How a Blogroll Can Still Kill Your PageRank

 

Navigational elements on a blog or any website are an important feature, but you should be careful not to take things to extremes which can hurt the progress of your site, both from a SEO perspective and for website conversion.

This post was originally posted Nov 7, 2006 – I have added a screenshot as the original subject site is no longer online – it is still just as relevant today as it was over 3 years ago. In places I have added some additional commentary or expanded on original ideas.

References to PageRank should be looked on as synonymous with Google Juice & overall site authority, and not just green pixels in a toolbar, though that can be a good visual indicator at times.

How a Blogroll can kill your PageRank

I followed a link from Digg a few minutes a go, read the story, and as I frequently do on any site I visit, I snooped around a little.

I actually do exactly the same every time someone writes a blog post referring to me and pings my blog. It is the polite thing to do, and maybe I can add something to the conversation. It also allows me to relate any comment to the person who is writing about me, either positively or negatively. Everyone is entitled to opposing views. What is often important is why they have an opposing view, and it isn’t always obvious.

Now about the site in question:

  1. I have only read half of one article there, so I don’t know much about the site contents
  2. The reason I am linking through to the site is purely from an SEO point of view
  3. This is a very common problem, very easy to make, and honestly not too hard to correct.

With that said, here is the site Kerry Fox Live (Archive.org link – the site seems to have been offline for 2 years.)

Initial Site Analysis

So the first thing I notice is that it is a PR3 site.

The internal categories are mainly PR2

The archives are mainly PR2

The individual post pages are generally PR1 or unranked

A large proportion of the content is duplicate syndicated content from services such as Associated Press, without any wrapping

But the site has been around for 16 months

You can make a splog, chuck duplicate content at it, and get a PR4 or PR5 after a few months.

So what is wrong with the site?

blogroll exampleTake a look at the sidebar

At a guess (I am seriously not going to count them all), only 20% of the links on any given page point to an internal page. (yes that sidebar is on every page)
There are 2 blogrolls, one of which seems to be websites and blogs he likes, and the other is a whole load of press related sites… news sources.

Every single one of those links is a live external link leaking PageRank to other sites. Those other sites are not reciprocating in any way.

Now I am sure someone is likely to point out that those links provide a service for visitors, and maybe add a little authenticity to the site.

What visitors?

We are looking at a news site with an Alexa rank of close to 2M – not 2k, but 2M

Now there are times you want to sacrifice a little page rank to other sites, especially if they are reciprocating, sharing visitors, or in the case of my blog, I like visitors commenting and joing my “community”. You might also do it in a carefully controlled way from a mininet to one of your own sites.

Solutions

Get rid of the blogroll on all internal pages. It is giving away too much traffic to other sites, not to mention PageRank.

Add nofollow to all the blogroll links that are not reciprocating, or you don’t want to be overly friendly with. (Update August 2010 I would probably tend to use javascript in some way)

Increase internal linking to compensate for all the leakage.

How to Increase Internal Linking

  • Recent posts – 10 links
  • Top Posts – 10 links
  • Recent Comments – 5 – 10 links
  • Tagging + Tag Cloud – 50+ links
  • There wouldn’t be a need for as much internal ball linking if there wasn’t so many external leaks. The site is gaining very few comments.
  • Related posts – 5-10 links
  • Related reviews – 5-10 links
  • Glossary links

Emphasis should be placed on the links you wish visitors to traverse

External Linking

The site has 2 visible external links to the front page. I am not sure how many to internal pages, but even if it did have external links, any PR given would immediate leak.

Just syndicating one article will generate loads of backlinks, far in excess of what you can achieve with a single blog post (unless you have 100k+ readers). Based on my analysis of “A” list bloggers, their average blog post might normally generate around 10 backlinks (showing in Google).

(update August 2010: – whilst many of the bloggers I analysed in 2006 have 10x as many subscribers by RSS & email now, the number of links they receive, other than from splogs & social media probably hasn’t increased)

Conclusion

It is not rocket science, just simple maths.

If you have 100 external links on every page of your site, you need lot of internal links to retain some (hopefully most) of your PageRank, and it would certain help if those people you give a link to on your sidebar reciprocate in some manner.

(please note that includes me – don’t put a link in your blogroll to my site – sure I appreciate the links, but I would much prefer just an occasional mention in your blog)

If you can’t get a reciprocal link, use nofollow, (August 2010 – blocked external javascript), or stick them on their own seperate page so they don’t suck your own site dry.

