One of the biggest debates in the SEO world (and one that shows absolutely no signs of ever going away) is the do-follow vs no-follow links debate. There is one camp who stringently argue that the only links worth anything are do-follow ones; on the other hand, there is a group who say that it doesn't really matter.
So who is right and who is wrong? Is there any hard evidence when it comes to do-follow vs no-follow and their importance to the humble affiliate marketer?
The Do-Follow Links Argument
The proponents of the "do-follow only" camp have a pretty logical argument backing them up. In terms of SEO value ("link juice", to use the nomenclature) Google should theoretically only count do-follow links. Any link that is no-follow has a direct and clear instruction telling search engines to ignore it. Think of the rel=nofollow tag as one of those detour signs you occasionally see. The street is still there, it's just you're being told to pass by it.
The No-Follow Links Argument
On the flip side of the coin, some people believe that no follow links actually do provide some form of link benefit. Over and above this, they can provide great referral traffic from people clicking through your links. An excellent example of useful no follow links are blog comment links. The vast majority of blogs are no follow these days, which was put in place to discourage comment spam. Howevever, a well-place blog comment on a popular blog can deliver hundreds of visitors in a very short space of time.
Wikipedia is another great example of the usefulness of no follow links. Way back in the day, Wikipedia links were actually do-follow. But then link spammers caught on to the fact that this was a huge authority site that anyone could edit add their own links to. No-follow links were introduced on Wikipedia to directly combat this. However, a link from Wikipedia even today still makes your site look more credible, and more to the point, you can get lots of referral traffic from it. One of my websites recently got a link from Wikipedia (it was credited as a source) on a fairly obscure article, but that single little link still sends around 100 visitors a month. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
There isn't really much solid evidence to back any side of this argument up. In fact, when it comes to SEO everything is an inexact science. What works for one person may not necessarily work for you. That being said, I strongly urge you to take a "balanced" and holistic approach to link building.
Build a stable of quality, context-relevant do-follow links to your website to boost it up the search engine rankings. Guest blogging, blog networks, web directories, and article marketing, these are just a few ways to get do follow links to your site that will help deliver that all important link juice. Check out the Affilorama SEO lessons for more great link building ideas.
Then, once you've done that, start building some no follow links from blog commenting, forums (some forums are no follow) and other places that are going to deliver you high quantities of referral traffic. If you can pre-sell effectively then big bucks await from quality referral traffic. Having an opt-in newsletter list is even better, as you can seize that traffic and keep them in your sales loop over and over again.
The conclusion is simple – do-follow links provide better "link juice" for boosting your website up the search engine rankings. This cannot be denied. However, no-follow links can often be highly context-relevant, and come from sources that are likely to generate greater levels of referral traffic. In addition to this, search engines are more likely to regard a mixture of both types of links as following a "natural" link profile. This is a good thing, as an unnatural link profile is much more likely to see you booted from the front page of Google for SEO malpractice.
Therefore, it is prudent practice to balance do-follow links with no-follow ones. I wouldn't stress too much about whether the links you are getting are do-follow or no-follow. In fact, I wouldn't stress about it at all. Why? The reason is simple – if you are actually out there actively building links to your site, you are taking action, and that counts for more than anything.
What are your personal thoughts on the do-follow vs no-follow links debate? I'm sure your opinion probably differs greatly from mine, and I'd absolutely love to hear it. Just leave a comment below and get the discussion started.