Whether you decide to use nofollow links or not, it’s important to remember that they are only one part of your SEO strategy. You should also focus on creating great content, optimizing your site with keywords and adding social media sharing buttons so that people can share what they find interesting with their friends and followers.
In this post, we discuss the aspects of Nofollow Links For Seo, difference between dofollow and nofollow links for seo, when to use nofollow links, and are nofollow links worth anything.
Nofollow Links For Seo
The nofollow attribute is a relatively new addition to the HTML standard, and it’s used to indicate that a link shouldn’t be followed by search engines. Generally speaking, you should use nofollow links on any of the following types of content.
What Is a Nofollow Link?
A nofollow link is a hyperlink that search engines do not follow. This means that when you are trying to get backlinks on a website, the search engines will not count it as an incoming link to your site.
This is often used for spam prevention and protecting against penalization from Google Penguin penalties, which can be triggered by unnatural links pointing towards your site. A nofollowed link has no influence on your SEO because these links pass no value to either party, nor do they impact rankings in any way.
When Should You Use The Nofollow Attribute In Your Links?
While nofollow links can be a useful tool, they shouldn’t be used on every link.
They are most effective when:
- You don’t want to give credit to the linked site with a link that gives them search engine ranking credit (i.e., the link doesn’t pass PageRank)
- You don’t want to be associated with the linked site’s content or search engine rankings. For example, if you’re linking from your blog about how amazing it is that cats can catch mice in your backyard and someone else has written an article about how disgusting it is that cats kill birds in their backyard, then you’d probably want to use nofollow so as not to associate yourself with their content.
User Generated Content
User-generated content is any content that is created by a user. Typically, this can be found on social media platforms and used to promote your business or competitors.
To make sure you are using UGC in the right way, here are some things you should know:
- When users create their own content, it’s not actually hosted by the company who owns the platform they use (Facebook, Twitter) so there won’t be any links back to your site unless you ask them directly for permission first (which isn’t necessarily allowed).
- If users do decide to link back with their UGC then this counts as external linking which we know is important for SEO purposes! This means that Google will see what you’re doing online through your mentions from these sites so please remember not only does this help with search engine rankings but also helps build brand awareness too!
Paid links are another type of link that can be used to increase traffic to your website. However, paid links are not free and the results you get from them will not necessarily be any better than what you would get from other types of backlinks. The main risk with paid links is that they could lead to your site being penalized by search engines for having an unnatural link profile.
In some cases, it may be worth paying for a few paid links because these can help increase your ranking in search results if those pages have high rankings themselves (which is why the company selling them was willing to pay so much money). This strategy works best when combined with other types of backlinks as well but it’s important to keep track of all the different types so that they don’t look unnatural or spammy when viewed by Google via Ahrefs Site Explorer or Moz Open Site Explorer (the two most popular tools among SEO professionals).
Affiliate links are not as bad as paid links, but they can still hurt your website. Affiliate links are used by bloggers to monetize their blogs and can be hard to find and remove.
Link Exchanges And Reciprocal Links
There are two types of link exchanges: 1) You swap links with a site that has similar content, and 2) the site you’re swapping with links to you in return. The first type is fine, but the second one can be bad for your SEO.
In order for both parties to benefit from a reciprocal link exchange, the sites must have relevant content that will appeal to each other’s audiences. Otherwise, there’s no reason for anyone to visit your page or read what you’ve written if they were only interested in finding out more about fashion trends or getting tips on how to build their brand awareness on social media platforms. If done correctly though (and not too often), they can provide useful backlinks that boost ranking power when indexed by search engines such as Google or Bing along with helping your website appear higher in organic results when someone searches related terms.”
The best way to get free links, of course, is to make your own content. Write articles and promote them on social media. Create videos and post them on YouTube and other video sites like Vimeo, Dailymotion and others. If you have the budget for it, you can pay for advertising on social media too.