And finally… this site structure plagues a huge proportion of blogs. Other blog owners who do not have this problem, quite likely don’t even realise why.

Further reading:

Revenge of the Mininet | 3rd Party content | Blog Comments | No Follow

Update: whilst I am still a fan of article marketing, I no longer recommend any service that doesn’t provide a way to have unique passwords for each distribution site.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Andy,

    Wow! I appreciate this analysis very much. The subject site is, of course, mine.

    A lot of what you mention is way above me. I’m just a news guy with a blog and podcast. But you’ve given me some things to look in to.

    Of course I would like more traffic and haven’t understood why there hasn’t been more. Nobody has ever looked at the site for me or helped me understand what the problem is.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to do so.

    Best,

    Kerry

    • SEOgist says

      Nice article, it is clear that Google now actually passing link juice to all the links present on the page and no matter if you are followed or no followed the proportion link juice pass to the link or lost if no followed.

      Better to stick with less and quality reference link that can be good for users.

  2. Andy Beard says

    Hi Kerry

    I am glad you appreciated it. I always worry about whether I should contact the site owner first for permission when I do something like this, which is why I made it so clear that a huge majority of bloggers are making the same mistakes.

    It is quite possible you are using Widgets to add items to your sidebar, and the theme designer decided that the widgets should be displayed on every page.

    Some things it is ok to do this, but it is not healthy for pagerank to have so many external links on every page, and so few internal ones.

    If I knew a little more about the theme you are using, I could take a look and suggest exactly what to do to fix things.

    Revenge of the Mininet is such a good book to read, combined with the Dynanic Linking bonus.

    You don’t have to create a vast mininet to benefit from what is discussed. Blogs tend to generate incoming links if you are discussing something interesting.

    I would also suggest putting an opening and closing paragraph on every article you syndicate.

    Adding your own view on the news items you are posting not only adds value for your readers, it also makes the content more unique in the eyes of the search engines.

  3. says

    Well said. I have seen entire blogs get dropped from Google’s index because a blog roll pushed the entire link quantity on a page over Google’s link threshold (somewhere around 120 links/page). And yet, people still feel the need to populate blog rolls with 50 or more links. Go figure.

  4. Andy Beard says

    Everything is theme dependent

    On this theme for instance sidebar.php is only used for the front page. Within Single.php the sidebar is coded directly, which gives me a lot of flexibility.

    It would be easy to create a sidebar2.php, and then use that in the single.php for internal pages.

    Lots of themes use the function

    <?php get_sidebar(); ?>

    for including the sidebar.

    In the core files it would be easy to create a duplicate of the same function as

    <?php get_sidebar2(); ?>

    and change the file that is loaded.

    It is also possible to use normal PHP includes for various sidebar elements.

  5. Andy Beard says

    If you don’t have single.php, you can probably just use some logic with the is_home() function and provide an alternative include.

  6. says

    Just read yours after checking Michel Fortin’s posts in his forum regarding this. Needless to say, Andy, your detailed post blew me away. :)

    I’m going to figure out how to apply this in my own blog, especially since I’m really tech-challenged when it comes to website design and coding.

  7. says

    Very, very true. I was looking at a blog a few days ago that had at least 6 BlogRolls heaving with links – maybe 300 outbound links in total. Turns out these were all reciprocals so this site had a lot of incoming links too, pushing it’s Technorati ranking to 6000 (very, very high considering Technorati track nearly 60 million blogs). Despite being nearly a year old the site in question still had a PR0 – the recip links had killed it stone dead in PR terms. Sad, but true.

  8. says

    Great post Andy. And one which I feel is greatly beneficial. I’ve had Michael Campbell’s Revenge of the Mininet for a while now, but never once got started with it. You just change my mind with this post.

  9. says

    Well if I had looked, Duh, I would have found my answers, which I did, hence this 2nd comment. Sorry, but I blame my age for everything. I was just so excited about finding your blog. Like I said when it comes to blogging I need all the help I can get. I’ll be back..Thanks

  10. says

    If you NOFOLLOW all your blogroll links, does it then not matter how many links you have displayed on each page? Also, having NOFOLLOW can you now not worry about linking to ONLY sites that are relevant to your own?

    Reason why I am asking these questions is because I do want to sell links on a site of mine. I have been searching and reading many blogs over the last few days about this NOFOLLOW vs DOFOLLOW debate, as well as reading up on sites such as Matt Cutts. It is clear as day that NOFOLLOW is very important, as Matt Cutts pretty much has illustrated this on a huge billboard.

