In a recent post, I discussed the use of the nofollow attribute as an SEO best practice.

In a guest post on SEOmoz, Distilled.co.uk’s Will Critchlow suggests the opposite: nofollow is dying.

The reason? He cites two:

  • The increasing use of third-party publishing platforms such as Twitter.
  • The increasing use of nofollow for a range of purposes that fall outside of Google’s suggested use of the attribute.

Critchlow’s thesis:

I believe that just as the search engines have acknowledged the limits of webmaster declaration of untrusted or paid content and often downgrade links they believe should have been nofollow, I believe they have to acknowledge the limits in the other direction as well. In other words some nofollow links should be followed. In the interests of finding the best content for their searchers, search engines are increasingly going to have to use their own (algorithmic) judgement to disregard some nofollows and include those links in their link graph.

He cites an unnamed site that only has nofollow inbound links that is ranking. Interestingly, one of those nofollow inbound links was from Wikipedia.

Is this a sign that Google may be changing its algorithm to ignore certain nofollows in a ‘subjective‘ fashion? Could be.

It would be ideal if links on nofollow-heavy services like Twitter had some SEO impact. After all, a large amount of site ‘recommendations‘ are made on these types of services. If Google and other search engines were to ignore these outbound links forever, it would be disappointing. Of course, not every link provided on Twitter is the same so search engines would certainly need to develop techniques for distinguishing the important links from the not-so-important links.

But back to the main topic: the death of nofollow. Does any of this mean that, as a publisher, you shouldn’t use nofollow? No.

While I do think it would make sense for Google to kill off nofollow in many respects (it can’t expect publishers to do its work for it vis-à-vis paid links, for instance), until it’s official that nofollow is dead to Google, I believe it still makes sense to use nofollow where appropriate to minimize risk when linking to third-party sites that aren’t trusted.

After all, you probably don’t want to start linking to shady sites that are likely in ‘bad neighborhoods‘ without nofollow just to see what will happen.

So before we jump to conclusions, let’s let Google kill off nofollow.