may fail because of those caches and not because the new plugin does not work.

Once you have a page up with the links you want to test, right click your mouse button and select Inspect or Inspect Element and then look at the HTML code that was generated. It should look as shown above. That is, there should be an anchor tag (<a>) and one of the attributes should be the relationship (rel=”…”) and one of the keywords in the relationship must be nofollow.

Okay, this step is a bit technical. But please don’t overlook doing it. It’s a one time deal (as long as you don’t change the settings over and over again) and it will save you. Google views affiliate links as links that go to “money pages” and such links on your pages destroy your ranking. In other words, you would end up not being on the front page of Google and that’s unacceptable because that means you don’t get clicks and thus no readership and thus no affiliate link clicked and thus no money coming your way.

What about rel=”dofollow”?

There is no such thing. Some people have used the “dofollow” in their link, but it is ignored. If you don’t include “nofollow” then it is a do-follow and making it explicit has no bearing whatsoever.

If you like to have it, that’s fine, since it is ignored, it is safe and won’t have a negative effect either. Just don’t add that to your affiliate links!

Note that “dofollow” links have a name: Natural Links. These are viewed as links that one created genuinely and did not add the “nofollow” because it is expected to be useful to their readers. Unfortunately, newer versions of most CMS will automatically add the “nofollow” to all external links. So it may look like natural links are a disappearing species…

What happens if I put rel=”dofollow nofollow” in the same tag?

As mentioned above, the “dofollow” is just noise that will be ignored by search engine spiders. As a result, a spider really sees this:

rel="nofollow"

And nothing else. So the result is that this link a is nofollow link.

I did not have any “nofollow” link on that page, is that a problem?

Most certainly not, although it’s difficult to tell how Google really use your on page links to rank your page. But from what I understand, you are expected to have about one-third of your pages which are product reviews. That means two third are likely to not have any or just one affiliate link.

That being said, some people are thinking that if you have “nofollow” links then that helps in the sense that it shows you know of some useful resources that you are willing to sponsor them, but not endorse them because it is a financial endeavor.

I think you may have more problems if all your links are “nofollow” links than the other way around, except for sponsored links. So if you have something to talk about on a page of your Niche Website, then Wikipedia probably has a page about it or some part of it. What you can do, then is add a link to that Wikipedia page and make sure that specific link is a natural link. For example, I can add a link to the NoFollow page on Wikipedia.

What if I did not have NoFollow on my links?

Because Google is big on penalizing you because of sponsored links, you should have a “nofollow” on all of them. At the same time, they decided to automatically recognize certain sponsored links automatically because they are well known and that way you do not have to bother with the “nofollow”.

For example, I talk about how and why you should be an Amazon Affiliate. If you are an Internet Affiliate with Amazon, you should be using the text link. I think that text links work better because users are more likely to click on such since the link looks natural even if it isn’t. Those links will make use of amzn.to shorten the full URL

Google knows of amzn.to and it will automatically consider that they all are marked with “nofollow”.

If you are sure that you will only have one Internet Affiliate account and those will all be from a well-known affiliate provider such as Amazon, then the “nofollow” is not required because Google knows of these links and automatically considers them as being “nofollow” links. I do not know of a list of well-known affiliate account providers (as in, which affiliate links Google will consider “nofollow” automatically) so I would strongly advise that you make sure to use the “nofollow” on your own volition instead. To be on the safe side.

Also in the US, we use Google, there are many other large search engines used in other countries (such as Yandex that works a lot better with the Russian language than Google and Baidu, the Chinese search engine.) It is not unlikely that all are not made equal and having the “nofollow” may help greatly with those other providers.

How is Link Juice affected by “nofollow”?

Contrary to what one might think, the ranking is calculated in a way which takes all the links in account. This is because Google noticed that some pages would have many links with “nofollow” that did not make sense (i.e. juice should be passed, but the author decided to use “nofollow” none the less.)

The concept is called “Page Rank Sculpting”. The author builds a page, gets a high rank on that page, then offers a link to transfer that high rank to another page. But to make things look more natural, many other links still appear on the page. These other links would be marked as “nofollow” and thus not use juice (before June 2009). Since then Google changed the math to compute the juice amount according to all anchors and not just those without the “nofollow”.

So if you have 100 links total on your page and 90 of them are marked as “nofollow”, the other 10 only get 1/100th of the juice and not 1/10th as before when the 90 “nofollow” links were being ignored.

As a result, this means you have to make a choice and possibly not put too many links on your page or not put “nofollow” just to sculpt the juice (and this is why all your internal links should always all be do-follow (natural) links since by using “nofollow” you would lose precious juice!)

Oh, What About Links in my Niche Website Comments?

If you allow comments on your Niche Website, then it is likely that with time (not such a long time!) you are going to get comments and these comments will include links.

There are two things to keep in mind here:

  1. Whether the links are marked as “nofollow” or not, they are going to dilute the juice more and more as you get more and more (“unwanted”) links in your comments. Something to keep in mind.
  2. All the links in comments automatically get the “nofollow” relationship. That prevents a certain amount of spam. However, note that you are losing the juice to your own good links on your page by having additional links, with or without the “nofollow”.

Many Niche Websites turn off their comments. This way they avoid spam (although the “I’m not a Robot” widget works well, it’s not 100% impervious to spam) and also you avoid, let’s call them… improper comments. (If you’ve been on the Internet for a while, you probably know what I am talking about.)

Are There Other rel=”…” Tokens to Know Of?

There are many other tokens defined in the specification and even more that are unofficial. These are used in anchors (<a>) and link (<link>) tags.

As a Niche Website writer, I don’t think you have much else to learn about in link with the rel=”…” attribute. We reviewed the “nofollow” and “noopener” and I can’t think of any others that would possibly be important today.

A while back Google introduced the “author” relationship that would point back to your Google+ account. That would give you credit for that post (i.e. you clearly would be viewed as the author of that page.) This relationship did not last long, though. Note that it’s officially supported, just not going to give you much anything other than a little better way to link you as an author to your posts. Some themes add your name to the post and a link to your profile on your website. That link should have the “author” relationship. Many WordPress themes do that properly now.

Of course, there are a few others, such as “stylesheet”, “canonical”, “icon” that are required but are handled automatically by your CMS (WordPress definitely uses those 3).

And there are yet others that are useful, albeit not often used because most CMS don’t offer a way to use them.

The “alternate” relationship is often used for RSS Feeds, although they should be used for languages and often are not.

The “next” and “prev” are used by WordPress when it adds links to your next and previous posts. This is not 100% correct as far as Google is concerned because Google views the next and previous relationships as defining one large page of content (i.e. first, second, third, …, last pages about one topic; opposed to many posts of various topics.)

The “help”, “license”, “bookmark”, “search” are also useful and also very rarely used. I think it is useful to mark legal pages with the “license” relationship, especially the Terms & Conditions if they include an Intellectual Property section that clearly defines who owns what.

If you are really into this and want to know of the very large number of relationships that have been used through the ages, this Micro Formats page lists a very large number of them.

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