“Links” is a term you will hear being used a lot in anything SEO, and they come in different forms. An example is the nofollow link, and it was introduced for a reason. If there is a nofollow link, then there must be a follow link, and there is a relationship between the two. So, what is a nofollow link and why was it introduced? What is the impact of nofollow links and are they any important for SEO?
What is a Nofollow Link?
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A nofollow link is a follow link with a nofollow attribute added to it. To understand what nofollow links are, we need to understand what follow links are.
When another website links to your website in any form, the link passes some authority from that website to yours using follow links. This “authority” can sometimes be called link juice. Link juice is lucrative because it improves search engine rankings for pages, especially if they are from authoritative and big sites.
Once people realized this, they started using dubious means to get highly sought-after link juice by going to other sites and spamming links to their sites so that it may seem as though their site has some credibility. These scammers could do so by linking through user-generated content like forums, comments, widgets, and so on. This became problematic because link juice was being passed unfairly and sometimes illegally.
To curb this problem, Google introduced nofollow links which do not pass any form of authority or link juice to other sites. To the user, such links work normally because they will lead you to wherever they are linked to. But to the linked website, it is nothing but a link with no juice.
Types of Nofollow Links
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There are no “types” of nofollow links but there are some instances where nofollow links are used. Here are some examples;
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Comment spam is one of the main reasons why nofollow links were introduced. Blog comments are easy prey that scammers can use to create unfair follow links to their sites. For this reason, blog comments automatically add the nofollow link tag to any link left in the comment section to avoid blog comment spam.
2) Forum Posts
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Forums are another form of user-generated content that is likely to have links. This is because most forums are peer reviews and niche, with a lot of information being exchanged, involving a lot of links. While most people who take part in forums are genuine, it is an environment where people with ill intent can easily thrive.
3) Social Media
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Social media platforms have content that is almost entirely user generated. This makes social media a breeding ground for anyone who might want to add comment links just to get juice for their websites. For this reason, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more automatically have the nofollow link tag on any links to avoid unfair instances and create space for building a natural link profile.
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Users can use unnaturally placed links on widgets to manipulate a site’s page ranking by linking to them. There is a push by Google for each link to be a valuable link by adding nofollow link tags to widgets. Low-quality links are another problem caused by people who leave links on a lot of widgets just to get link juice.
5) High Authority Sites
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A high authority page like BBC or the New York Times is likely to use nofollow links whenever they are linking to other pages other than their sites. However, after a deeper analysis, the nofollow tags do not cause as much harm as many would imagine. This is because nofollow links too have the other advantages that follow links have, except passing on authority.
6) Popular Websites
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Popular websites like Quora, Reddit, Wikipedia, Medium, and more have an automatic nofollow tag for all the outbound links. Such sites have a high amount of user-generated content and there is a chance for some users to insert as many links as they can to get more juice from such popular sites to improve their page rankings.
7) Paid Links
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It is part of Google’s webmaster guidelinesthat paid links have to be nofollowed links. If such links are not nofollowed, Google can penalize your site. An example of such a link is a link you can find on a banner ad paid for on a website.
8) Press Releases
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Press releases are likened to sponsored link ads, which are paid links, and are required to have nofollow attributes on them. Links in a press release body or anchor text can not be a follow link according to Google.
Are Nofollow Links That Horrible?
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No. Nofollow links have a lot of advantages on them and can improve your Google rankings. Nofollow links level out the playing ground for everyone and encourage each player to build links naturally. There are a lot of benefits you can enjoy when using nofollow links.
a) What Are the Benefits of Nofollow Links to SEO?
i) Keeping Spammers Away
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There are a lot of people who would do anything to make their site rankings better than everyone else’s, including cutting corners. To keep a level playing field, Google ensures everyone has a fair link equity each time they are linked to.
Keeping a level playing field is important for website owners to focus on building links ethically. It is easier to set SEO strategiesand goals in an environment that is not akin to the Wild West.
ii) Normal Traffic
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The traffic from nofollow links is no different from those from follow links. While Google tells search engines to nofollow some links, the user will hardly tell the difference. Your page interactions and conversions will be as though someone clicked on a normal link.
Imagine if your site was linked to a big site like the Huffington Post using a nofollow link. You are still potentially getting a huge traffic flowing towards your site and this in itself is an advantage. The only thing the nofollowed link denied you is the juice, but gave you an audience. Remember, Google focus on other SEO aspects alongside links, and one of them is the traffic flowing to your site.
