Business.com - Use of "No Follow" Tags Explained

35 comments

There seems to be some confusion and misunderstanding on how and why Business.com applies "no follow" tags within our site.

Assuring accuracy and relevance of link resources in our directory is a very important part of pointing our users to the right direction. In order to address some of the questions raised around “no follow” tags, I’ve put together an overview on how the “no follow” tag is being used at Business.com:

Featured Listings Clients (Pay-per-click)
• Featured Listing clients advertise on Business.com under a pay-per-click advertising model.
• We strive to deliver them the most qualified traffic.
• These clients DO carry “no follow” tags as one of many methods we use to screen out unqualified search engine bot clicks on our client’s pay-per-click listings.

Directory Inclusion
• New listings submitted for inclusion in our general directory area are reviewed for accuracy and relevance to specific categories in our directory.
• Upon editorial approval, these listings are admitted into the Business.com directory and matched to the appropriate categories by our staff. Directory Inclusion clients are charged $199 per year for listings included in the general directory.
• These listings DO NOT utilize “no follow” tags as they have met our rigorous editorial review guidelines and they are not charged on a pay-per-click basis by Business.com.

Web Listings / Editorial Links
We have thousands of editorial links to online resources in our general directory. These resources have been added over time by our editorial staff because they were considered to be valuable resources in specific subject matters. Checking them for relevance and accuracy is an ongoing process. Editorial listings that have recently been reviewed and approved DO NOT have a “no follow” tag, while those awaiting renewed editorial approval DO have a “no follow” tag.

Lane Soelberg
Business.com

Comments

Lane Soelberg

For the record

Quote:
Lane Soelberg serves as the Vice President of Marketing for Business.com, overseeing all aspects of marketing including branding, PR, traffic acquisition, sales promotion, and direct marketing. He brings over 10 years of integrated marketing experience to Business.com.

from Business.com CV

> These listings DO NOT

> These listings DO NOT utilize “no follow” tags as they have met our rigorous editorial review guidelines and they are not charged on a pay-per-click basis by Business.com.

But, if I've read it correctly, they ARE charged $199 --so it's a paid link.

Lane Soelberg was most

Quote:
Lane Soelberg was most recently Director of Marketing for Gateway computers, overseeing all online and offline marketing

Ouch...

Thanks

Thanks Larry. I sincerely appreciate your coming here and explaining the facts to us!

Nofollow doesn't mean no click

Thanks for the explanation, Lane. But this:

These clients DO carry “no follow” tags as one of many methods we use to screen out unqualified search engine bot clicks on our client’s pay-per-click listings.

Makes no sense. Nofollow doesn't actually mean that a search box can't click on a link. It's simply a name applied to an attribute search engines may use however they want. Yahoo, for example, has never said they won't "follow" or list a nofollow link. Plus, nofollow isn't universally supported anyway. So the idea that this is something you are using on CPC listings to prevent unwanted clicks -- even as one of "many" methods -- just makes no sense.

Frankly, if you're going to allow anything in your directory, you either trust the information or not. The only reason to use nofollow on some of your listings still awaiting further review (and there seems to be a lot of those) is because you don't want other search engines to count them for link credit.

In other words, the typical person at Business.com has no idea if you "trust" a link or not with nofollow. So why bother using that tag at all? Because you don't want other search engines crawling you to think you trust certain links.

And that means you care more about ensure some robotic crawler has faith in your listings than your human reviewers. Or alternatively, you do have faith these links are just fine for your human visitors but realize that selling links without nofollow might help boost sales.

And you clearly understand the value of selling links for search engine purposes, given over on this page, http://www.business.com/info/ad_products/annual_inclusion.asp, the first thing said is:

Clean-link listings boost your sites visibility to the major search engines

Since you're commenting on the issue, simple question. Have any of your sales people ever stressed the fact that only with paid inclusion into the directory would you get a link without nofollow? And when did the nofollow links begin to be applied?

like i said, danny

it's a paid link. you get so wordy sometimes.

