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Backlinks, No Follow and Page Rank

I received a question through my Dear Martin page the other day from someone who was asking how backlinks affected page rank, and how the ‘nofollow’ tag affected backlinks, therefore affecting page rank.

Here’s the response I offered:

The first thing I’d say is don’t get hung up on Page Rank and all that other SEO-type stuff.  You’re focusing on the wrong thing.  

You need to focus on what your visitors want and give it to them. That’s it.

Having said that, the ‘nofollow’ tag on a site does not have any impact on links coming into it. That is – where others are linking to you – backlinks.

Nofollow on your site only affects outgoing links from your site. It tells the Search Engines not to follow any outgoing links.

The blogging community got super hung up over this last year and people started refusing to comment on blogs that had the nofollow tag set. This was because they wouldn’t get credited by Google for links back to their sites from the blog they commented on.

That was an absolutely prime example of focusing on SEO-type stuff instead of giving good value to their visitors.  And in many cases it probably cost them traffic.

The thing to remember is this: the search engines are not the ones that will buy from you.  People are.

So write your blog or site for the benefit of people.

You should definitely set up your site properly – i.e. use the correct META tags, H tags, alt tags, and title tags, provide clear navigation, create a site map and so on. Make sure you get all the on-site SEO stuff sorted out.

But then forget about SEO and write for people. Use places like Twitter, forums, chat boards and wherever else your target market hangs out, to learn what people are asking about.

Then answer those questions on your blog.

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