Month: September 2019

SEO and ‘nofollow’ links

SEO links
Links and nofollow in SEO

I teach Digital Marketing at some Business Schools. In one of my recent classes, I was discussing SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation (the process by which you aim to have your site rank high on the Organic Search Results page of Search Engines).

SEO is a complex topic encompassing technical, on-page and off-page tactics. As I was explaining these concepts, it was interesting to find that the topic that generated the maximum number of questions was the role of ‘nofollow’ in links.

As I reflect on this now, a few days after the session, I can understand why this might be a difficult topic to grasp, especially for people who are new to this field. Here is an attempt to explain this further.

As many people know, links are a very important signal of a site or page’s popularity. And popularity, in addition to relevance, are important factors (out of hundreds) that influence a page’s ranking on Search Results Pages. The key thing to note is that not all links are equal. Links that come in from another page (or domain) that already ranks high and is considered as an authority on a topic carries greater value than a link from a relatively obscure site.

A simple way to think about this is that typically, your home page would be the highest ranking or most important page in your web site. And, therefore, any links from your home page would carry more value than links from a page buried deep within your site.

Let’s assume that you have a page on your website (not your homepage) that you would like to rank higher on Search. By linking to this page from your most important page – your home page – you are signalling to Google that this page is important enough to be linked from the home page. Let’s assume that your home page has a Page authority score of 100. If there are a total of 20 links to other pages on your site, then each of these 20 pages would get an authority score of 5 (100/20). Now, not all of those pages might be equally important to you from a SEO perspective. In fact, some of these links might also be pointing to pages on other domains that are not on your own. In such cases, you are passing on some of your valuable authority to those external domains as well.

This is where the role of ‘nofollow’ comes in. By including this tag in your html link, you are signalling to the Search Engine that the link is not important enough for you to be passing on your valuable authority to. This does not mean that the link will not be discovered or ranked by the Search Engine, just that the Search Engine would not assign any part of your domain or page authority to the linked page.

So, in the example above, if you mark 10 of the 20 links from your home page as ‘nofollow’, each of the remaining pages would get an authority score of 10 (100/(20-10)). This is twice the authority compared to the previous setting. And hence, each of those 10 pages would now have a better chance of ranking higher on the Organic Search Results page of Search Engines.

Interestingly, just a few days after my session, Google made a key change to how it considers ‘nofollow’ links. While previously, Google would not count any link with this attribute as a signal to use within their algorithms, they have recently announced that this would change from March 2020. Now, ‘nofollow’ will be considered as a ‘hint’ which they would use along with other signals to better understand how to analyse and use links within their algorithms.

I do not know yet how this change might affect the rankings of pages. This is something that SEO practitioners would have to watch out for.

I hope this helps understand the ‘nofollow’ attribute better. If you have any questions or comments, please do post below.

Chaos on Indian Roads

Image of Indian roads at night
Image of Indian roads at night

The Indian government has recently significantly increased the fines levied for driving offences. It’s still early to judge the effectiveness of this, but there is no doubt that it’s a step in the right direction, even if very delayed.

I have been fortunate to have lived abroad and, as much as I love my country, the one thing that almost always gets me angry and upset is the absolutely appalling attitude of drivers on Indian roads.

People say that the two things that unite our vast and diverse country are Bollywood and Cricket. I would add, to those two, our road sense, or lack of it. Even a casual observer of Indian driving would observe that the only rule of driving on Indian roads is to break all rules! Breaking a traffic signal, who doesn’t do it? Going down the wrong way on a one-way street, everyone does it. Parking at No Parking zones or blocking other traffic, sorry, what’s that? Wearing of seat belts, only when a policeman is ahead! The latest – driving a bike on a footpath and having the temerity to ask people to step aside!

What is it that makes us such poor and inconsiderate drivers? Manu Pillai in his recent article on Livemint suggests two possible reasons:

  1. The poor state of Indian roads means that we do not respect them
  2. Indians love chaos

The second is a very interesting observation and I am beginning to realise that it’s probably right. However, I disagree with him on the first point. I have seen, and I am sure that I am not the only one, people not heeding rules even on the best Indian roads. How many of us have not seen vehicles being driven down the opposite side of the road on the best of Indian highways? Or heavily overloaded trucks trundling on the fast lane? Overtaking on the left, that’s par for the course! Forget adhering to speed limits!

No, I do not believe that we will change our behaviour even if we have world class road infrastructure. There is just something in our nature that believe rules are meant to be bent, if not broken outright.

I am very positive, in general, of the future of our country and its citizens. However, the one aspect that I am afraid might take a long time to change, if ever, is our road sense. I sincerely hope that I am proven wrong.

Shikumi

Shikumi

It’s been a few days that I have been pondering about what to write next. And then, just this morning, an article popped up in my LinkedIn feed with a term that I had never heard before. I was intrigued by this Japanese word – Shikumi.

I read the article and found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the concept. I then decided to do some more research about the term and was surprised to find hardly any material about this concept in the vast expanse of the World Wide Web. In fact, in addition to the article on my LinkedIn feed, there was precisely one other article about this term.

So what does Shikumi mean? Reference material being limited to just these two articles, this is my understanding of the term.

Shikumi refers to the processes or frameworks that exist across an organisation that binds it together and keeps the organisation performing effectively. These frameworks provide operational guidelines to the team, helping them with decision making when facing problems.

Examples of Shikumi in action could be:

  • A weekly / monthly review process that is driven by KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
  • An organisation’s core set of values that define how business should be conducted

More importantly, I would think, is that these are not just management fads, but processes that are embraced holistically and completely by everyone in the organisation. Implemented correctly, this can prove to be extremely useful in driving effective communication and serve as the North Star that drives all action within the organisation.

I am a strong believer in the power of operating frameworks, having experienced first hand the role it can play in building powerful and lasting organisation culture. Every organisation, big or small, well established or just starting up, can benefit immensely from following the Shikumi principle.

What are your thoughts on this? Please comment below!