In the online world, website links are important. They play a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO), drive traffic, and even help build brand awareness. There’s been a lot of fuss about no follow links. But what is a follow link? Today we’ll discuss what they are, why they exist, and whether they’re good for SEO.
Before we dive into nofollow links and follow links, let us first discuss what backlinks are.
Your page gets an SEO boost whenever your website gets an inbound link, a link from another website that points to your page. The more inbound links you get, the better chances you’ll get at achieving a higher rank on search engine results pages (SERP)s.
How do nofollow and dofolllow links fit into all these? Backlinks can be divided into these two categories.
What Is A Nofollow Link?
A no follow link gives search engines a hint that they shouldn’t follow the outbound link that was tagged. It’s an indicator that you’re not promoting that link. You can use the nofollow link tag for inorganic links.
In link building, you might also earn some nofollow links. Generally, nofollow links won’t help improve your rankings or domain authority.
Why Do Nofollow Links Exist?
Google initially created the nofollow tag “rel=nofollow” to prevent spamming. Spammy comments were quite rampant before when the popularity of blogs skyrocketed.
Spammers loved to leave their website links in the comment section of blogs. The practice also became prevalent in online forums and message boards.
It worked so well back in the day and a lot of people used this method to rank their sites on SERPs. Because of blog comment spam, many low-quality websites ranked high on Google while quality websites were pushed down in the search results.
To stop it from getting out of control, Google decided to create the nofollow tag in 2005 and it applied it to its algorithm ever since. Other search engines like Yahoo and Bing followed suit.
Thanks to the nofollow link attribute, Google managed to filter the bad links out, and it paved the way for a fairer ranking of websites.
On March 1, 2020, Google has changed its policy concerning nofollow links. It now treats it as a hint instead of a directive.
Google also introduced two new link attributes to nofollow tags: rel=”ugc” and rel=“sponsored.”
In the past, Google only uses the nofollow code to determine if it should disregard a certain link. With these two specific options, Google will have an idea of where these nofollow links come from.
The sponsored attribute should be given to all advertising, promotional, paid, or sponsored links.
Meanwhile, the ugc attribute can be used for forum posts, comments, and other user-generated content that wasn’t made for advertising purposes.
How Can You Check If A Link Is A Follow Or Nofollow Link?
You might think that nofollow and follow links have no difference. It may look like that on the surface but when you dig deeper, you’ll learn that they differ in so many ways, especially when it comes to their source codes.
How do you determine if a link has a dofollow or nofollow attribute?
In Chrome, you can right-click on the page and click on Inspect Element. On Firefox, you can right-click and choose view page source. Then search for nofollow and all instances of such a tag will be highlighted.
What Is The Difference Between Dofollow And Nofollow Links?
Before we dive into the difference between nofollow and follow links, let us first discuss the natural and unnatural links.
Natural Vs. Unnatural Links
Google wants natural and organic links, otherwise, you’ll get penalized. Natural links are considered organic because they link to your site without your help.
It means that others have included your link in their content because they found your content relevant and useful.
On the one hand, unnatural links are created to deceive search engines and manipulate their site’s rankings. These types of links violate Google’s guidelines and will negatively affect your page’s ranking.
Some of the common examples of unnatural links are as follows:
Links from low-quality directory sites
Exchanging links for services
Follow Links Vs. NoFollow Links
Dofollow links are backlinks that tell search engine crawlers and users that you have trustworthy and relevant content.
These links recommend your website, which in turn helps boost your credibility and website traffic. Your website can increase its page rankings with enough dofollow links.
Nofollow links, on the other hand, don’t increase your site’s credibility and don’t affect SEO.
But when a well-known website links to yours, even if it’s been tagged as a nofollow link, it can still drive traffic to your website.
YouTube, Wikipedia, Reddit, Twitch, Quora, and Medium are only a few of the popular websites that use nofollow tags on all their outbound links.
Here’s a list of common inbound links that are generally considered as nofollow:
Press release links
Links from certain news sites and blogs
Links in user-generated content like forum posts
Links in YouTube descriptions
Links in Facebook posts
Are No Follow Links Good For SEO Link Building?
