SEO Clients Deserve NoFollow Discounts


SEO clients may well be aware of the furor that has been going on in the SEO world. Danny Sullivan described why SEO experts were so incensed in signaling that Google Loses “Backwards Compatibility” On Paid Link Blocking & PageRank Sculpting.  It is all concerned with the NoFollow tag that can be applied as part of the code for hyperlinks from web pages.

If you want to understand the implications of the changes then an article, PageRank Calculation – Null Hypothesis, will provide a lead-in to the ongoing discussion.

What does all this mean for SEO clients who have paid their consultants fees for Search Engine Optimization.  The aimClear Search Marketing Blog has a good account of what they are telling their clients in a post, NoFollow noWorries: An SEO Linking Update.

Though this 180 degree about-face in what Google had been preaching (literally) to webmasters was poorly handled from a public relations perspective, presumably it was made because the tag was overused, abused and had the potential to skew Google’s rankings. No worries. We actually think the change will bring some positive changes to the SEO process, though as always there are tradeoffs.

Of course this has all been going on in a time of recession where companies are trying to make sure they get the maximum bang for whatever bucks they still have in their budgets.  Companies paying SEO consultants who have implemented PageRank Sculpting programs are now told that such programs were ineffective.  This only came to light when Google decided to spill the beans since it looked as though SEO experts had not spotted that the Google advice was no longer effective.

It is all rather messy but the bottom line is that clients have spent money that produced zero returns.  What recourse do they have?  Who should they be talking to?

Unfortunately the biggest culprit, Google, will provide the defense that they are providing a free search service.  Too much information given away would mean that webmasters could perhaps manipulate the search results so that less relevant web pages nevertheless  would appear high in the keyword query listing of results.  If any information is given out, then webmasters should do their own checking to be sure that the information works for them.  This is somewhat facile reasoning since it is very difficult to do Split A/B testing on anything other than simple changes to web pages.

If Google is off the hook, this leaves only the SEO consultants to listen to the SEO clients.  Here again the discussion is difficult.  Reputable SEO consultants use their best skills and knowledge to provide maximum search engine visibility to their client’s web pages but without any guarantees on performance.  In this case, they were following information put out by Google and which was never withdrawn or modified until very recently. They put in the effort.  Google rendered their efforts for naught.  It would appear that the SEO consultants are off the hook too.

If companies were doing their own SEO, then they would have paid the salaries and again would have seen no results from the PageRank sculpting.  Using SEO consultants or doing SEO in-house would have had comparable effects. Perhaps this is just grin-and-bear-it time.  Search engine marketing is on average very powerful, but its mechanisms are sometimes difficult to discern. The NoFollow confusion has just added to those ongoing difficulties.

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SEO Clients Deserve NoFollow Discounts — 23 Comments

  1. As frustrating as it is, this is part of SEO. The algorithms are constantly changing and shrouded in secrecy. As an SEO consultant, I try to do the best with the information available, either directly from Google or from colleagues who have done tests. But we are never certain. However, it does speak to the importance of hiring an SEO consultant who participates in the SEO community and keeps his ears to the ground. 90% of people who refer to themselves as SEO consultants do not do this and work with sorely outdated info.

    On the plus side, since I never really believed in PageRank sculpting, I won’t have to deal with complaining clients. :-)

  2. That is funny that your quoting Marty @ Aimclear on the use of nofollow… During the give it up session at SMX Advanced in 2008 one of his tactics for his clients was doing Link Exchanges and then nofollow people that were interested in trading links…

    @Translation Services – That is pure FUD! Link exchanges only don’t work when they are the only link building tactic used, real success is achieved by using as many organic link building methods as possible while not violating Google’s SEO guidelines. The way the internet is structured 2 way linking is rather natural.

  3. It simply means that SEO consultants that focus on building websites for humans, rather than search engines, deserve higher fees, than those, who rely on nofollow to bring profit (note: it has never been proven nofollow helps and no one reported rank drops due to nofollow, because the change was implemented last year, so SEOs *relying on* nofollow aren’t to be trusted much).

    For example, I won’t change anything on my blog, because I already have dofollowed links in my comments and a relatively SE friendly link structure. Yes, the comment relates to SEs, but the site’s built for humans, not bots.

    Building a great site architecture with text links and good anchor text has always been more efficient, than using nofollow, and *this* effort now paid off, because nofollow practicioners have effectively wasted their time with no clear ROI.

  4. To be honest, the Page Rank stuff is very confusing and complicated. Although I have been involved in blogging for over 3 years, but I still didn’t understand the basic concept of Page Rank!

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  6. The changes google have made, has made no impact in my SEO. My month old blog is a PR3 and most of its internal pages are PR2, (which I don’t care about but others do) I am slowly moving up for keywords I am going after.

