Whether the links on your site are ‘dofollow’ or ‘nofollow’ doesn’t matter to readers; but if you wish to build a profitable business online, following a safe linking policy is essential.
Informative Read: Blogging is a Business: How to Start, Run & Operate your Blog
There’s a lot of discussion and criticism surrounding the use of nofollow links. What should you do?
Note: The post is not a critic on the existence of nofollow links. It exists and we have to deal with it.
Let’s go back to basics.
The Origin of NoFollow
The definition from MicroFormats.org:
Rel Nofollow is an elemental microformat, one of several microformat open standards. By adding rel=nofollow to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink should not be afforded any additional weight or ranking by user agents which perform link analysis upon web pages (e.g. search engines). Typical use cases include links created by 3rd party commentators on blogs, or links the author wishes to point to, but avoid endorsing.
On 18 January 2005, the trio – Google, Yahoo and Microsoft – announces the nofollow attribute to prevent blog comment spamming.
The importance of link count as a search engine signal and Page Rank (PR) growth dawns on webmasters and they decide to use comment spam as the easiest way to manipulate rankings. The pressure on Google starts building and the trio comes up with the nofollow attribute. If it interests you, read the original announcement of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.
The NoFollow Purpose
Combating blog comment spam is just one purpose of the nofollow attribute.
As the status of blogging industry rises and online businesses realise the importance search engine ranking for better ROI, the purpose of adding the nofollow attribute becomes paramount.
Search engines consider dofollow links as a ‘vote’ of approval. Dofollow links pass Page Rank (PR) and help the linked page rank better. Google asks webmasters to add the nofollow attribute when:
- it’s a paid link
- the content is untrustworthy
- you need to prioritize link indexation
What are these?
This doesn’t need an introduction.
Business advertisers and SEO agencies readily throng popular blogs to sponsor content which is either a paid review or a paid post or a paid text link. The purpose is to gain an anchor text dofollow backlink.
This is against Google webmaster guidelines. By making such links dofollow, you’re manipulating the search engine.
Is Google against paid links?
Google isn’t against paid links. It’s against making those links dofollow & passing link juice.
Solution: If you accept paid content in any form on blog/s, make them nofollow.
If you don’t vouch for pages linked from your blog/s, make them nofollow.
For instance, the comments section should be in nofollow mode because you don’t know who is linking what page and it’s not always feasible to manually moderate everything.
Similarly, if you refer any external sources in the content, you can make it either nofollow or dofollow. Use discretion.
Solution: First, you shouldn’t link to untrustworthy pages from your content. Second, always refer to quality and informative content, and keeping them dofollow isn’t wrong.
Prioritizing Link Crawl
A blog should have clear link architecture. Nofollow links like ‘Register Here’ or ‘Login’ because they are marginally important.
Instead, focus on those links you want the Google spider to scan and index.
Solution: Spend time on stabilizing your site architecture. Using the Yoast SEO plugin is a big help for WordPress users. Other CMS users should talk to a knowledgeable developer or programmer for better advice.
[Infographic] NoFollow Structure
This is a share-worthy Infographic from Search Engine Land.
Can NoFollow Links Hurt Site Rankings?
Nofollow links doesn’t hurt site rankings.
If you’re a blogger, your blog is prime real estate. Paid content is an attractive way to monetize content but don’t forget to add the nofollow attribute every time. Over the months and years, a lot of nofollow links will point out from your domain but let it not worry you as it’s a perfectly safe practice.
If you’re an advertiser, a lot of nofollow links pointing to your business website shouldn’t worry you either. See this video.
“No, typically nofollow links cannot hurt your site”, says Matt Cutts.
The NoFollow Benefit for Advertisers
If you avoid publishing or advertising on a site because the link is a nofollow, stop right now.
As search engines like Google tighten its noose with Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates, you need to fall in love with the nofollow attribute.
Even when the offered backlink is nofollow but the site has huge audience base that could certainly bring some ROI to your business, you should take it because it will bring useful referral traffic.
These are not idle words. Check out this detailed post by Rob Toledo on Moz. I got published on Business2Community.com and they offer only nofollow backlinks in author bio. Guess what? I took it and since then, my blog continues to receive referral traffic and I have people enquiring about my freelance writing services!
I don’t know whether you have blogged on any nofollow backlink site or not but surely you’ve left comments on many such popular blogs, right?
So, start digging into Google Analytics (GA) and see what kind of referral traffic and/or conversions your blog received.
How to add NoFollow Attribute?
All links are, by default, dofollow. You need to add the nofollow attribute.
A simple dofollow link –
Adding the nofollow attribute –
- rel=”nofollow” tells the search engine crawlers not to index or rank the link and the text surrounding it.
- target=”_blank” opens the link in a new window (recommended)
Every time you create a new blog post, use the nofollow attribute.
Adding NoFollow Attribute Automatically
Adding the nofollow attribute manually is a time consuming process, especially if a blog post references many external sources. However, there are ways to automate the process.
If you have a WordPress blog:
The comments section in WordPress blogs are in nofollow state by default. ComLuv plugin users can do the same from the plugin dashboard.
From the plugins repository, install the Ultimate NoFollow plugin. It adds the rel=”nofollow” checkbox.
Another useful plugin is the NoFollow for External Link. It automatically adds the target=”_blank” and rel=”nofollow” functions to all external links. You don’t need to visit each link and prioritize settings.
If you have a Blogger blog:
Add the nofollow attribute through the Post Editor toolbar. Just tick on the checkbox and save.
To check if the nofollow attribute is really working, you can install some browser extensions. Install the NoFollow extension on Google Chrome to see the dofollow and nofollow links, and noindex Meta tags on webpages. For Firefox browser users, install the NoDoFollow extension.
Search Engine Interpretation of NoFollow Links
Here is a small graph on how search engines interpret nofollow links.
How Google interprets NoFollow Link?
It doesn’t use the link for ranking though it follows the link but it doesn’t index the “linked to” page.
Focus on the bolded phrases.
Earlier, I mention that if a lot of nofollow links point to a business site, it doesn’t impact the site ranking negatively. But here, it says that Google doesn’t even index the “linked to” page.
Is this a cause for concern?
No. Unless specifically classified as ‘no-index’, every page is scanned and index. Adding the nofollow attribute from your side simply means that you don’t want to share link juice; hence, it won’t impact the search ranking.
I suggest going for a healthy link profile, which is a mix of both dofollow and nofollow links.
What is your take on nofollow links?