Should sitewide links be tagged with the nofollow attribute?

July 5, 2015

Sitewide links are links embedded in almost every page of websites. A few examples of sitewide links are footer links, blog roll links, and navigational links. Most people who are knowledgeable about search engine optimization and recent algorithm updates in search engines — particularly Google — panic about the existence of these links on their sites. They think that sitewide links might make search engines think badly of their sites.

Why would search engines be mad if they see you using them? First of all, sitewide links have been abused in multiple ways in the past. For example, some use sitewide links to become massive amounts of backlinks for other websites.

Imagine this: Site A is a reputable site and Site B is a new site that wants to boost its ranking. Since backlinks from a reputable site are powerful tools in creating “credibility” in the eyes of search engines, Site B would request Site A to place a link to his site and make it as a sitewide link. The result? Site B will have backlinks equivalent to the number of pages that Site A has. And his ranking will improve tremendously. But that was back then. In response to this abuse, search engines have changed their algorithms. The most notable update that has harmed this MO was Google’s Penguin update. Because of this dilemma, search engine optimization experts came up with two possible fixes. The first one is to remove all the sitewide links. The second one is to put a no-follow attribute on them. Unfortunately, sitewide links serve an important purpose to websites. They are useful for navigation and the ones who use them the most are website visitors. In some cases, sitewide links redirect to partner sites or other sites. Most visitors appreciate them, too, since they are helpful for research and navigation.

Due to that, the first solution seems like a bad one. By removing your sitewide links, you will relieve yourself with the worry of search engines not penalizing you about “spammy links,” but it will cost your visitors the hassle of navigating your website with difficulty. What about the second option of using the nofollow attribute? Well, there is some debate going on about this aspect. After all, even if you place a nofollow attribute, you cannot change the fact that a sitewide link is still a sitewide link. The only thing that the nofollow attribute will do is to prevent crawlers from jumping to the other site or page.

So, what do you do now? Well, that is the real question — and the answer to that is do things naturally. Sitewide links are natural. They serve an important purpose and it has been like that since the Internet came about. As the guys at Google, such as Google’s spam team’s head honcho Matt Cutts, say, as long as you do not have any illicit intentions in doing stuff in your site, you will be safe. One can safely say that a nofollow attribute is not really necessary. After all, you are not doing anything wrong. But for the sake of safety, it is a much better solution than just removing all those useful sitewide links in your site.

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