By Joe Borders
Marriage and Family Therapist
Why Directories Don’t Pass PageRank
I was very excited this week. I thought I had finally figured out a way to communicate my dreams for SacWellness to therapists in the community. I was really on to something. I collected a bunch of data, spent hours researching, and then discovered something that brought a key premise of SacWellness crashing down….It was a hard week.
When I started SacWellness, a large part of my dream was to combat the big therapist directories like Psychology Today and reclaim our local Google search results. I’ve been frustrated for years by the fact that sites like Psychology Today rank higher than many therapists’ websites, even for search terms like a therapists’ name!
In building my own practice I spent innumerable hours working on my internet presence and researching how search engines rank sites. It really worked, and got me into a good place in my practice! I wanted to use this knowledge in some way that I could share with other therapists. I thought I could do this through SacWellness. The idea was to grow the site, which would then grow its members. This is still very possible….but not in the way I envisioned.
One of the biggest ways search engines determine how to rank web pages is through the sites that link to them. If a big, reputable site links to yours, in theory Google sees that as a big, reputable source of information voting for the validity and reliability of your site. Through using various tools, I have tracked the sites that link to mine, and over the years I have wondered why I don’t see Psychology Today, Good Therapy, and all the other directories I have listings on linking to my site. The reason is that they all use one form or another of something that tells Google to ignore their link to your site as a vote for your website.
I wanted to tell you that this was an intentional act of malice on their parts. That these directories intentionally did these things to keep the rest of us from outranking them in search results and ensure that they stay on the top. They might get this benefit as a result of what they’re doing, but I have discovered this week that they are most likely doing it because Google mandates it.
I did A LOT of research this week to figure all of this out. It turns out that Google has a couple of rules that may apply to a website like SacWellness. The main one is that Google says that if money is exchanged for links, then those links must be “Nofollowed” (an HTML tag that tells Google to not pass PageRank to the link).
I’m not 100% sure if this applies to SacWellness, because we are charging for listings…not for links. Users have the ability to add a link to their listings, but the listing is what we’re selling, not the link. For the time being (until 2020 or until we discover more that compels us to change things) we’re going to keep our links as is (not using “Nofollow” tags) because we aren’t charging anyone yet, thereby not breaking any of Google’s guidelines.
We’re going to do more research and work on this over the coming 8 months (before we start charging) and see if we can find any way around this…because we really feel like therapists deserve to be ranking better…at least for their names. But that’s essentially the problem here, Google may consider what we’re wanting to do as a form of attempting to manipulate search engine results.
So! At the very least, what we do know is that henceforth we can no longer claim that having a listing on SacWellness can improve your search engine rankings. It very well may. Google is crazy and doesn’t tell us everything. But we can’t tell you that it will, because that could be seen as us selling links rather than listings on the site.
Because there is no monetary transaction in any way, we can safely say that guest blogging on SacWellness will likely pass PageRank. Again, we can’t say for sure, because Google is ultimately a mystery, but in the end, having your content in more reputable places can only benefit you.
So. In the end, all of this is sad to me, but I think the site will be ok even if we have to Nofollow all links on therapist listings. In general most therapists I have talked to about the site have not been aware of SEO and how backlinks can be helpful to them. We can still grow SacWellness into a great resource for our community and therapists who list on the site will definitely get more exposure to potential clients. We just can’t make any claims as to how having a listing might benefit your SEO efforts.
We have lots of ideas about ways to expand the site and are still really dedicated to being the best for our community. We really wanted to be forthcoming about this discovery with you. We hope that this doesn’t deter you from continuing to list on the site and we welcome any and all questions you might have.
Thank you again for listing on SacWellness…..and for sticking it out with us while we figure all this stuff out.
About the Author
Joe Borders is a marriage and family therapist located in Roseville and Sacramento. He is primarily a sex positive gender therapist, but also specializes in working with couples, teens, addiction, and the LGBTQ community. Joe is also the owner and founder of SacWellness. You can find out more about him by visiting his sacwellness listing or by visiting his website: therapy and counseling in Roseville and Sacramento