December 30 2012 Editor Assistance Newsletter
I've made progress on the forum changes! After working fairly non-stop on it for two weeks I now have gotten the right combination of settings to allow UniCode characters (curly quotes, accented characters, and those sorts of things) to save in the forums properly. I'm running a rebuild of the forums to make the change, which should finish up in a short while. Then we should be able to test. Let me know if you now have any difficulty making those sorts of posts!
I found while doing my testing that there were some super-huge posts in the forum that were causing a variety of problems. Most were spam :). I believe only one was an editor post and I've let that editor know about it.
One of the updates with the new forum software is it now allows - finally - a "nofollow" setting on external links from our forums. I'll explain why this is key to understand for any web writing you do.
GOOGLE AND NOFOLLOW
Google is a search engine. The way Google adds pages to their database is they go out and "spider" websites. They usually start at the top, look for links, and follow the links to a new page. So it's an organic process, just like a human being would do. Click on a link. Look for links on the new page and click on them. As the spider goes from page to page it gets more and more data. It also sees which pages get a lot of links and therefore should be "more valuable".
However, in the world of link farms, there were people out there who would pay lots of money to get lots of people to link to them. This is how link farms got artificially high rankings and "bought" a #1 result. Google didn't like that, and users generally hated it.
So Google now has a "nofollow" tag for external links. Websites who don't use the nofollow tags are severely penalized. Google almost assumes if you have external links on your pages and you're not using nofollow that you're up to something nefarious. They penalize you appropriately.
I realize many of us have hundreds of articles and have 1-2 external links at the bottom of each one. I also realize the idea of going through and editing all of those links to have the tag of
might be daunting. So I automated it on the server side :). You simply make your A HREF links as usual in the article. When it displays to the world, it will have the nofollow tag automatically on it.
Note that this tag ONLY affects search engines! The user won't know or care at all. They see the link as usual and can click to their heart's content. This is only about protecting your ranking in Google.
So the forums will have the nofollows automatically, and our articles now have the nofollows automatically. This should help ensure our page rankings remain high and valued in Google.
For the other sites you run, I realize adding nofollow tags can be a time consuming task. I've been working with several editors to help them brainstorm about ways to automate / efficiently do this on their personal websites. For mine, I have a tool called TextCrawler (free) which you can look at an entire directory tree of files and look for any text string in them. So I can look for typical links I use and replace them across the entire set of pages at once.
Once the forums are done updating I'll post in the HTML forum so editors who haven't done the nofollow work on their personal sites can get some help. We'll find a way to make it as painless as possible.
I know sometimes it seems that the world around us is changing at a rapid pace. It's true! It's often in service of Google getting better and better. Remember in the old days where there were lots of porn and scammy top results? Google is getting better at avoiding those, which is good. As web writers we need to make sure we're aware of their coding changes and stay in their "good graces". That way each of us, in whatever web projects we pursue, can reach the goals we've set.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments!
Lisa Shea, owner
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