    I use Text-Link-Ads and I am quickly learning that this is terrible for SEO as well. Once again, Matt Cutts has made many comments about PayPerPost and other programs that sell text links for the purpose of exploiting PageRank. As much as I hate to do it, because it was making decent money, I have removed Text-Link-Ads from my site.

    With all that said, again… the question I would like to know is about using NOFOLLOW on your blogroll links. I have that set up, modifying WordPress to do that wasn’t difficult… and now that I have that done, is it OK to have a long blogroll? I want to sell links from my site, I know that I can do it and I know that I can make more money flying solo than flying with Text-Link-Ads. And by doing so, I am not burning a bridge with Google. Can I link to many unrelated sites from my own using NOFOLLOW and not get penalized?

    • says

      If a link is nofollow, search engines might use it for discovery but they will not attribute any relevance or pagerank for the link.

      It is possible to sell links without a broker, there are plenty of scripts that help you do it.

      Such links with Nofollow would certainly be less attractive to a link buyer.

      Nothing is as clear as day with Google, they make very geneal sweeping statements but there are a huge number of link purchase scenarios that muddy the waters, especially when one internet giant swallows up a content site for massive amounts of link juice.

  11. BabyFirstYear says

    Andy,Thank for the great tips About PageRank. I will try to optimize my internal linking blog according to your tips here. my Baby First Year blog only have PR 3 now. and I have check backlink from google only get 83 backlink. How many backlink to get PR 4?

    thanks again Andy.

    Goonie

  12. says

    Wow. I’d never thought of having a blogroll as leaking page rank. But you’re right. Thanks for the tips on increasing internal linking.

  13. says

    I removed all the blogroll except the firts page after reading The Wrong Advice posting here. Now I found another posting for the same idea. Thanks for the tips.

  14. Single Parent Dating says

    This is an excellent SEO tip. I’ve seen the is_home code
    people have suggested to use. However, noone has explained
    which PHP file(s) for WordPress are involved in implementing this. I’m not a PHP expert, but I’d love a simple explanation of how to implement this Homepage only Blogroll.

    Any Advice Appreciated

    George

  15. Stacie Adams says

    Andy, you rock my world, as usual! I read your blog every week and have been a subscriber for a while.

    Thanks for the most thorough and clear explanation of the issue of how blogroll affects page rank I have come across.

    Just curious how widgets factor into this? I have assumed for a while that one benefit of widgets like blogrush seen here on your blog is that they don’t “bleed” page rank as a blogroll would, so they are an easy alternative to blogrolls, as they bring traffic (right?) without adversely affecting the page rank.

    If anyone knows for sure if this is true, or Andy, if you can weigh in on widgets from this perspective, I would be grateful.

    Thanks,
    Stacie

    ps: DO NOT click thru my url if “adult content” is not appropriate for you or your situation….NSFW, but it is a marketing blog, not porn!

    • says

      Stacie I don’t worry about NSFW links as long as they are to highly editorial content which yours seem to be.

      No need to worry about anything that is javascript, but watch out for sneaky webmasters who add links before or after the javascript tags, or within noscript.

      In some cases those links might be legitimate, serving a real purpose and useful for visitors, but bloggers who are not aware can often give sitewide links from their sidebar to sites that are not related to the widget.

  16. RubyShooZ says

    I followed the whole article (pun intended) until I came to the part where you said:

    “Just submitting one article with a service like Article Marketer will generate loads of backlinks, far in excess of what you can achieve with a single blog post (unless you have 100k+ readers). Based on my analysis of “A” list bloggers, their average blog post might normally generate around 10 backlinks (showing in Google).”

    I don’t understand this part. Is submitting the article with such a service a good thing or no? I know I ought to get this but I’m feeling a bit thick headed at the moment w/only one cup of coffee in me.

    Thanks in advance.

    Peace today.

  17. says

    Andy – Great article. I don’t have too many external links but never thought about leaking page rank. After reading this, I have thought about all the blogs that have massive link rolls and how this could be hurting them without their knowledge.

  18. says

    Andy,
    I couldn’t agree with you more. And I’m glad you laid it down so clearly. I’m in the real estate industry and blogrolling is rampant in the industry. Because only early adopters are blogging- the space is pretty small and they are all linking to one another in their blogrolls. The so called experts are even recommending this! I see two primary problems – 1 being the obvious reciprocal global site linking and 2 being how easy it is to quickly exceed the on-page link limit and just look like a spam site to Google.

  19. says

    Really informative piece. Never thought of it in those terms. I am checking my blogroll and other links on my blog. Thanks for sharing useful information that is really helpful. Glad I found your blog.

