A nofollow attribute is:
A.) A sign you slap on your kid’s back before they walk to school.
B.) A fog of noxious aroma that follows a person who does not bathe.
C.) A gadget James Bond uses to cloak his Aston Martin convertible as he narrowly escapes his nemeses.
D.) An attribute assigned to a hyperlink to prevent backlink hungry spammers from benefitting from clogging blogs and forums with useless posts.
Unless it actually is scheduled to be in the next Bond movie, D is the only correct answer. A nofollow attribute is a concept created by Matt Cutts of Google and Jason Sheller of blogger.com in 2005 to prevent spammers from simply going into blogs and forums, leaving comments with links to their own sites, and expecting to get backlinks. Not all forums and blogs use this attribute, but it was strongly pushed when it came out.
How does this affect you as a merchant? If you are familiar with how search engine rankings work, you know that search engine optimization has much to do with the number and quality of sites that link back to yours. If you comment on other sites and leave a link to your store, if that blog or forum designates all links to be “nofollow”, your PageRank will not increase as a result of that target link. Will other users still be able to click on that link? Yes. Will it improve your search engine results? No.
How can you tell if a link to your site actually improves your search engine rankings by giving it “link juice?”
1.) If you right click a page to “View Page Source”, you can check to see if that hyperlink is accompanied by rel=”nofollow”.
2.) You can install the Firefox SEO plugin. It will highlight all nofollow links.
How effective is the nofollow attribute in preventing spam? This is up for dispute. Google highly recommends using the nofollow attribute to cut down on people piggybacking on your posts. Akismet, who actually creates spam filters, claims nofollow links do no such thing. Considering there are already software packages to mass produce comment spam, the majority of forums and blogs still use the nofollow attribute.
So why bother leaving comments or participating in forums? 1.) Nofollow links only apply to Google’s search engine and 2.) fortunately, there are other readers of blogs and forums besides search engine bots–people. Learn how to interact with current and potential customers by reading up on the social web.