NOFOLLOW: Business sense of manipulation

Earlier during January, Wikipedia announced that all external links on its websites shall be hyperlinked with a NOFOLLOW tag in order to put a curb on spamming. This means that getting referenced on Wikipedia will not add any ‘Google juice’ to your website, and hence shall not in any way, help in increasing your PageRank. This seems to have started a trend of sorts. Google Videos was accused of manipulation because they provided NOFOLLOW tags to some of the videos on their homepage, while their partner AOL’s videos were linked directly.

Now, since spamming is a global issue, all websites are likely to take some sort of an action sooner or later. And most of them are likely to go the NOFOLLOW mode. It makes better business sense. Here are some of my observations…

Let us take the example of Wikipedia. Personally, I do not grudge their actions, and concur with Christer Edwards on this issue. However, their first-moving decision for a NOFOLLOW tag can be adopted as a strategic business decision for many other websites with huge volumes of data simply because of its ability to manipulate results. Let us take Wikipedia itself as an example. Wikipedia links every external link with NOFOLLOW, while directly linking its internal pages. There are a lot of wiki pages that hold a high PR of more than 6. So, while these pages link to other wiki pages, their PR too gets a huge boost. But the external links are left ‘juiceless’. So, ultimately, with such a decision, under the veil of challenging spammers, websites can actually help themselves get listed many more times in the top results pages of search engines.

Less-voluminous websites however cannot take this route simply because they do not have enough internal linking to maintain the high PR. So, if other websites too make it a point to add NOFOLLOW to the links to these websites, it is these small websites that end up as losers.

Please note that even Wikipedia has been criticized. So, other for-profit websites, taking such a route may cause a huge Public Relations failure. This is because, it is not just the PageRank that is the problem here. It is much more. It is that of proper and just attribution of references. An attribution with a NOFOLLOW ultimately ends up with the web page that sourced the info appearing before the original page. This is a matter of ethics, which most websites can manage to ‘forget’ at this stage, but could result in a lot potential law suits over a period of time.

The voting on Wikipedia over remove/keep of the new NOFOLLOW rule in Wikipedia suggests a 61 percent favor for reverting the situation as it is now. But the issue now is no longer with Wikipedia. It is about what big websites will now strategize towards their position on NOFOLLOW.