At this point, you already know that the nofollow link, which Google now considers as a hint rather than as a directive, was developed to deal with annoying spam. The next question is how does it benefit your SEO efforts?
Nofollow links are still good for SEO, though most of the benefits are indirect.
For instance, if your link gets a nofollow tag from a trusted website then Google may still take this as a hint of authority.
Additionally, even if you get a nofollow link tag from a well-curated page, other people who have found your link from that site may still link to you and boost your traffic. The more traffic you get, the more that Google sees your site as authoritative, which can help improve your ranking.
Now, are nofollow links good for link building for SEO?
Yes, no follow links can still benefit your link-building efforts.
It’s a common belief that getting dofollow links offers a lot of advantages, especially when it comes to link building. But what most marketers and SEO professionals fail to see is that getting nofollow links has its own set of pros, too.
Boost Quality Traffic
Nofollow links can help boost traffic to your website. How?
When you earned links from quality publications with high domain ratings and rankings, they can send more targeted traffic to your website.
Let’s say your business is about health and wellness, and you earned a no follow link from Healthline or WebMD (both DR 92). It may not help with your SEO, but it can bring a significant number of visitors to your blog.
The same goes for leaving comments on blogs. When you leave helpful comments on a blog, especially if you’re one of the first few people who commented on the post, it can bring some visitors back to your site.
You may also benefit from second-tier links. These link to the website that is also linked to yours.
Both first-tier and second-tier links may not offer you a direct SEO benefit when they involve nofollow backlinks. However, they can generate a chunk of traffic to your site, which means more chances of converting them to sales.
When other quality websites link to yours, you reach more people. They can click on that link and find your page and know more about your company.
That’s a good way to boost your brand awareness, especially if the site has the same target audience as yours.
Let’s take Huffington Post as an example. This popular website has a wide audience and doesn’t or rarely use dofollow links. If you get a backlink from this site then it’s possible for their audience to land on your site.
Not only that, if Huffington Post’s backlink mentions your brand then you’ll also get a boost in your brand awareness.
Build Trust to Gain Follow Links
Earning backlinks from quality sites provides your brand with more exposure, which means reaching more people.
One site may tag a link to your website as a nofollow, but their readers may still link to you with a dofollow link because they trust your brand.
Let’s say a popular website backlinks to a study or article that you’ve published on your website. That famous website may have tagged your link as a nofollow, but you can still get a lot of referral traffic from that single link.
Not only can you get referral traffic, but you can also gain dofollow links from other people who have found you through that post.
Avoid Penalty By Having Organic Backlinks
Google will tag your link-building efforts as suspicious if you get too many dofollow links at the same time. It would look like spam content. If a blog only has dofollow links, Google will suspect that something shady is going on.
You need to have a natural link profile, which has a good combination of follow and no follow links.
If you have a balance of dofollow and nofollow links, then you’ll have a lower risk of getting sanctioned by Google because your outbound and inbound links look organic.
Strengthen Your Social Signals
Almost everyone is on social media nowadays. It’s only natural for businesses to take advantage of it.
You’ll find lots of articles encouraging you to post on various social media platforms regularly. Doing so will help you reach a wider audience, boost your brand awareness, and generate traffic and leads.
Google doesn’t use social signals as a direct ranking factor, but it takes them into account to determine how active and widespread your site is.
Each social media platform works differently, but they all have no follow links. Even so, you’ll get more backlinks to your blog or site if you’re active on social media.
Boost Your Influencer Marketing Efforts
Influencer marketing is gaining traction, especially for PR people and business people who wish to reach a wider audience. It involves getting access to a wider audience of other individuals who may be interested in your business.
You’ll work directly with the other influencer so you can promote your business to their audience. Some of their audience may decide to follow you, and when that happens, you can directly have access to them without having to go through the other influencer.
How does this apply to nofollow links? When influencer-marketing campaigns generate a link back to your site, even if it’s a no follow, you’ll have access to their audience. It’ll help you build organic nofollow links and have the opportunity to boost your traffic, too.