Nofollow

Personally, I think discriminating against any link with a NOFOLLOW, except maybe for first time blog posters (aka spammers) is a load of crap. Finding quality sites on the internet was forged by link networks and once you start charging for that link love and treating everyone else like second class citizens it sets a dangerous precedent that could seriously backfire.

How do you think Business.com got such strong positioning in the first place?

I'll bet most of their authority in the search engines was FREE via their network of links from other authority sites. Ah, don't remind them of that, everyone knows you step over people to get to the top and then piss on their heads once your get there, standard operating procedure.

I think Business.com should think long and hard about this policy as escalation in kind could get ugly. Imagine that everyone listed in Business.com that suddenly has a NOFOLLOW responds in kind and slaps a NOFOLLOW on their reciprocal link. Business.com could find their effective backlinks diminish rapidly and drop like a rock out of the search engines and rightly so.

Whew, you should have seen

Whew, you should have seen what I had ready to post, Bob. Good thing I noticed Danny's before I pulled the trigger -- much more concise than mine was.

Smoke and Mirrors

Web Listings / Editorial Links
Checking them for relevance and accuracy is an ongoing process. Editorial listings that have recently been reviewed and approved DO NOT have a “no follow” tag, while those awaiting renewed editorial approval DO have a “no follow” tag.

I call smoke and mirrors.

It reads in your Benefits of Online Listings things, such as "Listing are live within 3 business days" and "Major search engines index leading directories as a source of new web sites" and "Clean-link listings boost your sites visibility to the major search engines".

So my question is this. Will Business.com be offering refunds to businesses that paid under the perception of receiving web listings before the nofollow tag was implemeneted? If not, when will Business.com be removing the nofollow tag from formerly approved listings?

to be concise, jim...

it smells

(how's that? 9 chars. and i'm not talking about danny's post, either. hhh)

There's Confusion Alright...

Quote:
There seems to be some confusion and misunderstanding on how and why Business.com applies "no follow" tags within our site.

but it's not from TW members. Seems to me that someone over at business.com who doesn't really understand when/where the nofollow should be used convinced a decision maker to implement it. Maybe they wrote the reposnse you posted here too.

Using nofollow to avoid bot clicks? Give me a break.

I use nofollows for the

I use nofollows for the following:

Wikipedia - I do not want to share link love with them but you must sometimes reference cuz your visitors think they are cool even if you do not like them whoring the search. - NOFOLLOW

Amazon.com - If you review products linking to them is like shooting yourself in the foot, but people also are trained to believe they have some value even if they do not. - NOFOLLOW

News Sites - News sites are the spammiest thing around though their writers do great work, if I have a blog about "Solar Energy" and am writing about a company that is making a product but want to reference a newspam site that is breaking all of Google's current rules - NOFOLLOW. In that case the newsite is not related to what my blog is about and I choose to focus outbound links on those who represent the industry.

BUT agreed with Danny, if you link it you back it though from above you can also see a few good uses of the NOFOLLOW.

I am finding SEO Contest people aggregating my feed and using a nofollow to whore the link back in Google, thanks for reminding me, got to go check out if Google has thrown them in the trash yet, if not I will be bitchin' fo' sure.

Feel the love.

business clarity, not seo clarity

Go get 'em Danny, but to me this is clearly a business issue. I wouldn't be surprised if Google had a hand in it, either. Your highlights of their errors will just get them to fix their errors, just as we see Google adjust it's TOS when it has to catch up with practical reality. I doubt very much anyone at Business.com would incriminate themselves by admitting to even knowing what the word SEO means.

By rule, Business.com was a blatant abuse of link selling. It also suffered a conflict between the need for a comprehensive directory, and the need for monetizing inclusion in that directory. Same deal as Google as search engine, in many ways.

Now, by stated rule, they are using the tag Google provided to come back under the rules. They explain it logically, and state their case for fair play.

