What Are Nofollow Links In SEO?

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Nofollow links in SEO are special HTML links with the rel=”nofollow” attribute. It tells search engines not to follow or count them for ranking purposes. While dofollow links boost your search rankings, nofollow links do not directly impact them. Despite this, nofollow links are essential for a balanced SEO strategy. They help control which links influence rankings, prevent spam, and build a natural link profile. Let’s discuss nofollow links in more detail.

What Are Nofollow Links?

Nofollow links are a type of HTML link with the rel=”nofollow” attribute added. Meaning search engines should not follow or count the link towards the ranking of the linked webpage. On the other hand, regular do follow links enable search engines to crawl linked pages and consider them as a ranking factor.

Purpose and History of Nofollow Links

In 2005, search engines introduced the nofollow tag to combat blog comments and forum spam. This tag made user-generated content nofollow by default, removing the incentive for spammers to manipulate SERP rankings with promotional links.

Over time, the use of nofollow expanded to other scenarios. For instance, when someone doesn’t want to endorse or pass on ranking credit to a site they’re linking to. Common cases include paid links and low-quality websites that pay little attention to online ads. These are examples of situations where we use nofollow links.

How to Check Nofollow Links 

There are several ways you can determine whether or not a link is nofollow. 

The first method is manual inspection. You simply find the link on the webpage, right-click it, and choose “Inspect” or “Inspect Element”. That will open your browser’s developer tools where you can check out the HTML code of the link. If you see rel=”nofollow” in the code,  then it’s a nofollow link.

Another way is to use browser extensions or add-ons that highlight different types of links. For example, NoFollow is an extension that highlights nofollow links in red. MozBar SEO Toolbar and Greasemonkey are other examples of software that can show you nofollow/dofollow status with visual cues on any site.

If you want to do a deep analysis of all your backlinks, there are several free online tools available for this purpose like SEO Review Tools’ Backlink Checker, Semrush’s Backlink Analytics and Site Audit (both also offer paid options). These tools give you detailed reports on all the dofollow/nofollow backlinks pointing at your domain so that you can audit and optimise your linking attributes within one place.

No matter which way you go about it – being able to tell apart between no-follow and do-follow links is essential when managing site-wide link juice distribution as well as gaining insight into overall backlink profile strength from an SEO standpoint!

Nofollow vs. Noindex

You need to understand another tag called noindex and differentiate it from nofollow since they have different functions. Noindex instructs search engines not to rank or index pages. Nofollow only affects specific links, allowing indexing of the entire page.

Do Nofollow Links Influence Search Rankings?

There has been an ongoing debate about whether nofollow links are a tiny ranking factor for Google or not. The company’s official stance is that nofollow links do not impact rankings in any way. Most evidence from algorithm updates and patent filings supports this.

However, some SEO professionals claim to have seen ranking boosts from a diverse nofollow backlink profile. Google has updated how it treats nofollow over time, such as a 2020 update to consider some nofollow links as “hints” for rankings under certain conditions. But in general, nofollow links are not a direct ranking signal.

Role of Nofollow Links in SEO

Now let’s discuss how Nofollow backlinks impact SEO.

Linking Out

The nofollow link attribute allows you to link out to relevant external link resources without passing ranking credit. This way, you can cite sources and provide value to users without negatively impacting your own SEO. Essentially, nofollow links function like any other link in terms of user experience, but with the added benefit of controlling which links potentially influence rankings.

Natural Link Profile

Search engines prefer a balanced backlink profile with a natural ratio of dofollow to nofollow links pointing to your site. An unnatural link profile composed solely of dofollow backlinks can appear manipulative. Strategically using the nofollow attribute on certain links on your website contributes to a more diverse and trustworthy link profile.

Spam Prevention

By making user-generated content links (like blog comments) nofollow by default, you eliminate incentives for spammers to post promotional links that don’t provide value. This proactive approach helps protect your site from potential penalties associated with spammy links. These sorts of links don’t work in 2024

Building Relationships

When citing other websites or collaborating with industry partners, using the nofollow attribute demonstrates transparency and can foster positive relationships. It shows you’re willing to link back without the primary intent of manipulating search rankings.

Referral Traffic

While nofollow links likely have minimal direct ranking impact, Google has hinted that in some cases, it may use the nofollow link attribute as a hint about the nature and quality of a link. So while these links don’t boost rankings directly, they can still contribute to overall link profile quality signals when implemented thoughtfully.