When Are Nofollow Links Relevant?
As a site owner, you get the benefits of using the nofollow tags in these instances:
Links In Blog Comments
Almost anyone can leave comments on blogs and that means anyone can easily get an unlimited number of dofollow links. It’s a privilege that almost always gets abused.
You should be careful with such links because if your site gets associated with it then it’s like you’re approving or recommending those spammy sites. That’s why you should use nofollow for those links.
WordPress has a feature that makes links in your blog’s comment section no-follows automatically. It doesn’t just disassociate your site from spammy ones but it also encourages genuine interaction among the readers of your blog.
Let’s say you have a website, and it’s all about home remodeling. If you used crucial information from a source that’s mostly about automobiles, you can use the nofollow attribute because the resource site isn’t relevant to your niche.
Keep Bad Sites At Bay
Let’s say that you must have a reference for certain content on your site. If need to link to a site that was recently involved in a scandal, you can use the nofollow attribute so that your site won’t be associated with the bad site.
For instance, you want to warn your audience about a certain scheme that’s going on online. You can use the nofollow tag when you link to it.
In that way, Google won’t be giving a ranking boost to the bad site. You’ll also prevent search engines from assuming that you approve or trust the bad site.
Same Links Appearing On The Same Spot On Different Pages
You should also add a nofollow tag to links that appear on the same spot of every page on your website. Every time you create a new post or update an existing one, you’re creating a new backlink, which may sooner or later be marked by Google as a bad link.
Add the nofollow tag if you have links on your sidebar or footer that appear on every page on your site to avoid getting sanctioned by Google.
Adding paid or sponsored content is a good way to monetize your blog. However, you need to inform search engines and readers that you’re presenting sponsored content. That’s where the nofollow attribute comes in.
If you have a link on your site that has been added because you’ve been paid to do so then that should be a nofollow link. You need to nofollow every link that you add to your site regardless of whether it’s a product page, a company’s website, or anything else, as long as it’s a paid link.
Is There A Recommended Follow Or Nofollow Link Ratio?
Now, you already understand that your site needs to have both dofollow and nofollow links. The next question that may come to your mind is if there’s a recommended ratio for dofollow and nofollow links.
There’s no optimal ratio between good and bad links. What you need to do instead is to create relevant and useful content, satisfy your readers, and build relationships with your audience.
You shouldn’t be tempted to game the system. Your competitors may be doing that now and ranking high in SERPs, but their success will be short-lived. Google will eventually discover their schemes and penalize them for that.
Can Nofollow Links Hurt Your Site?
Generally speaking, nofollow links won’t hurt your site as long as you’re not deceiving or manipulating search engines as you try to generate traffic for your site. However, there’s an exception.
If you’re leaving a lot of comments in as many blogs as you can, even if those links have been tagged as nofollows, you may be penalized.
How Does A Nofollow Attribute Affect Your Ranking on Search Engines?
Nofollow links do not directly affect your website ranking. These types of attributes don’t pass link juice, which is also referred to as link points.
Link juice or link equity is the authority and value passed from one page to another linked page.
Nofollow tags don’t pass on any link juice and that means it doesn’t affect your ranking in search engine results. These attributes serve as hints to Google to nofollow a specific link. However, the final decision lies with Google.
Does this mean nofollow links are useless?
They’re still useful in SEO, albeit indirectly. Your link may be tagged as nofollow when it’s mentioned in Forbes or Entrepreneur, but it’s still a great opportunity when a popular site links back to your blog. It may drive traffic to your site and it’ll also boost your branding.
Do You Need To Nofollow All External Links?
Of course not. You should only add the nofollow attribute to outbound URLs for target websites that you’re not recommending as an authority site.
In fact, Google recently recommended that it’s good to add dofollow links to trusted external content as that also builds credibility for your content. Why would you add a resource on your website that you don’t trust?
For instance, you should add a nofollow attribute to a link that you had to mention on your blog as a reference, but you don’t think the target site is reputable or trustworthy. You can also add the nofollow tags on paid or sponsored links or the ones that you don’t want to track.
