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My site contains many links that were user generated so I've added a rel=nofollow to them. I'm considering removing that tag at least partially, as these are most of my outgoing links and I've come to understand it isn't a good SEO sign to not have outgoing followed links. Although these are external sites, I have some data on the popularity and categorization of these sites.

I'm trying to decide between two options:

  • Removing the nofollow link for popular sites in most categories.
  • Removing the nofollow for links that are in specific categories that represent the categorization I would like to achieve for my site. For example if this is a site about Basketball only remove the nofollow for links that are from sport sites.

As these are both not exactly natural approaches, can this hurt me? Which option would you recommend?

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I hate Google for this. This isn't how the web should work. It isn't natural and by their own guidelines are causing website owners to create an artificial web. My view is don't nofollow anything! –  zigojacko Jun 2 at 8:56
    
@zigojacko Do you believe any of these can hurt me? –  Noam Jun 2 at 9:26
    
Only if your UGC is spam. Depends on the type of content and your website moderation/spam prevention really. –  zigojacko Jun 2 at 10:06
    
@zigojacko I meant if you think removing the nofollow only for links I have verified from my internal data about them, that they are authoritative and relevant. Can Google see this as a problematic approach? –  Noam Jun 2 at 10:09
    
@zigojacko Also - are outgoing followed links actually used to calculate a page categorization? –  Noam Jun 2 at 10:31

3 Answers 3

You should use nofollow links when the links are untrusted or paid. Untrusted links are for example entries in comments or guestbook entries. You can for example set all user generated links as nofollow as default, but when a user has made several good contributions, he could be rewarded with removing the nofollow attribute.

Another thing you can do is to have a system where you approve user generated content and check the quality of links. As soon as the link has been verified you approve the UGC content and remove the nofollow attribute.

Please see Google Webmaster tools documentation found here for more information.

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If I were you, I would keep the rel="nofollow" attribute for all outgoing links generated by users. It limits spams a little bit and you don't waste time to analyze all posted links by users.

Moreover, removing this attribute for a category of links can be an bad indicator for Google regarding SEO, it can be weird and Google can detect this as a PageRank sculpting technique or something else, don't take a risk.

If you want to say thank you to your users, a good example is the links on Stack Exchange's network sites. They are all with the rel="nofollow" attribute except the site link in the users profile (for users with more than X reputation points). This way, Stack Exchange thanks users for contribution to its sites.

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I almost have no outgoing links other than UGC. You don't see that as a problem? –  Noam Jun 2 at 12:34
    
Don't take a risk, if these links are generated by users, put them all with the rel="nofollow" attribute. –  Zistoloen Jun 2 at 13:04
    
Any you think using my internal dataset to verify which sites I link to will just make it appear like sculpting? –  Noam Jun 2 at 13:23
    
It's using links with the rel="nofollow" and links without this attribute which can be considered by Google as PageRank sculpting. –  Zistoloen Jun 2 at 14:05
    
from the link you included it referred to internal links. But I guess that was just an example and it can also be for external links? Not having any external links doesn't make it harder for SE to categorize the page? –  Noam Jun 2 at 16:02

Note that if you control all of those websites, what you want to have is a link on those websites back to you. On each page. For example, all stackexchange.com websites have a large set of links at the bottom of the page back to the main website or some specific pages. In your case, you could have something like "Website hosted by [blah]" where [blah] is a link back to your company with its name as the anchor and maybe a title with your main keywords.

It is rare to see a list of websites getting a link for free (without the nofollow) as you mention. If you want to reward some of those websites, I would instead suggest that you create pages on your blog or similar pages, one per such website. It will increase your content and be much more natural (assuming you spend the time to write worthy articles).

The list you currently have should certain stay the same though.

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