Is Google Going Too Far With The Nofollows?

    August 20, 2013
    Chris Crum

Note: This article has been updated from its original form.

Google, this week, has given webmasters more advice on when they should be using the nofollow attribute. In other words, Google is telling you more types of links you shouldn’t be expecting to get PageRank from, in some cases, even when that means nofollowing links to valuable content.

If you’re putting out widgets or infographics, you might want to be including nofollows in the embed code. That is according to Google’s Matt Cutts, who addresses the subject in a new Webmaster Help video.

Do you think Google is going too far with its nofollow “suggestions” or should widgets and/or infographic links be able to count? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Cutts takes on the following submitted question:

What should we do with embeddable codes in things like widgets and infographics? Should we include the rel=”nofollow” by default? Advert the user that the code includes a link and give him the option of not including it?

“My answer to this is colored by the fact that we have seen a ton of people trying to abuse widgets and abuse infographics. We’ve seen people who get a web counter, and they don’t realize that there’s mesothelioma links in there,” Cutts says.

He notes that he did a previous video about the criteria for widgets. Here’s that:

“Does it point back to you or a third party?” he continues. “Is the keyword text sort of keyword rich and something where the anchor text is really rich or is it just the name of your site? That sort of stuff.”

“I would not rely on widgets and infographics as your primary way to gather links, and I would recommend putting a nofollow, especially on widgets, because most people when they just copy and paste a segment of code, they don’t realize what all is going with that, and it’s usually not as much of an editorial choice because they might not see the links that are embedded in that widget,” Cutts says.

“Depending on the scale of the stuff that you’re doing with infographics, you might consider putting a rel nofollow on infographic links as well,” he adds. “The value of those things might be branding. They might be to drive traffic. They might be to sort of let people know that your site or your service exists, but I wouldn’t expect a link from a widget to necessarily carry the same weight as an editorial link freely given where someone is recommending something and talking about it in a blog post. That sort of thing.”

Nick Stamoulis from Brick Marketing makes a great point in the comments: “It seems like pretty much any content you create, in whatever form that may be, the new ‘best practice’ is to add a nofollow tag to it.”

“I know plenty of sites have tried to use infographics as link bait, but I do feel like there are a few inforgraphics out there that deserve follow links simply because they are so useful and full of great information,” he adds. “Unfortunately spammers abused the potential of infographics and the rest of us have to play by the new rules.”

As I responded, good content is good content, and quite frankly, there is a lot of good content out there that doesn’t get the credit or links it deserves. Whatever the case by be in any given instance, people often don’t think they should link to sources, don’t think about it all, or just don’t care. Including a link in the embed code of an infographic gets the link on the sites that use it, and if the sites are using it, isn’t that generally “an editorial decision” as Google likes to say? Why should these links not pass PageRank?

Isn’t it on Google to figure out which ones are abusing the practice and determine what the spam really is? Why deprive legitimate content providers (and some infographics can be quite time-consuming to create) of the link juice that others are willing to give them?

If a high-authority site makes the decision to use an infographic that you created, why shouldn’t that count?

Do you think Google should count links from widgets or infographics? Tell us what you think.