    People are making all this noise over nothing. Keep doing business as normal.

  7. You’re very right that SEOs should make every disclaimer on earth that nothing is ever guaranteed in SEO. That said, is PageRank scuplting an lesson to be learned? Perhaps there’s some risk factoring that can come in handy prior to engaging in these activities. The more a specific tactic relies on the search engines not changing the mechanics behind it, the higher the risk of the tactic.

  8. I agree with David…this is just part of the game. Things are constantly changing and we must adapt. I don’t think it is a good policy at all, but we must deal with it and move on.

  9. Eventually webmasters will realise that a de-facto search monopoly, now matter how benevolent, is A Very Bad Thing.

    ‘Nofollow’ was just to discourage blog spam. PageRank sculpting was an unintendend side-benefit and involves spending a lot of _your_ time on something that is in the power of someone _else_ to quickly take away from you, as has happened.

  10. I think that with a moving target such as Google and its ever evolving algorithms, it is a consultant’s duty to explain to a client that not all money invested may have an ROI, but that most time invested will generate some form of return. I imagine that on some enterprise sites PR sculpting might have taken a good deal of time, but it also probably forced the web team to review their site architecture, possibly streamline areas that needed streamlining anyway.

    Most clients of SEO understand that it is a playing field that is constantly shifting and changing, and that the field of the day is dictated by one organization. If a client doesn’t understand this then the SEO consultant hasn’t fully educated their client on the nature of SEO.

  11. yes by using no follow seo have suffered but I think use of no follow is correct as it helps to control spam comments.We can go one way or reciprocal link exchange but for me on page is the most important part of seo.


  12. I think that a lot of the importance that was initially placed on nofollow and PR sculpting was mostly due to assumptions and the spread of unverified information. It was never said, and shouldn’t have been assumed, that a page’s PR gets divided evenly among all the links on the page. It could very well have always been up to Google to decide how much PR each link gets based on the relevance of that link, but no one had thought of that so all the SEOs assumed that it must be divided evenly. I don’t think this new information is really going to change very much.

  13. While the constantly changing Google algorithm and methods for attaining SEO nirvana can be frustrating, it is only fair for Google and other search engines to function this way. Updating the algorithm gives sites that have quality content a better chance of being found, weeding out spam and clone sites that act more as advertisements than webpages. Creating backlinks to your site with comments and forum posts, improving on-page SEO, and routinely adding new content to your site have replaced link exchanges and keyword spamming as the preferred way to optimize your site for SE.

  14. Sorry i have little sympathy. I personally think that most SEO “Experts” are a waste of time and money and it’s about time that Google acted to stop these cowboys from cluttering up the net with junk. When I do a Google search i want to find what i’m looking for not a site that is just well optimised. Bing is beginning to bite into Google market share because it provdes relevant information not just SEO optimised information!

  15. Jonathan, I think Google is constantly “acting” to try to improve the quality of their results, at least in certain categoreis. Also not all SEO is done in the name of spam. In fact many name brands invest in SEO because rankings have a very solid ROI.

    Also, don’t assume you know who the good guys and the bad guys are. Google benefits more than anyone by making companies pay a lot of money (via Adwords) to show up on Page 1 of the SERPs for certain keyword categories. Consequently, it isn’t in their best interest to provide “relevant information” for keyword searches such as “viagra”, “buy viagra”, or “free poker online”.

    The more search options available the merrier! Though personally I’d prefer a search engine that had no hidden or visible agenda. Do you think the Wii will ever outrank the XBox on Bing for more generic long-tail keywords?

  16. This is quite a shake up within the SEO industry. I agree that some good things will come out of this. I am just glad I have not been embarking on PR Sculpting for my clients.

  17. There will always be some changes in the “Rules” of PR by Search Engines. We just don’t know what they will do next and when they will implement it. This is a very dynamic world, the Internet. New technologies, new developments, new “abuses” equals to new “Rules”. That is why both clients and consultants must continue to evolve and adapt to the changes.

  18. For the sake of prevention of my site from spam comments, I have set the moderation option for each of the comment posted on my website blog. This really has helped me alot in stopping spam comment.

  19. no follow sculpting seems to be a waste of time anyway. It makes sense that no follow should be applied on links to advertisers, for example. The bulk of the effort should be on developing good backlinks. I don’t get the attitude that SEO companies have been somehow shortchanged. Everyone knows the algorithyms aren’t guaranteed to stay the same, it’s the complexity of the internet that makes a firm secure the services of an seo expert. Goes with presenting yourself as an expert.

  20. @New Media Strategies “We just don’t know what they will do next and when they will implement it. ” – Yes , we don’t know, but it’s natural- they do everything, that on first search pages will be sites who came by adwords.
    I don’t understand- ‘Nofollow’ it’s just to discourage blog spam. But everyone can delete spamming comments…