Importance of Backlinks and Link Profile

Search engines identify backlinks (dofollow incoming links) as one of the major determinants of ranking. This means that the number and standard of dofollow backlink profiles from other reputable websites significantly contribute to overall website strength and authority.

Nevertheless, only using dofollow links within an unnatural backlink profile can be regarded as manipulative link building behaviour. To search engines, it looks more natural when you have a mix between nofollow and dofollow backlinks.

Internal Links and Outbound Links as Ranking Factors

On top of that point about links, internal linking – which refers to those that exist between pages within the same domain – has been confirmed by Google as a ranking signal capable of spreading ranking power throughout an entire site.

Regarding outbound (external) dofollows’ impact on rankings directly, there seems to be little clarity around whether they count significantly towards good or bad SERP positions. According to most indications though. 

This isn’t so much considered a strong positive indicator nor negative one either for rankings. However, some moderate external linking out to sources of high quality can help improve user experience without hurting SEO.

Using Nofollow Links Effectively Search Engine Rankings

Let’s talk about how you can use nofollow backlinks effectively in SEO.

Benefits of Nofollow Links

Nofollow links provide several advantages:

  1. Driving Traffic: Though they don’t boost rankings directly, nofollow links can send visitors to your site. If reputable sources link to you with nofollow, their audiences may click through.
  1. Building Connections: Using nofollow links to cite other websites shows you value those sources. This can help build positive relationships within your industry.
  1. Link Profile Balance: Search engines prefer a natural mix of dofollow and nofollow backlinks. An all-dofollow profile could seem manipulative.
  1. Spam Protection: Nofollowing user comments prevents comment spam from impacting rankings. It reduces incentives for spammers on your site.
  1. Citing Sources Safely: You can freely link to any relevant website using nofollow. This allows liberal citation without voiding ranking benefits.
  1. Advertising Disclosure: Paid links should use nofollow to meet advertising disclosure guidelines. This avoids potential penalties.

In simple terms, nofollow links provide a way to get traffic, make connections, keep a balanced link profile, deter spam, cite sources, and properly disclose paid links – all without negatively impacting SEO.

Best Practices for Using Nofollow Links

It’s recommended to make certain types of links nofollow:

  1. Paid Links: Any sponsored, advertised or paid links should be tagged as nofollow. This follows advertising disclosure guidelines.
  1. Low-Quality Sites: Links to spammy, untrustworthy or low-value websites should use nofollow. This avoids associating your site with bad neighbourhoods.
  1. User-Generated Content: Comments, forums, etc. should automatically nofollow links. This prevents comment spam from impacting rankings.
  1. Untrusted Sources: If you didn’t manually vet and place a link, use a nofollow link. Only editorially focused links should pass ranking credit.
  1. Sitewide Approach: Some websites make all outbound links nofollow by default as a blanket policy. This simplifies link attribute management.

The goal is to use nofollow intelligently on links you don’t fully vouch for. This maintains a natural link profile while complying with guidelines.

Adding Nofollow Links to Your Page or Website

How you implement nofollow links depends on your website’s platform:

  1. Content Management Systems: Popular CMSs like WordPress have settings to automatically nofollow links in comments and other user-generated areas.
  1. Custom Coded Sites: For websites built from scratch, you manually add rel=”nofollow” to the HTML code of any links you want to be nofollow.
  1. Browser Extensions: Various browser add-ons exist that can quickly nofollow links with a click as you’re editing pages.
  1. Link Management Plugins: There are plugins that scan your site’s links and let you bulk nofollow/dofollow certain link types.

The key is utilising the right tools for your site to efficiently make links nofollow when needed, especially for unvetted user-generated content areas.

Common Misconceptions About Nofollow Links

  1. Nofollow links have zero value. This is a persistent myth. While nofollow links don’t directly boost rankings, they can still drive referral traffic to your site from quality sources. They also send positive signals about your site’s authority.
  1. All nofollow links should be avoided. The opposite is actually recommended – using some nofollow links contributes to a natural, diverse backlink profile that search engines prefer.
  1. Nofollow links can hurt your SEO. There is no evidence that using nofollow links properly has any negative impact on search rankings or traffic. They are simply a way to control which links pass ranking credit.

Conclusion

Incorporate a healthy mix of nofollow and dofollow links into your overall approach. This shows search engines you understand best practices for building authority, providing value to users, and disclosing paid/sponsored relationships. A balanced nofollow strategy, combined with solid dofollow link building, sends positive signals that can enhance your long-term SEO performance.

In essence, nofollow is a tool that allows ethical linking without unduly manipulating rankings. Leverage it correctly as part of a holistic SEO strategy.