Posted by Jane Copland
I may be totally wrong on this, or maybe I’ve overlooked some obvious explanation as to why some content on the end of nofollowed SEOmoz comment links has been indexed and ranked. Puzzling over this by myself and with friends hasn’t produced any good conclusions, so I thought I’d throw this out there to the community.
Nutshell: periodically, I’ll search for my own name in search engines. If you say you’ve never done this, you’re a liar. Everyone has. You’ve also checked your Images results. I was quite amused a few months ago when I realised that a relatively terrible picture from Pubcon was ranking for my name. Unfortunately, it isn’t ranking anymore. I rather enjoyed it.
The strange thing about that picture is not that it’s not of me. Barely any of them are. The strange thing is how the picture ended up ranking for my name. I had linked to the image from a blog comment here at SEOmoz and blog comments are all nofollowed. The picture was from Facebook, even though content is supposedly "behind closed doors" and available only to those people who are authorised to see it. Linking to a jpeg file on the site works. Like this.
Nowhere else on the Internet had I linked to the other Facebook image file. As far as I could tell, the file hadn’t been linked to with my name (or in the general vicinity of my name) either. I began to see more and more pictures ranking, all of which I’d linked to in comments. A lot of them had been edited in, and "edited by Jane Copland" often showed up underneath the pictures.
There are various other instances of these pictures showing up for my name, presumably because my name appears very close to their links. The images are shown with their original URLs, but the pages that load beneath the result are our blog posts. Let me know what I’m missing here, as I can’t work it out for myself.
I thought Google was supposed to treat nofollowed links as though they were not there. When nofollow was born, Search Engine Watch reported that:
Nofollow effectively will cause Google to ignore the link, to pretend it doesn’t exist.
In an interview here at SEOmoz from August 2007, Matt Cutts said:
For Google, nofollow’ed links are dropped out of our link graph; we don’t even use such links for discovery.
Are the rules different for images? If not, why are these pictures being discovered as having relevance to my name? And does that mean I should start linking to flattering pictures, rather than to pictures of scary cats?