But what about blog comments? Don’t they count as a “link”? They do—sort of—but only if someone clicks through from the comment into your website. If not, then no one will see (and/or link back to) your site from that blog comment because no one ever sees those pages in Google’s index unless they’re directly linked by other sites or pages using rel=”nofollow” tags.
difference between dofollow and nofollow links for seo
In a multifaceted universe of links, there are several technical nuances that are invisible to the user but make a huge difference in how the link is perceived by search engines. Those nuances are link attribute values placed in the page code inside the link tag <a>. By default, links are followed by search crawlers and pass the link juice to the pages they refer to, but when the nofollow attribute value is specified, this default behavior doesn’t apply.
So, what does it mean to nofollow a link and when should you do so? In this post, we’ll explain the SEO value followed and nofollowed links bring, what other link attribute values are out there, and how to build a safe backlink profile with regard to link tag specifications.
What is a dofollow link?
What might be called a dofollow link, or followed link, is, in fact, just a regular link. It’s being called so in the context of the nofollow value only, to emphasize that the link is not subject to any specific SEO instructions and should live up to regular expectations, i.e. pass link juice and authority to the referred sources.
To clear this up, let’s have a look at how a link looks like in the code:
The first example is a followed, regular link, and the second example is a nofollowed link. As you can see, there’s no such thing as rel=”dofollow” in the code because it’s the default behavior that goes without specifying.
It all means that with no additional attribute values included in the code, links work as the web intended: they are authority signals that increase the importance of the web pages they cite. Throwing back to the early days of search, Google was the first search engine to assign a key role to links: with the PageRank algorithm introduction in 1998, Google started treating citations as votes that pass weight on web pages, making the most cited ones the most reliable and high-ranking. The algorithm has changed, as well as the way SEOs approach link acquisition, but the main thing about links remains the same: getting high-quality external sources to link out to you will increase your rankings.
What is PageRank & Does it still matter
How do dofollow backlinks help rankings?
When we talk about link value for rankings, we usually mean backlinks, the links you get for your website from external sources. Search engines have lots of ranking factors (we know that Google has more than 200), and high-quality backlinks are in the top-2 major factors together with content. A Backlinko 2020 study revealed that pages ranking first in Google had 3.8 times more backlinks than pages ranking in the top 2-9.
We asked Stewart Dunlop, founder of link building agency LinkBuilder.io, to share his insights on exactly how links help rankings:
Quite simply put, every single independent SEO study points to links being the most important ranking factor. Of course, having good content which has the ability to rank is a prerequisite nowadays, and honestly with some of the tools available on the market it’s not hard to do. The main factor separating the competition at the top of Google’s search results is high quality links, and this has always been the major thing that separates Google from other search engines.
The number of received links matter but they impact rankings in a more nuanced way than just by their quantity. Evaluating backlinks, search engines consider the following:
All the aforementioned matters when the link is followed and doesn’t give any additional instructions to search engines. But what happens when a link contains nofollow or other attribute values?
What is a nofollow link?
Sometimes, websites don’t want to endorse linked sources, and the nofollow attribute value tells search engines that a referred web page isn’t necessarily what you intend to give credit to. Now, it works as a hint and not a directive and is also different from some new values designed for sponsored and user-generated content. But let’s get to the details step by step.
The evolution of nofollow and other rel attribute values
Nofollow was introduced in 2005 by Google as a response to the surge of comment spam: website owners would leave links to their own sites in the comment sections on external websites or forums and get higher rankings regardless of the relevance of the comment and the overall quality of their pages. Bing and Yahoo also supported the idea and started treating the values of the rel attribute similarly.
From 2005, nofollow functioned as a directive and search engines would absolutely not crawl nofollowed links. It stopped some manipulations but didn’t solve all the problems with different types of links and levels of trust placed on them.
