Blogging Tip: How to Link to a Dubious Website Without Improving Its SEO

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photo credit: opacitycc

In the course of blogging about important issues, there are times when you may need to link to dubious or objectionable material in order to provide context for your post. For example, some subject matter may necessitate a reference to racist material or a fraudulent business.

Unfortunately, when it comes to SEO, the age old maxim “Any press is good press” still proves to be true. By linking to a dubious website you are involuntarily strengthening the site’s position in search engines.

If you don’t want to be complicit in promoting a site of ill-repute, there’s a service that you can use to deny these sites the SEO benefits of your link. Donotlink is a site where you can paste in links to shady websites and receive a custom URL that will not not improve their search engine rankings.

donotlink

It works in a similar way to your standard url shorteners, except that it goes one step further to route questionable links through a unique intermediate URL which then forwards the visitor to the final destination via Javascript.

Donotlink employs three additional methods to prevent search engines from crawling the questionable site:

  • Blocks the URL in its robots.txt file, so (search engine) robots are discouraged from crawling it
  • Adds the “nofollow” attribute to the link
  • If a known robot decides to crawl the link, Donotlink will identify it and serve it a blank page (403 Forbidden) instead of redirecting to the url.

Who might use donotlink? The site offers a few secenarios wherein one might consider using the service:

Skeptics, bloggers, journalists and friends on social media use donotlink to link to scams, pseudoscience, misinformation, alternative medicine, conspiracy theories, racist / sexist blog posts, etc. without improving the search engine position of the site they are discussing.

If you want to use the service but don’t want to be bothered to visit the site each time, you can structure your URL like so:

http://www.donotlink.com/www.example.com/shady/stuff.html

If you’re linking to questionable material quite often or simply want to take a principled stand against the spread of misinformation, Donotlink is an easy way to prevent your site from sending “Google juice” to the bad guys. This seems like it would be an easy WordPress plugin to create and could be useful for publications that help bring attention to shady practices.

8 Comments


  1. I am sure this started out as a good intention, but it seems to me that this turns web desigers into the thought police.

    “Donotlink is an easy way to prevent your site from sending “Google juice” to the bad guys. ”

    Who decides who are the “bad guys”?

    The internet has been doing just fine. People can make their own decisions about the content the believe or trust.

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    1. I don’t think they can. I don’t know about you but I’ve seen a disturbing amount of falsehoods being shared on Facebook that run the gamut. if the Internet can weed out the idiots, the idiots must be hiding real well.

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  2. Very helpful tip, thank you! I have struggled with this myself when posting about questionable terms of service on a large, but unethical site, and wanting people to have an easy link so they could read the terms for themselves, but not wanting Google to interpret this as me associating my site with a shady site.

    There are many times when bloggers want to post about unethical or potentially damaging practices on another site to help other bloggers beware, or just to start a conversation (such as the Pinterest discussion of 2012 about copycat scraper sites).

    It’s not only about not wanting to give link juice to a bad guy; we all know a worthless scraper site when we see it, and we may want to use it for demonstration purposes in a post without sending Google a signal that it’s our new best friend. This link tool is a great solution.

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  3. I’m with Kenny Scott. This enables elitist jerks to show the world that, while they are smart enough to read this material without falling off the edge of the Earth, others (I.E. readers of their blogs) are pretty hopeless, and ought to get information only after it has been filtered through an elitist jerk.

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    1. This is getting silly. Who decides who are the bad guys? The blogger, of course. You may think the person I’m linking to is just fine, and that’s your right, but if I don’t want to increase the SEO of someone else’s disinformation campaign, why wouldn’t I use this tool? If it makes me elitist to think that people are susceptible to disinformation campaigns or just bad information, then you can feel free to call me names. I, at any rate, am grateful for this post.

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  4. Thanks for the post I found it very useful, while I understand some peoples points that we can all make decisions on if a site is genuine or not sometimes there are situations that this sort of linking becomes very useful – for example I wrote an article about scam sites for World of Tanks and War Thunder (online games) on my blog purely to warn people of the scum out there trying to rip people off. Originally I just linked directly to them, but why give them the SEO advantage? Also it makes me wonder if it can be a SEO disadvantage for our sites to link to dodgy sites?

    I am going to go through and update my post with the new links. Thanks again.

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