Do You Need To Nofollow Internal Links?
Most websites don’t use nofollow tags on internal links. That would essentially be telling search engines that your own content is not reliable.
However, there are those who do so on some of their pages.
Here are a few instances websites use nofollow tags on their internal linking:
Nofollow tags can be used on pages with duplicate content. The nofollow links can be applied on the pages with the same content except for the original page.
Nofollow tags can be used on account login pages.
Some people prefer to use nofollow tags for their internal links. However, there are those who are against its use.
In the past, search engines treated nofollow links as a directive. Google literally didn’t follow the links tagged as such, which means the destination pages aren’t ranked or indexed.
However, Google has changed the way it deals with nofollow links. In its new algorithm, Google takes nofollow links as a hint rather than a directive. What does this mean?
Even if an internal link has been tagged as a nofollow, Google may still index or rank the destination pages depending on how it interprets the nofollow internal links.
You can no longer depend on the nofollow attribute to prevent Google or other search engines from ranking or indexing the nofollow internal links.
Some say that using nofollow tags on internal links won’t do any good. Not only that, it would only cause disruption as Google ranks the pages of your site.
If that’s the case, is there an alternative to the nofollow attribute if there are certain pages that you don’t want to rank?
One of the best alternatives to a nofollow attribute is the canonical tag. It’s an HTML tag that can be added to a duplicate page while specifying the address of an original page.
When you do this, search engines would only rank the original page as indicated in the canonical tag.
Another alternative is the noindex directive, which prevents Google and other search engines from indexing and ranking a specified page. The noindex directive can either be a meta tag or a response header.
How Can You Get Dofollow Links?
It’s always best to go natural when it comes to getting dofollow links. If you want to get genuine interest in your site and boost your digital marketing, you must do it the right way.
Here are a few ways to do it:
Create original, relevant, and awesome content that your readers will share and link to naturally. Content is a crucial foundation for your own site that will allow other sites to link to you naturally.
Do guest blogging on sites with a similar niche to yours to help with your SEO efforts and drive traffic to your website. Guest posts, when done right, are still relevant parts of any link-building and digital marketing efforts today. Make sure that you find relevant sites and that you provide authentic and original content rather than spinning one content piece for several sites.
Do journalist outreach, such as through Help a Reporter Out (HARO), where you can contribute expert insights and earn media coverage in return? HARO connects journalists seeking expert insights to support their content with sources that seek free publicity. You can find other free tools for outreach and PR campaigns that can help you get follow links.
Create visual assets, such as infographics, graphs, and video clips, that others can use and link back to you. Visual assets are some of the easiest ways to get natural dofollow links.
Do original research with data that others can use in their content
How Can You Avoid Getting Penalized For Unnatural Links?
You should avoid getting Google’s “unnatural outbound links penalty.” Get rid of low-quality and inorganic external links from your website that search engines may consider irrelevant or unnatural.
Use the nofollow HTML code on all user-generated content, check the links in all guest posts, don’t link to low-quality websites, and avoid spam.
Other Important Things To Remember When Using Nofollow Links
When you use a nofollow tag on a specific link, you’re telling Google that you’re not giving your vote of confidence to that certain link.
Here are a few things you need to remember when using the nofollow link:
Only use the nofollow tag on links that you don’t want to affect your SEO efforts.
Nofollow links can help you have a more professional-looking website, one that stands out from your competition.
Nofollow links can still send traffic to your website. It can also provide value to your website visitors.
Nofollow links can help you build relationships with other sites without affecting your SEO.
Dofollow and nofollow links can be beneficial for your business if you know how to use them properly. You may not have realized it before, but nofollow links are as important dofollow links.
When you’re developing backlinks to your website, you already know that you have to build dofollow links because they have a direct impact on SEO. But you also need to have a diverse and natural link profile, and that means having nofollow links as well.
Nofollow links may not affect your Google rankings directly, but they can drive traffic to your site, build trust, and enhance your branding. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand how you can use nofollow links to your advantage.