The remaining issues as I see it are:

  • Paid inclusion is no longer link selling (the site clearly states it is a paid inclusion vehicle)
  • Matt Cutt's needs to clarify his prior clarifications about paid links needing nofollow. Times have changed. I am sure he'll now say nofollow is not needed if they are clearly presenting themselves as paid inclusion pages/links (hinting that Google can then devalue them).
  • Will Google devalue the links on business.com, a Premium AdSense publisher?

I started blogging on the [url=http://www.johnon.com/5/businesscom-nofollow-attribute.html/"]Business.com issue[/url] from a competitive perspective yesterday, and used way more words than Danny.

If you do not trust your

If you do not trust your internal editorial review process unless someone buys the link then you ought to consider revising the internal editorial review process.

Using nofollow, as you described it, just states that you do not trust your own inefficient internal editorial policies (which is real real bad for an editorial listing company, IMHO).

But, if I've read it

Quote:
But, if I've read it correctly, they ARE charged $199 --so it's a paid link
Quote:
Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.

http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769

Google actually recommends submission to Yahoo! - which is a paid for, $299/yr, directory.

Bloody confusing if you ask me. Maybe paid for directory links are only ok if you are a big directory, or an industry-specific expert site.....

Time to start actually defining ......

Informal Poll

So is business.com going to lose the ability to transfer any "juice" the green kind or the trust kind, due to these shenanigans?

If you have your own sites or clients already in Business.com are you going to re-up? If you aren't already in is it still something you would use yourself or recommend to others?

I think the biggest problem

I think the biggest problem with an informal poll is that how the search engines react will likely be counter to how we react (ie: if Business.com gets cleaned up because spammy sites are no longer submitted the search engines will be more likely to count the links).

Either way though it was a dumb call by Business.com to even make this controversy possible.

Who is Business.com?

Quote:
Either way though it was a dumb call by Business.com to even make this controversy possible.

Can anyone here say they've gotten one referral from Business.com in the last 6 months? Why is this even a topic for discussion? ;)

The Solution is Simple!

It's an annual fee (the $199) and for all clients we have in there that now have nofollow............

NO MORE PAYMENTS TO BUSINESS.COM!

How about you?
Plan to just keep on paying?

Lane, You are Confused or Lying

There are editorial selections that are copied straight from DMOZ and those are no followed.

Those are UNPAID links from a trusted source (DMOZ) that Business.com decided was good for the user, but they are no-followed.

Either you are feeding us shit or you don't know shit or are lying.

Which one is it?

The answer is

D) All of the above

The Root Of All Don't Be Evil

Are we to conclude that if money is involved, a link is not to be trusted?

That stuffs PPC, then....

$199 is too much

$199 ANNUALLY is too much for a no-follow link. Check out your great local SEO friendly directories for much cheaper and completely permanent links.

Are you catching this?

$199 ANNUALLY is too much for a no-follow link.

Paid directory inclusions are nofollow-free.

There are editorial selections that are copied straight from DMOZ and those are no followed.

Those are UNPAID links from a trusted source (DMOZ) that Business.com decided was good for the user, but they are no-followed.

Editorial links are nofollowed until "reviewed for accuracy and relevance." There are thousands of links, and considering business.com fired up the nofollow/review process only recently, it should be obvious why many of the free listings even from a "trusted source" like DMOZ are nofollowed.

Business.com is a perfect example of how not to use nofollow, but the bitching would have been louder if they used nofollow the way Google intended.

More bang for the buck?

If we disregard the theoretical intent of nofollow for a moment, isn't Business.com doing us SEO link buyers a favor?

Making the free links invisible to Google = Fewer total outgoing links from the page = More link love for those who paid $199?

For those lucky ones who got there for free, couldn't Business.com remove them from the page all together anytime anyways?