In 2019, Google changed their perspective on nofollowed links, making nofollow a hint and introducing some new attribute values. It means that even if the link is nofollowed, it still can be crawled and included in the ranking process. The new values, rel=”sponsored” is meant for paid partner links and rel=”ugc” is supposed to be used with links left by users. They can be used separately or in combination with rel=”nofollow”:
How to know if the link is nofollowed?
What happens in the rel attribute stays in the page code—it’s not visible to users. But you can easily check if any link has any attribute values. There are several ways to do that:
With the NoFollow extension in Chrome (it’s also available for Firefox), nofollowed links are highlighted in red, while others aren’t marked in any way. Here’s how it looks like:
And here’s how followed links are highlighted by External Followed Link Highlighter:
Some more complex extensions not just highlight the linked sources but generate a report with backlink and domain parameters. For example, you can filter followed/nofollowed links using SEOquake:
In the Backlinks section of the tool, the Type column indicates whether a backlink comes from text or image, as well as whether it’s followed.
You can also view the distribution of followed and nofollowed backlinks and filter the table by this value:
Now as we’ve outlined the differences between the rel attribute values, let’s discuss if nofollowed links have any SEO value and why it’s important to check if a backlink is followed.
Are nofollow links helpful for SEO?
Websites aim to get as many followed backlinks as possible, and it totally makes sense. But it’s also worth it to receive nofollow links as they can increase your traffic, brand awareness, rankings, and further link building opportunities.
We asked Bibi Raven, a link building professional and founder at Bibibuzz, to share her opinion on the value of nofollow links:
Some of my clients appreciate no-follow links, which is great as it opens up more options for amazing link prospects.
Personally, I would not turn down a contextual link from a relevant, strong page that’s targeting your audience. It’s just common sense.
Even if Google values it less to rank, it has a big chance of bringing you high-quality referral traffic. Which is why we’re doing SEO in the first place, to get the right eyeballs on your products or services, right?
My perspective is that a mix of various types of links looks natural and won’t show up as a suspicious pattern in the long-term. Spread the gain, spread the risk!
Nofollow backlinks can improve your SEO in the following ways:
NB! There’s much less information on how Google alternatives perceive the rel attribute values, and we can assume that nofollowed links might have even a greater value if you’re targeting other search engines. They often indicate the importance of relevant and helpful backlinks with no regard to whether they are followed. For instance, Bing recommends getting “quality links […] from a website Bing knows already and trusts,” and DuckDuckGo claims that “links from high-quality sites […] are the best way to get good rankings.”
Everything you need to know about backlinks
Can nofollow links hurt your website?
Speaking of nofollow backlinks, Google’s reaction has been the same since 2013: they can’t hurt your website unless you’re involved in spammy link exchanges. You should be concerned about getting backlinks from high-quality sources and regularly monitor if spammy websites link out to you. For example, you can add your backlinks to SE Ranking’s Backlink Monitor and filter them by the Domain Trust score that indicates how authoritative a referring domain is:
If the score is low or unknown, there’s no anchor text, and the server response code is different from 200, then you probably should remove those links. It’s true to both followed and nofollowed backlinks. To remove potentially harmful backlinks, you’ll have to contact referring websites or collect a full list and submit it with Google or other search engines you’re targeting.
The best ratio of dofollow and nofollow backlinks
With all abovementioned benefits in mind, you should work on receiving both followed and nofollowed backlinks. But how to treat the nofollow value in the context of your outbound links—those that you place on your web pages referring to other sources?
when to use nofollow links
The internet is founded on links. Without links, it would be like a city without roads, sidewalks, or trails. Isolated buildings might stand taller than anything for miles around, but no one can get there, so what does it matter?
Links are also the foundation of how Google’s search works. Beneath all of the search ranking factors, beneath all of the technical aspects of SEO, beneath user experience and site speed, is links. Google was founded on analyzing links to and from websites, giving them weight and value, and ranking sites based on them.