  20. says

    that was one deep analysis..i never knew putting too much blogrolls would kill my blog itself…i have limited my blogrolls to only those blogs and websites that point towards my blog. but i think adding back link to sincere readers is not a bad idea at all. sir i would like to know more about creating and building internal links..

  21. says

    though new to blogging, I quickly understood this when Mary pointed it out. I got rid of it, and quickly got my 400+ links down below 100. thank you for this informative piece!

  22. daydreamlily says

    thank you so much for this article. I used to have a good Google rank and as my blog got more popular my rank went backwards and I had no idea why. Now I'm seeing it must be through commenting and my massive blogrolls. Do you know anything about putting blogrolls into an iframe? and does this solve the problem?

  23. says

    As always great post, even though content from earlier blogging.

    My own blog is plagued by similar PR issue, which I gave up on trying to figure out. It had a PR5 at one point but was dropped to 3 couple years or so ago and no matter what I do – it doesn’t help. I just gave up on those “visual pixels” as you call them :-)

    I know my properly optimized posts grab Google’s attention and rank very well, although the visual bar not showing it. I gave up on trying to figure out what Google wants, just moving forth with creating content.

    • says

      The relationship between the green bar & actual site/page authority isn’t precise, though there is a relationship, and in this case it was a useful indicator.
      A lack of green pixels on an old post that should have them can be an indication of something that isn’t trusted, or an internal navigation issue. All my content is 2 clicks from the home page & in theory should get indexed but isn’t so I am in the middle of a “descaling” process.

      I have some new SEO posts and videos coming, but thought it would be good for people to read a few refreshers.

  24. protection insurance says

    Well, According to me,The problem in this industry specifically is that a few hundred realtors with low PR, low authority blogs are linking to one another forming on huge reciprocal link farm – for which they got penalized in last 2 PR updates.

      • says

        I’ve been trying to understand this issue for a long time. One thing I have found out is that there are many divergent views on how many outbound links it takes to trigger a penalty from Google.
        You’d think that with all the hundreds (thousands?) of plugins available for WordPress, there would be a plugin that would prevent the blogroll from appearing on anything except the first page.
        Can’t find one though.
        Does anyone have a solution for the current version of WordPress?

    • says

      Martin I deleted the link as I couldn’t find any reference to you on the website.

      Whether 16 links is ok depends on your internal lining structure.

      If you have 16 external links on every page, plus maybe a whole load of nofollow comment links, and only 3 or 4 internal, that is a problem.

  25. Frank says

    I did notice that sites that have been around for less than 6 months without a strong linking strategy seem to leak PR faster than most. Popular blog sites, even out of the gate seem to avoid this. Due to their amazing ability to drive content based links, rather than navigational links.

  26. says

    Well worth updating and republishing this post. I removed my blogroll and replaced it with a Top Commentator widget but have been told that there is no difference as they both give away links. I don’t agree but I’m no expert.

    • says

      Giving away links isn’t necessarily a problem if you do something with internal linking to compensate, though I am not a fan of top commentator plugins as they tend to encourage spammy comments rather than comments that contribute something to the conversation.

    • says

      You can choose to have nofollow links in Top Commentator widget. Atleast in the latest version (1.3).

      Andy is right, it mostly encourages spammy comments – or rather “forced” comments without much value.

  27. Kanyakumari Hotels says

    Great post Andy. And one which I feel is greatly beneficial. I’ve had Michael Campbell’s Revenge of the Mininet for a while now, but never once got started with it. You just change my mind with this post.

  28. Barb says

    I have 10 blogs and include links in the blogroll to each one.
    Is this hurting each site? I have ‘recent posts’ ‘categories’ ‘archives’ on each one.

    • says

      Possibly – if the blogs are all on the same IP address, all poor quality thin content and heavily interlinked that could also be a problm, but just because things might have some negative, doesn’t mean there would be a penalty.

Trackbacks

  1. How a Blogroll can kill your Pagerank…

    [Source: Andy Beard] quoted: Now there are times you want to sacrifice a little page rank to other sites, especially if they are reciprocating, sharing visitors, or in the case of my blog, I like visitors commenting and joing my “community&#8221…

  2. [...] Andy Beard posted on his blog regarding leaking pagerank through a blogroll. He has some tips on how to increase the number of internal links on your blog which I will definitely have a look into. I have already started implementing some of these strategies, and the first was to remove my blogroll. I’ve moved it over to a links page, which also has link exchanges and a couple of links to my favourite articles on the web. [...]