What Lane seems to be saying

What Lane seems to be saying above is that Business.com reserves nofollow for links that haven't been through editorial review. Before nofollow, people could do the same effective thing (via making the link in JavaScript, or doing a redirect through a url that was forbidden by robots.txt, or adding a really long session ID-like parameter, or any of several other ways).

Can anyone here say they've

Quote:
Can anyone here say they've gotten one referral from Business.com in the last 6 months? Why is this even a topic for discussion? ;)

Yes. And not only is a paid listing free of nofollow, you get a page just about your site and links to internal pages.

I'm going to keep recommending it, in spite of the fact that I think using nofollow anywhere in the directory is a lousy practice.

They're not listening to you, Matt!

But Matt, Business.com is doing the exact opposite of what you recommend. Aren't you going to punish them for not putting nofollow on their paid links? Haven't you been saying for awhile that paid links are evil if they don't have nofollow on them? Pretty sure I heard that somewhere...

"What Lane seems to be

"What Lane seems to be saying above is that Business.com reserves nofollow for links that haven't been through editorial review".

Yep it's like saying, "I can not vouch for the site with all the popup banners and textlink ads blinking in my eyes and giving me a migraine".

I wonder if using a nofollow for a site that is seen as spam by Google disconnects you from any association with it?

What Lane seems to be saying

What Lane seems to be saying above is that Business.com reserves nofollow for links that haven't been through editorial review. Before nofollow, people could do the same effective thing (via making the link in JavaScript, or doing a redirect through a url that was forbidden by robots.txt, or adding a really long session ID-like parameter, or any of several other ways).

This comment / idea / usage almost suggests that it is reasonable to show humans unreviewed content, and that the main reason for a formal review is just for the bots?

What Lane seems to be saying

Quote:
What Lane seems to be saying above is that Business.com reserves nofollow for links that haven't been through editorial review. Before nofollow, people could do the same effective thing (via making the link in JavaScript, or doing a redirect through a url that was forbidden by robots.txt, or adding a really long session ID-like parameter, or any of several other ways).

What you seem to be saying is that paid text links are OK if they are reviewed by an editorial staff? Does this mean that all those local TV stations selling text links should be counted as they have been reviewed by an editorial staff? It just seems to contradict what you've said in previous posts throughout the year.

What makes Business.com different than the other sites on the web selling text links that have been targeted by you? Their high cost for an "editorial review" or the fact they have a cool, expensive domain? It would seem to me that sites that were put there under no financial obligation would be much more natural than one that was placed along with a $199 fee. I also don't see how the non-paid links have not been placed under any sort of editorial review. They seem fairly on topic to me.

Perhaps I've misread what you've written on your blog over the past year. I always thought you promoted natural linking and building sites that would be linkworthy. Now you seem to be saying that those links should be nofollowed and the paid ones should be the ones counted.

My Head Hurts

As others have noted, if you're going to sell text links that pass reputation/PageRank, the way to do it is to add rel=nofollow to those links.

Tim points out that these these links have been sold for over two years. That's true. I've known about these O'Reilly links since at least 9/3/2003, and parts of perl.com, xml.com, etc. have not been trusted in terms of linkage for months and months. Remember that just because a site shows up for a "link:" command on Google does not mean that it passes PageRank, reputation, or anchortext.

Google's view on this is quite close to Phil Ringnalda's. Selling links muddies the quality of the web and makes it harder for many search engines (not just Google) to return relevant results. The rel=nofollow attribute is the correct answer: any site can sell links, but a search engine will be able to tell that the source site is not vouching for the destination page.

Posted by: Matt Cutts at August 24, 2005 09:31 AM

via radar.oreilly.com

I thought I understood google's stance on paid links but now I am more confused than I should be. As Jill pointed out Business.com is doing exactly the opposite of "what you want". So c'mon like Denzel says "explain it to me like I'm four" is what business.com doing "right" in the eyes of Google and if so how/why is it different from what O'Reilly did?

there's no justice like angry mob justice

hoisted by your own petard, matt

Give Matt

a break, f**king up the web is still in beta.

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