How Links Work in Search
In the earliest versions of the search ranking algorithm, it was all pretty simple. A website has more value if it has more links pointing towards it. Two sites, equal in every other way, would rank differently depending on the number of other sites that link to them.
Google quickly grew more and more sophisticated in response to the ways this system can be abused.
They recognized, for example, that multiple links from the same domain might not be as valuable as links from multiple domains. One site linking to another five times won’t give that site as much of a boost as four sites linking to it would.
They also recognized how easy this system was to exploit. They began to analyze the kinds of links, their quality, their position. Links in footers and sidebars are less valuable than links in the content. Links from a relevant site are more valuable than links from an unrelated site. A plumber won’t get much use out of a link from a game developer, but they would from a fixture manufacturer or a home repair site.
Google also recognized that there are times when a site owner might want to link to a site without giving that site any value. I might want to link to a site I know is part of a private blog network, or that is a spam site, or that is unrelated to my business, to use as an example for you all. I can say “see this spam site? Here are the 10 things wrong with it, and what you should avoid doing.”
Sure, I could get around linking to it by writing their URL in plaintext and using screenshots, but I’m savvy enough to know about link-based SEO. Someone who isn’t might not do that. Should they be penalized because they don’t know the deep inner workings of Google’s algorithms? Of course not.
That’s why Google introduced the nofollow attribute.
The Introduction of Nofollow
So, what is the nofollow attribute?
Google created the nofollow attribute as an attribute for links in HTML code. It’s a meta attribute, meaning it has no impact on the user’s use of links or the existence of those links. It’s only relevant to search engines, and only if those search engines care about it. Google does. Bing probably does. Does Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo, or Ask? Who knows.
The attribute was created in 2005 as a way of fighting comment spam. Google recognized a problem. Blogs have comment sections, where anyone can leave a message. When a user leaves a link in that message, the link is a link on the webpage. Spam sites would then go out and leave comments on millions of websites (with links back to their websites) as a way to boost their SEO.
This had to stop, so Google introduced nofollow as a way to help minimize the value transferred by a link. The idea was that site owners could implement it on their comments sections, so all user-generated links would be automatically tagged with it. It looks a little something like this:
To break this down (Sorry for those of you who know what HTML is; I like to explain things in detail):
There are also quite a few other attributes that can be part of a URL, though some of them aren’t in use anymore. For example, you can use URN, REV, and even TITLE. Some of these elements have been deprecated and aren’t really in use in modern web development, but they technically still exist.
As far as nofollow goes, it describes the relationship between your page and the page you’re linking to in that link. It tells Google not to follow the link; as in, you’re not endorsing the link and should not pass value from your site onto the other site.
How Nofollow Works
In the past, webmasters have used nofollow in any instance where the linking site does not want value passed to the linked site. This allowed for a reduction in spam, as it reduced the reason spam sites would leave spam comments, though as you’ve probably seen, it still happens on a consistent basis.
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Several problems have cropped up with this over the intervening 15 years, which have changed how sophisticated the attribute is and how people should use it.
For example, initially, the attribute was meant primarily for comments. Eventually, people started using it for other links. For example, if I wanted to link to a spam site, I could do so safely without giving it SEO value by using nofollow.
Then people started using it to sculpt their PageRank. PageRank sculpting is the practice of knowing how Google divides up and distributes the value of your pages amongst the pages you link to, and using nofollow to sculpt the flow and direct the PageRank to pages you wanted.
Eventually, Google put a stop to that by making even nofollowed links drain PageRank from your page, but not give it to the linked page. You can’t squeeze all of the value of your pages using nofollow, you have to get rid of those links, and a page with no links is also not great for SEO.
One of the most recent changes to nofollow is the addition of two more nofollow-like attributes. There are now three “nofollows”, so to speak. They’re all treated as nofollow, but they have slightly different connotations as to why the content you’re linking to is nofollowed.