Unfortunately, Google does not crawl nofollow links, so your page rank points will have to come from other factors other than the link.
iii) Part of Natural Link Profile
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Nofollow links should be part of your link profile. You can not have only follow links. There are instances where you need to have nofollow links according to Google. For instance, each of all paid links has to be a no-follow link. If you have a blog post with a comment section, the external links there have to be nofollow links.
iv) Nofollow Links Lead to Dofollow Links
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Once you have inbound links coming to your page in the form of nofollow links, you can still convert those interactions into valuable links in the future. For instance, anyone who finds the information on your page useful might link to you in the future, and those links will have a direct impact on your page being indexed and ranked.
If a particular link is a nofollow but is from a huge page with many followers, count it as an investment for future dofollow links, and a huge boost to your SEO efforts.
v) Improved Domain Authority
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While a nofollow link has no direct impact when ranking web pages, if they end up sending reputable traffic your way, then there is a chance your domain will be boosted by such interactions. People who visit big websites do so because they are authoritative. Therefore, their link to you will be trusted, and before you know it, you are fulfilling the Google E-A-Tprinciples. Google EAT is vital if you need a successful SEO campaign.
b) What Are the Disadvantages of Nofollow Links?
1) Zero Link Equity
Links with a nofollow tag do not pass PageRank juice to your page. This is a bummer, especially if the link is from a highly reputed page. However, the referral traffic from such pages makes up for a lot in terms of adding value to your page.
2) No Crawling
Google bots do not crawl unsponsored and sponsored nofollow links. This means that Google will not follow nofollow links when indexing your pages via a guest post.
3) User Generated Content
If your page relies heavily on user-generated content, imagine how beneficial it could be if the links from your users were follow links. Unfortunately, once Google crawlers identify user-generated content with links, they might attach no follow tags to them. Some social sites have no follow tags as permanent link properties.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nofolow Links
a) How do I check for nofollow links?
In your browser, right-click on your mouse. Then, choose the “view page source” or “inspect” option. To find the inspect page, you can press “Ctrl+Shift+i”, and the view page source, “Ctrl+U”.
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Once you are in the page inspection section, find the search section. You can do this by pressing “Ctrl+Shift+F” on the inspect page, and it will open a search box. Alternatively, you can find the search box using the drop-down menus on the inspect page. Once there, type “nofollow” and it should help you find the nofollow links.
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There are extensions you can install on your browser to help you find the nofollow links and keep track of them.
b) What is the difference between dofollow and nofollow links?
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Dofollow links can pass link juice while nofollow links can not. Normal links are dofollow links by default.
c) What’s the Difference Between Nofollow and Noindex?
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Noindex and nofollow links are quite confusing to most people. The two links differ in utility. Noindex links instruct Google to ensure your page is not displayed in search results. On the other hand, nofollow links instruct Google crawlers not to follow the links on your page. With nofollow links, the pages are still available when you make a Google search.
An instance where you would use the noindex tag is when you have archived a blog and you no longer want it on the internet search results. This helps when outgoing links were linked to a page you do not want others to momentarily find.
d) What are natural vs. unnatural inbound links?
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Natural links are those you had almost no part in creating, and a neutral third party deemed it fit to link to your page. A natural link is one that follows all of Google’s guidelines. Unnatural links are those created to manipulate the ranking of a webpage.
e) What is the nofollow tag?
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The nofollow tag is the tag added to a nofollow link that instructs search engines against following such links. For instance, for Google, the tag would be;
Once this tag is added to a link, it becomes a nofollow link.
f) Why did search engines create the nofollow tag?
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No follow tags were created to turn links into nofollow links, which instructs Google crawlers to avoid certain links.
g) What is crawling vs. indexing vs. ranking?
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Crawling is the action done by Google bots to discover URLs and pages on the internet for indexing. Indexing is the storage of information about web pages and where to find them for retrieval during a search. Ranking is the process of prioritizing pages depending on the relevance of a topic. A more relevant page that complies with all of Google’s guidelines and has a strong SEO campaign will rank better.
h) Should you add nofollow to internal links?
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Internal links need to pass link equity, something nofollow links do not do. Therefore, if you can avoid adding nofollow tags to internal links during link building, the better. Most of the time, nofollow tags are added to outbound links.
Nofollow links are misunderstood by many because they come across as limiting compared to dofollow links. However, in a general sense, these links are useful if you know where to use them. Furthermore, you can avoid getting penalized by Google if you use the links properly.