One of the latest webmaster help videos brings up a really interesting SEO question: what happens if you get a lot of nofollow links, such as links gained for the explicit purpose of generating direct traffic. Could that negatively impact your search rankings?
SEO professionals have known for quite some time that putting nofollow on the link is a great way to tell Google that you don't want to pass PageRank for this particular link or that you somehow don't trust the sites the link is on. So if a large number of nofollowed links are pointing at a single site, could this potentially raise a flag to Google that the site is untrustworthy for some reason?
"No, typically nofollow links cannot hurt your site – so upfront, very quick answer on that point," said Matt Cutts, Google's Distinguished Engineer. "That said, let me just mention one weird corner case, which is if you are leaving comments on every blog in the world, even if those links might be nofollow, if you are doing it so much that people know you and they're really annoyed by you and people spam report about you, we might take some manual spam action, for example."
Fortunately, things like blog comments tend to have a very particular footprint that would be easy to spot. Cutts mentioned a specific example of where blog comments where problematic, even though they were already nofollowed, because it was done on such a massive scale.
"So I remember for a long time on TechCrunch, any time that people showed up, there was this guy, Anon.TC, would show up and make some nonsensical comment. And it was clear that he was just trying to piggyback on the traffic and drive the traffic from people reading the article directly to whatever he was promoting. And so even if those links were nofollow, if we see enough mass-scale action that we consider deceptive or manipulative, we do reserve the right to take action," Cutts said.
"So we carve out a little bit of an exception if we see truly huge-scale abuse. But for the most part, nofollow links are dropped out of our link graph as we're crawling the web, and so those links that are nofollow should not affect you from an algorithmic point of view," Cutts said.
That said, Cutts indicated that in the future this potentially might not be the case, if some spam loophole is found.
"I always give myself just the smallest out in case we find somebody who's doing a really creative attack or mass abuse or something like that. But in general, no. As long as you're doing regular, direct-traffic building and you're not annoying the entire web or something like that, you should be in good shape."