You do not need to use both nofollow and one of the other two, because they all mean the same thing. You can use more than one, though, if a link can be appropriately described in both ways. You won’t get in trouble for using nofollow on a sponsored link or for user-generated links either; Google doesn’t expect you to change everything retroactively. It’s a “nice to have”, not a necessity.
Why Use Nofollow At All?
We’ve come a long way from the spam-filled early 2000 days of web spam and ranking manipulation. Google is infinitely more sophisticated now than it was back then, and it’s getting more sophisticated every year. So why bother using any of these link attributes? Shouldn’t Google be smart enough to determine the quality of the destination of the link and ignore it accordingly?
Well, yes and no. Google could certainly make that determination, but they don’t, for two reasons.
The first is that they don’t want to. That’s more work that they would have to do, and it means maintaining an index of relationships between every site and every other site they’ve ever linked to.
You might want to nofollow a link to a perfectly good website because that site is a competitor. It’s not a bad site, it’s not sponsored or user-generated or spam, but you don’t want your site passing value to them. Should Google widespread-discount all links pointing at that site? Of course not. Should Google overrule you and count the link anyway? You don’t want them to. Letting Google make that determination means they’re likely going to make it in a way that favors equitable search value, and not your own site’s preferences.
The other reason is that it gives Google far too much power, even more than they already have (if they start making that determination). A site could be low quality but not spam, but that site would never grow if all the links pointing to it were automatically marked as nofollow just because the site doesn’t already have enough value. It would be a “rich get richer” situation where the people who haven’t already made it will never have another chance.
What about not using the link attributes at all? What happens if you link to a spam site and don’t nofollow the link?
In the best-case scenario, nothing happens. Your link exists, you pass a little value to the spam site, but Google still knows it’s a spam site so it never ranks well, and might not even be indexed.
In the worst-case scenario, Google decides that since you’re linking to that site, and you haven’t used an attribute to distance yourself from it, you must be intentionally trying to give it some value. That means you must be associated with it, and thus you are also some kind of spam site. This happens in private blog networks all the time: PBNs are against Google’s rules, and when they’re detected, they’re delisted. Sometimes innocent sites are caught up in that because they link into it. Often not, since it requires the PBN sites linking out as well, but it can still happen.
When to Use a Nofollow Attribute
So when should you make use of nofollow on a link? You have to analyze the site you’re linking to and determine if you should use a parameter, and if so, which one.
Generally, you want to think about the relevance, relationship, and value of a link. Is the destination page one that would benefit from your link juice? Is it one you want to benefit from? If so, follow the link. If not, nofollow it. Also, it’s worthwhile to perform a link audit once every year or so, to make sure old links haven’t gone sour.
James Parsons is the founder and CEO of Content Powered, a content creation company. He’s been a content marketer for over 10 years and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and many other publications on blogging and website strategy.
are nofollow links worth anything
Let’s face it – SEO is not getting any easier. If you don’t have years of experience under your belt, some of the countless recent changes might confuse you. And nofollow links can be one such challenge – which today we’ll tackle together. In this article, we’ll first look at whether nofollow links are worth your time, energy, and money. Next, we’ll also quickly touch upon exactly how Google handles nofollow links. And lastly, we break down whether it’s possible to rank only with nofollow links. Let’s dive in, starting off by answering if nofollow links are any good for SEO.
Contextual nofollow links can be highly valuable since they are a natural part of the internet. It is normal to have nofollow links, and they help you diversify your backlink profile. Consequently, maintaining a natural backlink profile is an important SEO practice for preventing penalties.
As such, well-placed, contextual nofollow links can drive relevant traffic to your website and spread brand awareness. Nofollow links from known websites can also help you sculpt authority in your industry – and, therefore, bring you many marketing opportunities and future collaborations. Having a strong brand is an important element for SEO success – and nofollow links can improve that.
For example, imagine an article on a large media website like Forbes.com or Entrepeneur.com. Outbound links on most large websites of this class are virtually all marked with the nofollow attribute. However, given the exposure you receive being mentioned on such a platform, you can easily boost many other marketing signals.
