Nofollow links | Useless or still Worth something?

Adam Chronister 🎓
No follow links. Useless or still worth something? Curious on everyone's thoughts.
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Brent » Ammon
Had some intresting stuff to say about this. And believe me he knows his shit.
William
No follow links are good in bulk, that's how local search is propped up.
But when I say "bulk" I mean using a platform that manages citations on hundreds of different sites.

Ammon
That's true, but it's because Local Search uses a very different algorithm and doesn't count links in the same way as any other. Local Search dials PageRank factors right down, and goes on Citations instead.
There's an obvious reason for this. Many small towns, villages, and quiet suburbs are on the edges of larger towns and cities. The local newspaper covering the small town/village or suburb may be something more like a parish newsletter, barely more than a flyer, with a tiny circulation just of the specific area. It's own 'popularity' and PageRank is going to be just a miniscule fraction of what the newspapers, city guides, and similar of the city it borders.
If you counted PageRank, businesses within the city, cited by the city's publications, would always massively outrank the businesses within the suburb or village on the outskirts – even when you were searching from that village.
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William » Ammon
So does that mean once a business starts ranking in local search for a C or D market, they can no longer rank for the A market even if they're in relatively close proximity? Also, where does a practitioner learn about ranking algorithms to that depth?
Ammon » William
It's more that actual locality is a bigger factor – i.e. precise distance – over 'catchment areas'. Especially given that people naturally 'game' their catchment areas to get volume, rather than base it on how many customers they actually earn from the area.
For an example, think of that dry cleaner we've all seen. The one that gets business mostly from passing trade (literally, people who will be passing the place anyway, so see it as a convenient place to drop off and pick up from) and customers living within a block or so either side. What do you bet that in Google My Business (GMB) he'd list the whole city as his catchment area (and in many cases, several nearby towns too)? 😃
Algorithms attempt to 'model' the factors that go into our own decisions. That means that when you search for a coffee shop, a do-it-yourself | DIY store, or whatever, it tries to list the absolute closest very highly, because it would seem a bit broken to many if they just wanted the closest place to grab a coffee and Local Maps made them walk past 3 perfectly adequate ones to get to the one it listed. But on the flipside, it will try to include some of the ones worth travelling a bit further for too. Like listing the fancy downtown restaurant everyone raves about even though there are a dozen nearer diners and dives.
As to where to learn stuff like this, well, Google's own patents and papers are an amazing resource that detail factors and thinking such as this. Slawski does a great job of highlighting many of the best or most meaningful ones over at http://www.seobythesea.com/ so that's a good place to start, and to keep monitoring. Google's various webmaster help and blog resources are also pretty good.
Ultimately though, a lot also comes down to sheer time and experience. Seeing one patent or paper tells you quite a bit, but seeing multiple ones and how they build up over time, layers of thinking, takes it to that deeper level.
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William
Thanks
Ammon. You've certainly given me a lot to chew on. What do you think about a national business where the biggest competition are local mom/pop stores in every Region/City. I work for a national printing company that has 305 stores across the country, but in every market, we're outranked by local individual print shops. We've attempted to boost our local search strategy through directories, citations, new store locator tool complete with individual store locations, but are still getting outranked in searches containing "near me". I think our local search ranking is increasing, but it has been slow going.
Ammon » William
Yeah, and the 'near me' is the particular bone of contention, or rather, signal of intent, that Google is taking to heart. There's lots of ways to work around it, but you're working against 'customer intent' in the way the customers have worded their search.
You can go with advertizing of various forms, but the only way to get those customers on organic results is to change what they are searching for (by publicity campaigns, brand awareness campaigns, etc).

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Ammon
Link Diversity is a lot like Domain Authority – a much overstated myth born from dumbed-down retelling of ancient advice.
Link Diversity never had anything to do with NOFOLLOW, as it predates it. It was about not having a recognizeable 'pattern' of links that could give away a particular scheme of link building or manipulation. It was the answer to questions about reciprocal linking and link-swaps – and that tells you how old a term it was.
As people who didn't really understand a link graph tried to get more and more creative about hiding link networks, using triangular links, link wheels and various other exercises of geometry they still failed to actually attain the link diversity that mattered – the authority anchors on which their little pocket of links was connected to and from the web as a whole, and the 'seed set' of authority links.
You see, links don't matter to Google because they are votes from one site to another so much. They matter because they show how all things are connected, and at what points of intersection. It's all about 'Network Theory' and things like the "Six Degrees of Separation".
Technically, I should be able to start from any page on the web – most likely one of the homepages for a website that even people who've never touched a computer know, such as Amazon or Wikipedia, and by doing nothing but clicking links, be able to eventually reach any other page in existence. Everything is connected (unless it is fake or irrelevant), and the degrees of separation tell you how connected.
But what people who built huge link networks, including Private Blog Network (PBN) sites, so often do is create vast networks that only connect to each other, and have surprisingly (and immediately noticeably) few actual connections to and from the wider web, and those, only from pages that are, themselves, many degrees separated from the central 'hubs' of the Internet.
Link Diversity is about having links flowing into your 'circuit' from many domains, not just 1 or 2. From a variety of IP blocks. And not just from within your social network or business network where you might easily have traded or bartered for them in some manner. Nothing at all to do with follow and nofollow.
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