What happens if you find out that you are getting too many nofollow links, such as links gained for the sole purpose of generating direct traffic?  Should you worry about the negative impact of your search rankings?

In the world of SEO, putting a nofollow on a link is a way of telling Google that you don’t want to pass PageRank for this link, or you just can’t trust the sites the link is on.  In short, if too many nofollow links are pointing at a specific site, you’d think that Google would become aware of this and would assume this site is untrustworthy?

“No, typically nofollow links cannot hurt your site – so upfront, very quick answer on that point,” said Matt Cutts, Google’s Distinguished Engineer. “That said, let me just mention one weird corner case, which is if you are leaving comments on every blog in the world, even if those links might be nofollow, if you are doing it so much that people know you and they’re really annoyed by you and people spam report about you, we might take some manual spam action, for example.”

Because things like blog comments have a specific footprint that’s easy to spot, this is a good thing.  Cutts used problematic blog comments as a specific example, even if it was already nofollowed, since it was done on a massive scale.

“So I remember for a long time on TechCrunch, any time that people showed up, there was this guy, Anon.TC, would show up and make some nonsensical comment. And it was clear that he was just trying to piggyback on the traffic and drive the traffic from people reading the article directly to whatever he was promoting. And so even if those links were nofollow, if we see enough mass-scale action that we consider deceptive or manipulative, we do reserve the right to take action,” Cutts said.

“So we carve out a little bit of an exception if we see truly huge-scale abuse. But for the most part, nofollow links are dropped out of our link graph as we’re crawling the web, and so those links that are nofollow should not affect you from an algorithmic point of view,” Cutts said.

This may not always be the case says Cutts, because there could always be a spam loophole that is eventually found.

“I always give myself just the smallest out in case we find somebody who’s doing a really creative attack or mass abuse or something like that. But in general, no. As long as you’re doing regular, direct-traffic building and you’re not annoying the entire web or something like that, you should be in good shape.”