Those could be anything from social media exposure influencer partnerships to even more guest contribution opportunities. For these reasons, nofollow links can be a great way to accelerate your digital PR strategy and create a ripple effect in your link-building approach.
So how can you judge whether a specific nofollow link will be beneficial to you? Simply answer this:
“If you had to build this link for a strict client who has to pay for it, would you feel comfortable showing them that link?”
Last but not least, since Google changed how it treats nofollow links, they now pass more value than before. How come? Let’s answer that by looking at how Google handles nofollow links next.
How does Google handle nofollow links?
Historically Google has treated nofollow links as “directives”. Essentially, this meant that Google disregarded all nofollow links, determined that they do not affect the website’s authority, and did not use them to influence the rankings of that website.
However, the March 1, 2020, Google Algorithm Update introduced changes to how Google handles the nofollow tag. Together with the addition of rel=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc”, Google now considers the rel=”nofollow” links as “hints”. In other words, contextual, high-quality links can still contribute to your web rankings.
To put it simply, currently, Google’s search ranking algorithms treat the nofollow attribute as a suggestion on whether any ranking credit should be passed to the linked website. Based on the quality of the link and the context it provides, Google can either count the link as a beneficial credit to the website, disregard it as a signal from the index altogether, or count it towards their spam signals calculations.
These changes mean that things are no longer “black and white”, and Google’s collecting even more signals from the web to determine the search result page’s rankings. In fact, as long as your nofollow links are contextually relevant and well-placed, they can even potentially be considered as dofollow links by Google.
However, you can most certainly assume that nofollow links appearing on thin, irrelevant pages are still considered fully “nofollow”. Consequently, they likely pass no beneficial value between the websites at all.
Can you rank #1 on Google only with nofollow links?
The reality is that in 2022, creating backlinks is harder than ever. Yes, the number of potential opportunities, i.e., the supply, has grown tremendously. However, the demand has outpaced the supply.
Additionally, most of the popular tactics used in the past are so overused that SEOs simply ignore them. And even if you decide to buy (sponsor) your way to a great backlink profile, that doesn’t come cheap either.
SEO is an increasingly popular practice, which leads to increased competition in Google Search. Nowadays, most websites rank at the top with the help of strong dofollow backlinks. As such, having only nofollow links is rarely sufficient in achieving the desired rankings for most companies.
Actively reaching out and “begging” for links is often frowned upon. Meanwhile, creating great content with original research requires plenty of resources. As such, building links can be an especially daunting task for a small business.
To better visualize this, imagine that you and your competitor are optimizing for the same low-competition keyword. All things equal, you can outrank your competitor with only nofollow links. The logic is simple – some good signals, even though relatively, are better than none.
However, note also that this is a hypothetical scenario – and things are usually much more complicated. Countless variables come into play in SEO – and businesses are becoming aware of them at an ever-increasing rate.
Nowadays, SEO is a very widespread practice, and many businesses are using it to generate sales. This is absolutely understandable given that 67% of all clicks in Google Search go to the top 5 results. Moreover, 70% of marketers say that SEO is more effective at driving sales compared to PPC channels like Google Ads.
Because of that, naturally, the competition for your keywords and topics increases. Therefore, many of the websites that rank at the top currently do so with strong dofollow backlinks.
In turn, having only a few nofollow links might not be enough to rank at the very top for more competitive keywords. For that reason, it’s important to objectively judge your competitive space. With the help of an SEO professional, you can quickly create an SEO competitive analysis that will inform your plan of action.
Build nofollow links and improve your SEO
To conclude, nofollow links are still valuable for SEO – and will be so for the foreseeable future. In essence, you should implement them as part of your link-building strategy. That is, even if you’re not actively reaching out to get nofollow links, you should not turn down contextual links marked with “rel=nofollow”.