Nofollow links have been around for more than a decade and are an important factor when it comes to website performance.
Nofollow links are links with a rel=”nofollow” tag. This tag signals search engines to bypass a particular link, thus rendering the link incapable of influencing a page’s rank and placement on search engine results pages or SERPs.
What Are Nofollow Links?
First introduced in 2005, nofollow links were made as a response to spam comments that were made to try and build links that rank for specific keywords.
It tells search engines to ignore the outbound link that’s tagged and not to vouch for that particular link.
The nofollow link is a rel attribute. A rel attribute shows the relationship between a page where a link is and the page that it leads to.
When coded by hand, nofollow links look like this:
<a href=https://samplewebsite.com rel=”nofollow”>Anchor Text</a>
To better understand the value of nofollow links, we should first understand how links can affect a page’s PageRank results.
The basic premise is by having more dofollow links, a page stands to get more “link juice.” More link juice means a page is more likely to rank higher on PageRank, which is an algorithm used for ranking web pages. The higher a page’s PageRank is, the more authoritative that page is considered to be. Thus, the more likely it is to be put at the top of SERPs.
In the past, many individuals resorted to using black hat or unethical methods to boost page rankings. Determined to get as many links as possible, these individuals would spam websites and blogs with non-value-adding comments. As a result of this spamming, a lot of high-quality and actually relevant sites were pushed out of search results.
Without nofollow links, websites and blogs would be filled with spam.
Nofollow Links vs. Follow Links
While nofollow links indicate to search engines that a particular link should be ignored and don’t necessarily impact your search engine rankings, dofollow or follow links, on the other hand, help with your page’s search engine rankings.
To visitors, the difference may not be that evident, but when you look into a page’s HTML code, you’ll notice the difference.
To view the HTML code, right-click anywhere on a page and click on “View Page Source” from the drop-down menu.
Follow links look like this:
Meanwhile, as previously mentioned, a nofollow link looks like this:
<a href=https://samplewebsite.com rel=”nofollow”>
Types of Nofollow Links
Links with a nofollow tag are considered nofollow links.
In general, inbound links from the following sources can also be considered nofollow links:
- Blog comments
- Links in forum posts
- Links in social media posts
- Links found in press releases
Websites such as YouTube, Wikipedia, and Reddit have also adopted the rel=”nofollow” tag on all their outbound links.
Moreover, Google added two more rel attributes to help identify link intent:
This attribute is used to identify paid links or links for paid or sponsored content. A sponsored attribute looks like this:
<a href=”samplewebsite.com/” rel=”sponsored nofollow”>sample text</a>
This attribute is used to identify user-generated content or UGC links, such as forum posts or blog comments. Page owners can reward value-adding contributors by removing the nofollow attribute from their links.
The UGC attribute typically follows this format:
<a href=”samplewebsite.com” rel=”ugc nofollow”>sample text</a>
When Should You Use Nofollow Links?
Using nofollow links ultimately depends on how you see a link, whether it’s value-adding or relevant. If you want search engines to not associate a particular link with your page or if you don’t want search engines to crawl your page for such links, then you should use the nofollow attribute.
The Importance of Nofollow links
While we’ve established that nofollow links don’t necessarily affect your SEO, they can have an indirect impact on your page.
- Nofollow links help with link profile diversity
Striking the right balance between nofollow links and dofollow links is important.
Backlink profiles are diverse, with some followed and some nofollow links. It’s also inevitable that some visitors will link to your page via unfollowed links.
Having a diverse link profile can help your page avoid being tagged as spammy; having only dofollow links can send a signal to search engines that your page has been manipulated.
- They can help drive traffic
While it may seem contrary, a nofollow link can indirectly pave the way for followed links.
For example, some forums set all outbound links as nofollow links, thus these don’t directly affect your SEO. However, you may be able to get a followed link if your content is visible, if readers like your content, or if they recommend your content to others using links on their site.