Matt Cutts On When Nofollow Links Can Still Get You A Manual Penalty

    September 9, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Today, we get an interesting Webmaster Help video from Google and Matt Cutts discussing nofollow links, and whether or not using them can impact your site’s rankings.

The question Cutts responds to comes from somebody going by the name Tubby Timmy:

I’m building links, not for SEO but to try and generate direct traffic, if these links are no-follow am I safe from getting any Google penalties? Asked another way, can no-follow links hurt my site?

Cutts begins, “No, typically nofollow links cannot hurt your site, so upfront, very quick answer on that point. That said, let me just mention one weird corner case, which is if you are like leaving comment on every blog in the world, even if those links might be nofollow, if you are doing it so much that people notice you, and they’re really annoyed by you, and people spam report about you, we might take some manual spam action on you, for example.”

“I remember for a long time on TechCrunch anytime 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 from people reading the article to whatever he was promoting,” he continues. “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, so you know, 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 nofollowed should not affect you from an algorithmic point of view.”

“I always give myself just the smallest out just in case we find somebody who’s doing a really creative attack or mass abuse or something like that, but in general, 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,” he concludes.

This is perhaps a more interesting discussion than it seems on the surface in light of other recent advice from Cutts, like that to nofollow links on infographics, which can arguably provide legitimate content and come naturally via editorial decision.

It also comes at a time when there are a lot questions about the value of links and what links Google is going to be okay with, and which it is not. Things are complicated even further in instances when Google is making mistakes on apparently legitimate links, and telling webmasters that they’re bad.

Image: Google

  • https://www.myshofer.com/ Limo

    I never heard this before. This is interesting.

  • http://www.livewidstyle,com Haresh

    Sponsored link also nofollow but some sponsored ad (link)look like spam.

    What you think Google / Matt Cutts about it?

  • http://www.interpretermployment.com Paul Harvie

    Very interesting indeed. I do enjoy how Google, aka “Matt Cutts” reserves the right to penalize people. I completely understand the WHY, but the HOW really antagonizes me. The “always leaving an out” so that they can manipulate their algorithm to penalize people sounds a little manipulative to me, but as they are Google, I work hard to maintain the rules on my sites. I do thank you for this article and the video. It is very insightful. (I also apologize for the long comment.)

    • http://technologyreads.blogspot.in/2013/09/software-product-development.html Amit Dwivedi


  • http://www.computaris.com/ Amit Dwivedi

    Great Information! about know follow back links.

  • http://www.internetmarketingsdm.com/gsniper/100-ways Sheldon

    Great comments about no follow links. This should clear up any doubt about them.

  • http://involvery.com involvery

    “..and you’re not annoying the entire web ..”

    I don’t know why, but that statement made me laugh a little. Can ONE person annoy the ENTIRE web?


  • http://latestjobsingovt.com/ Tarun

    No matter how many comments one make on blogs, it cannot bring good traffic unless a person writes keyword in name, which can easily be detected as spam as it looks blatant advertizing. So the answer was quite obvious.

    • http://www.n0t.info Luana S.

      Actually, Tarun, it can bring in traffic even just with your name in the name field.

      Keywords are more important in the body of the comment. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. When you mention your site and your position in a natural way, readers will be curious to find out more about you.

      Sometimes good SEO is like writing a good white paper— it’s about sparking people’s curiosity. :)

      ~ Luana

  • http://www.n0t.info Luana S. @ N0t.info

    Well, that’s a pretty extreme case. Like hackers (actually, crackers) who hack thousands of websites and they get reported. We’re talking mass-damage here – a case of real SPAM! – not about a few well-placed comments on several blogs.

    I agree with Matt on that. I fight recurring spammers on my blogs every single day and I’ve been dealing with spam attacks that caused downtimes, too. It’s crazy.

    ~ Luana

  • Chas

    You have to be so careful where you leave comments too. Even one no follow comment can get you into trouble. A client left a comment on a WordPress site not realising that they had a recent comments widget which replicated the keyword and link across 20 pages on one site.

    Needless to say, they got hit with a penalty, albeit I believe it to be an also penalty rather than a manual.