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Will Google penalize sites which only link using the nofollow attribute?

Will Google penalize sites which only link using the nofollow attribute? - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

Today’s question comes all the way from Thailand. Johan Tavard asks, “As many webmasters are linking only in nofollow, killing the natural way of links, do you think Google will penalize people who only link out with nofollow attribute in the future?” So Johan, this is a little bit of a have you stopped beating your wife yet question, in that there’s an assumption baked in, which is not necessarily true. Specifically, you’re saying many webmasters are linking only in nofollow and that’s killing the natural way of links. Whenever we look at the percentage of nofollow links across the web, it’s actually a very, very small, single digit percentage of the links on the total web. So I know that the perception, whenever people are trying to get back links, everywhere they’re looking they’re finding a nofollow. But in general, there’s a vast, vast, vast number of links on the web that are not nofollowed. So I certainly do not expect that Google will penalize people who only link out with nofollow. If someone does not want to link out and wants to use nofollow that’s their choice. Now, if they choose not to participate in the conversation, then people might not link to them as much, or they might not find that they have as good of an experience for users, or for whatever reason they’re not willing to link. A lot of the times they won’t link to other sites that are good for users as well. But the fact is that nofollow is still a very small percentage of links on the web, and that’s after having been introduced for five years. I wouldn’t be surprised if we continued to see websites grow more nuanced. So as people or websites build up trust in particular individuals, they might say OK, I’m all right to link to that particular person. So in [? Nole, ?] for example, the link started out as nofollow, but then once they started to see people who were trusted, some of those links in [? Nole ?] they removed the nofollow. I think that that’s a good nuance policy that a lot of sites could follow. So, please don’t take a look at trying to get links and assume that all links on the web are nofollowed because that’s definitely not the case.

by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team


Original video: