Dofollow and Nofollow Links: How They Impact Rankings in 2020

Written by / In group / Updated on
January 26, 2020

If you’re new to SEO, then you’re probably wondering what all the noise is about dofollow and nofollow links. But you don’t have to worry as we’re going to clear it all up.

Here’s the point: Whether you’re linking to another website or your own site is being linked to, linking is a critical part of search engine optimization (SEO).

And how a website treats links is also vital because it can determine how the search engines will treat those links too. Specifically, I’m referring to the relationship between dofollow and nofollow links.

Sadly, it’s tough to build and execute a successful link building strategy nowadays, unlike before. According to SerpWatch, “65% of marketers confirmed that link building is the toughest aspect of SEO.”

But if you’re able to figure it out and have the right mix of follow and nofollow links, then you’ll be on your way to creating a fortune on the internet.

In today’s article, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about nofollow vs dofollow links.

How Dofollow and Nofollow Links Impacts Links

dofollow-and-nofollow-links

Before we start, we need to, first of all, understand the true value of backlinks in the web:

The True Value of a Backlink

To truly understand what is happening with follow vs. no follow backlinks, we need to provide a small background of how most links work in the kingdom of SEO.

When a web page receives an inbound link (a hyperlink pointing to that page), the page gets a little SEO boost.

Here’s a perfect illustration of backlinks:

backlinks

Think of a link as a vote of trust – and the more links you have – the more points you get. In other words, more points = more win.

The search engines take note of these points, monitoring how many inbound links a web page has and from what websites. Google figures out, hey, if lots of people are linking to a particular page, then it must be really great.

So let’s give special preference in the search engine result pages (SERPs) to that page over others of the same topic. This will enable us to deliver the very best results to our users.

Google introduced a metric known as “PageRank,” which they use to calculate the link points. This is what many SEO folks refer to as “link juice.” Link juice flows through websites and into new websites via hyperlinks.

The more regarded the website, the higher link juice boost the linked-to site gets. For example, getting a link from the BBC or New York Times is pure gold.

Therefore, link building is undeniably a powerful strategy to boost your SEO, and according to Moz, “99.2% of all the top 50 results in the SERPs have at least one backlink pointing to their site.”

google ranking and links

Ideally, you want to profit from SEO and your link-building efforts. It’s also worth mentioning that “link popularity is among the top ranking factors in the search engines.”

search engine ranking factors

What are Dofollow Links?

Dofollow links are links that the search engines are able to follow to get to a linked website. This passes on “link juice” or authority from the source through to the destination site.

And like I mentioned earlier, the more quality links you have pointing to your site, the more likely search engines will trust you and see your site as an authoritative one.

Basically, links are Dofollow by default, so they don’t need additional HTML attributes in order to make them follow. Besides, including Do follow links on your website also lets you pass on authority to the sites you link to.

However, including Dofollow links in comment sections of websites or forums can attract spammers trying to improve the visibility of their own websites.

HTML Tag for Dofollow Link

When you create a backlink within your website, whether it’s in a comment, on your sidebar, or within your article content, a normal link will be coded similar to this:

<a href=”https://bloggerspassion.com/”>Bloggers Passion</a>

The “Bloggers Passion” here is a follow link!

What are Nofollow Links?

To the average web user, nofollow and dofollow links look the same. However, nofollow links contain a little piece of code, known as an attribute. This allows search engine bots or spiders to understand that they shouldn’t follow the link.

It looks like this: rel=“nofollow.”

In simple terms, no follow links contains a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag. This nofollow tag tells the search engines to take no notice of that link. Because nofollow links pass no link juice, they likely have no impact on search engine rankings.

In other words, these links have no influence on the search engine rankings of the destination URL as Google does not transfer PageRank across them.

HTML Tag for Creating a Nofollow Link

Let’s now look at an example of a nofollow link.

Essentially, if a link is tagged as NoFollow, here’s what it looks like:

<a href=”https://bloggerspassion.com” rel=”nofollow”>Bloggers Passion</a>

The “Bloggers Passion” text here is a nofollowed link.

As you can see, the HTML is identical apart from the addition of the rel=”nofollow” tag.

You can also nofollow all links on a page by adding a “robots Meta tag” with the value “nofollow” in the header. But the nofollow tag is commonly used because it lets one nofollow some links on the web page while leaving others as dofollow.

Not sure why this is necessary? Let’s look at a quick history lesson.

History of Rel=” Nofollow”

If you’ve been wondering why nofollow link was created, here’s the time to clear your mind.

The nofollow tag was originally introduced by Google in 2005 to fight comment spam. Below is a clear statement from Google on that:

“If you’re a blogger (or a blog reader), you’re painfully familiar with people who try to raise their own websites’ search engine rankings by submitting linked blog comments like “Visit my discount pharmaceuticals site.” This is called comment spam, we don’t like it either, and we’ve been testing a new tag that blocks it. From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank sites in our search results. This isn’t a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it’s just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.”

After that, Bing, Yahoo, and some other search engines equally pronounced their commitment to the nofollow tag.

Today, WordPress and many other CMS’ put the nofollow tag to comment links by default. So even if you’re not familiar with a nofollow link before now, the good thing is that those spammy commenters on your site likely aren’t getting any SEO benefits from their efforts.

But if you’re worried that your comments may not actually be nofollowed, here’s how to check it:

  • Locate a comment
  • Right-click on the link
  • Click “Inspect”
  • Check the highlighted HTML code

check for nofollow link

Google Fights PageRank Sculpting | 2009

PageRank flows around a website through internal links (links from a page on your website to another).

For instance, some of this blog post’s PageRank flows to some other pages on our blog through hyperlinks like this one. Generally, higher PageRank means higher rankings. This was confirmed by Gary Illyses on Twitter some time ago.

pagerank as a rank signal

However, PageRank gets transferred only through dofollow links, not nofollow links.

That has always been the case, though. But how PageRank is shared between the followed links on a web page has changed over the years.

Prior to 2009, it worked this way:

If you had 3 backlinks on a webpage and one of them was no followed, the total PageRank was shared between the 2 followed links.

Sadly, some folks started leveraging this technicality to maneuver rankings by sculpting PageRank flow around their websites.

In other words, they would nofollow links to their non-important pages to allow for the full transference of PageRank to their commercial (money) pages.

Then in 2009, Google announced changes to stop this ugly practice. Here’s how Matt Cutts (formal head of webspam in Google) puts it:

“So what happens when you have a page with “10 PageRank points” and 10 outgoing links, and 5 of those links are nofollowed? Originally, the 5 links without nofollow would have flowed 2 points of PageRank each. Over a year ago, Google changed how the PageRank flows so that the 5 links without nofollow would flow one point of PageRank each.”

Furthermore, while PageRank sculpting no longer exists, nofollowing a few internal links can also help with crawl prioritization as Google does not crawl nofollow links.

According to Matt:

“Search engine robots cannot sign in or register as a member on your forum, so there is no reason to invite Googlebot to follow “sign-in” or “register here” links. Using nofollow on these links allows Googlebot to crawl other pages you would prefer to see in Google’s index.”

This is a rather advanced topic, so I won’t go deeper into it here.

Google fights paid links in 2013 onwards

Google classifies the selling or buying of backlinks that pass PageRank as a breach of their Webmaster Guidelines. As such, you should nofollow every paid link.

That has been the case for years, even long before 2013.

However, Google became more and more concerned about the effect of unidentified paid links on their algorithm around this period – and has been ever since.

In 2013, Matt Cutts explained more about their reasoning for the disclosure of paid links in this video:

In summary: Google wants to compensate earned links, not paid links.

The problem, however, is that some paid links look exactly the same as earned links. Think about the difference between a backlink in a paid review vs. a backlink in an unpaid review.

Obviously, both links will look the same. That’s why there should be a way to let Google know about the paid ones.

Nofollow vs Dofollow Links: What is the Difference?

The only technical difference between do follow and no follow links is that a nofollow link has a nofollow tag.

As a web user, it’s impossible to differentiate between a dofollow and nofollow link. You can click, copy, and use a no follow link just like any other link on the internet.

But when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), there’s a significant difference between no follow and do follow backlinks.

Here’s the difference in simple terms:

Dofollow links help with search engine rankings, while nofollow links don’t.

Let me explain:

You see, Google use links as a major ranking signal, just like other search engines:

google ranking factors

However, they pay attention to ONLY dofollow links in their algorithm. According to Google, nofollow links do not pass any PageRank (link juice).

And as you might have known, if a link does not send any PageRank your way, it won’t help your search engine rankings.

That’s why, when it comes to building backlinks, you want to get as many dofollow links as possible.

Now, let’s look at a real-life example:

Here are two links pointing to my website:

nofollow link example

And

dofollow link example

The first link is from an authority website (Socialmediatoday.com).

However, when you check the HTML code of the page, you will notice that the link is actually nofollow:

nofollow link tag example

This means that the link (even though from an authority website) isn’t going to give me any SEO boost. SAD!

Now, the second link is from a blog post on another high-quality site (Smallbiztrends.com). However, this time, the link is dofollow:

dofollow link tag

This means that the link will help with my Google rankings. JUMPING UP!

But what if you want to know if a link is dofollow or nofollow? Do you know how to do that? Let’s see how:

How to Check if a Link is Dofollow or Nofollow?

Basically, there are a few ways to check if a link is dofollow or nofollow:

  • Check the HTML code
  • Use browser SEO extensions
  • Use backlink analysis tools

Let’s look at them one after the other:

1. Viewing HTML code

If you can see where the link is placed, the simplest way is to view the HTML code of the referring website. Here, you’ll see what you’re looking for:

To do that, right-click on the link anchor text and select “Inspect element” or “Inspect” (it can differ depending on your browser) or just press “Ctrl+Shift+I” if you’re using Chrome:

link inspection

Next, check the link in the HTML of the web page.

link inspection 2

If you can see a rel=”nofollow” attribute (as shown on the screenshot below), the link is nofollow. Else, the link is dofollow.

dofollow and nofollow tags

However, you don’t need to always check the HTML manually. That can be time-consuming, and that’s where browser extensions come in:

2. Using SEO extensions

Many browser extensions will help you to detect follow vs no follow backlinks. One of the best Chrome extensions for this is the “Nofollow extension.”

nofollow links check extension

This is a useful tool that automatically puts a dotted link around any nofollow links on a page:

nofollow extension

3. Using backlink analysis tools

If you are analyzing your competitor’s link profile (or even your own site) and want to know what mix of nofollow and dofollow backlinks the website has, you will find this information in backlink analysis tools such as Ahrefs or SEMRush.

ahrefs backlink checker

However, if you can’t afford these tools, Neil Patels’ Ubersuggest can also do the magic, and it’s free.

Visit Ubersuggest and enter the domain you want to find backlinks for. Let’s use backlinko.com for this example.

Click on “backlinks” on the right part of the screen, under the “domain overview” section:

ubersuggest link check

Here’s what you’ll see:

link analysis tool

As you can see, all the links with the “NF” text next to it are nofollow links, and the ones without that text are dofollow links.

What Type of Links are Generally Nofollow?

Any link that has the rel=”nofollow” tag is technically a nofollow link.

However, inbound links from the sources below generally tend to be nofollow:

  • Blog comments
  • Forum posts links or other forms of user-generated content
  • Social media links (e.g., links in Facebook and Twitter posts)
  • Some blogs and news sites (such as Entrepreneur and Huffington Post)
  • Press release links
  • Links from “widgets.”

And the popular sites below use the rel=”nofollow” attribute on all of their outbound links, too:

  • YouTube
  • Quora
  • Medium
  • Wikipedia
  • Twitch
  • Reddit

Apart from all the link sources and sites mentioned above, there’s also another category of links that should be nofollowed:

Paid links.

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines explicitly stated that any backlinks that you pay for should be nofollowed.

webmaster guidelines

Google’s Matt Cutts also made it clear on this video that every paid link should have the nofollow link tag applied.

Why? The reason is apparently that Google wants you to earn all of your backlinks.

For instance, if you pay for a banner ad on a certain website, Google demands that the link in the banner should to be nofollow. Otherwise, Google could penalize your website.

link schemes

Do Nofollow Links Help with SEO?

To answer this question, let’s briefly review what Google says about how they handle nofollow links:

“Google does not transfer PageRank (link juice) across these links.”

That does seem clear enough until you read the sentence that comes before it:

“In general, we don’t follow them. In other words, Google does not transfer anchor text or PageRank across these links.”

Generally, I think this statement is somewhat vaguer than it needs to be and suggests that they follow nofollowed links in some cases. Nobody knows what those cases may be.

Some folks believe that all nofollow links still transfer some link juice. Some assume that Google transfers link juice to some (but not all) nofollow links.

But first, let’s look at some fascinating case studies.

Adam White wanted to rank for the keyword “backlink software” on his site.

What steps did he take?

He bought several nofollow links from high-quality websites in the SEO space.

And all those links used his target keyword “backlink software” as their anchor text.

What happened next?

His ranking quickly skyrocketed from #19 to #1 in Google for his keyword “backlink software.”

nofollow link case study 2

What can you now say to this?

Next, let’s look at the results of an industry study.

Ahrefs recently analyzed the top 20 search results across 19,840 keywords.

(They looked at keywords such as “NYC lawyer” and “insurance”).

And they found out that nofollow and dofollow links have the same impact on rankings.

End result? Nofollow links seem to pass little SEO value, especially if the links are from related/relevant websites. Google may equally use anchor text from nofollow backlinks in their algorithm.

Benefits of Nofollow Links

Let’s now look at some of the countless benefits of nofollow links. I bet you might not know some of them:

1. They help to diversify your link profile

Natural backlink profiles are meant to be diverse.

Some links are nofollowed, while others are followed. It’s an inevitable fact because some people will unavoidably link to you through nofollowed links – regardless of how much you might wish this wasn’t the situation.

Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, most of the links you get from the following places are nofollow:

  • Social networks
  • Forums
  • Pingbacks
  • Press releases
  • Directories
  • Wikipedia (anyone can edit a Wikipedia page)

Bottom line: If a blog has only dofollow links or a noticeably high percentage of dofollow backlinks, then that’s a clear sign something shady is going on. And if that’s the case, then you may be getting the Google hammer sooner or later.

This is why you need to have a combination of no follow and follow backlinks, to mix things up.

2. Traffic boost from second-tier links and backlinks

Since there’s no way to stop people from clicking on nofollow links, one of the best advantages of them is the potential for extra traffic to your site.

For example, if you generate a backlink from Huffington Post (a publication that uses nearly no dofollow links), that link is still extremely valuable.

Why?

This is simply because Huffington Post has a vast audience, and all of its visitors now have a chance of landing on your site.

Furthermore, if the anchor text for the backlink in the Huffington Post article mentions the name of your brand, then you’ve equally generated a bunch of brand awareness.

That nofollow link is apparently far from useless.

And that potential becomes even more profitable with second-tier links,

Mostly, first-tier links are your regular backlinks. Another site links to one of your pages. Here’s a graphical representation of this:

tier one links

A second-tier link is similar to first-tier, but further down the command chain. A second-tier link does not link to your website directly but links to a webpage that is currently linking to your own site.

Here’s what it looks like:

tier two links

Still don’t get it?

That’s okay. Let’s look at one example.

Here’s a blog post from nichepursuits.com that links to another tech site. This is the first-tier link.

starting a blog

But when I click on the link and land on the referenced page, I can also see that WordPress is mentioned on the link from the tech site.

This then is a second-tier link.

WordPress got the first-tier link from the tech site and a second-tier link from nichepursuits.com as you can see below:

tier links

Now, I know what’s going through your mind.

Why are first-tier and second-tier backlink building so vital when it comes to nofollow backlinks?

The reason is straightforward. While no follow links will give you less direct SEO benefit than do follow links, they can also generate just as much traffic.

Again, with second-tier backlink building, they can generate even much more traffic.

Apparently, all of that traffic is far from being worthless. Therefore, the same thing applies to the nofollow link that generated that traffic.

3. SEO boost to your referenced pages

That subtitle might sound confusing.

How would you possibly get an SEO boost to your pages that get a nofollow link?

Besides, isn’t the whole point of the nofollow attribute to prevent Google from attributing domain authority to the linked page?

Well, you’re correct!

That’s the point.

But then, Google understands that.

The people building the well-guarded Google algorithm already know that webmasters want to use the nofollow links tag to protect their own SEO by not helping other site’s SEO.

Here’s the point, though: Google equally knows that you are still linking to them, notwithstanding the nofollow tag.

And because they are aware of that, the actual ability of nofollow links to limit the building of domain authority is kind of dubious.

If you get a nofollow link from an authoritative site, that does not automatically mean that the backlink will do 100% nothing for your SEO.

In short, tons of case studies on the web say differently.

Remember the case study I shared with you earlier?

We’ll be looking at it again. The primary aim of the study was to determine the impact of nofollow links. In the end, Adam White saw a clear correlation between when he used nofollow links and a boost in their rankings.

nofollow link case study 2

Furthermore, consider the fact that most posts ranking on the first page of Google average 20-40% of their total links being nofollow backlinks.

Obviously, those nofollow links are doing much more than most folks think they are.

You want to climb the tall ladder of rankings, right?

You want to consider that 93 percent of all internet experiences start with a search engine, and 75 percent of searchers never scroll past the first page of results.

online search stats

As you can see, nofollow links can help you utilize that SEO potential.

And they do it directly.

More than likely, since Google is very much aware of the nofollow tags, they’ve created something into their algorithm to still offer benefit to the linked pages, regardless of that nofollow HTML tag.

Nofollow links perhaps don’t offer as much SEO value as dofollow links.

But to say that they offer no boost to your domain authority (DA) is just as unreasonable as saying that Google does not know what nofollow-attributing sites are trying to do.

4. They can guard you against Google penalties

Sometimes there are good reasons to buy links.

If a site receives a bunch of traffic, paying for a sponsored post on that website may make good sense. And if you’re paying a good amount of money to be featured, then you’ll perhaps want to add a link to your site so that the readers can easily locate you.

But the problem is that Google said that dofollow paid links are a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines.

However, the SEO community is divided into two groups:

  • Those who believe that Google can correctly recognize paid links algorithmically
  • Those who believe that Google cannot correctly recognize paid links algorithmically

Now, which group is right is a debate for another day.

But for now, let’s assume that group #2 is right and that Google struggles to figure out any and all paid links. That is to say that you’re 100% safe to sell and buy links to your best content, right?

Calm down first!

Google has a tool that lets anyone report a website for selling or buying links.

selling and buying links

With this, it may not be Google that you should be scared of – but your competitors.

Let’s face it: If one of your competitors sees you ranking very well for their target keyword, and they use a tool such as Ahrefs to analyze your backlinks, only to find dofollow links like this:

selling and buying links 2

Then what should make them not to report you to Google?

If that will make Google’s webspam team to take a look at your site to discover the paid links and penalize you, then that’s a minus-one competitor for them to rival with on the SERPs.

5. Helps with social signals

Probably, you already know how social media can benefit your online success.

After all, everyone is talking about it.

You’ve perhaps read about how often you should post on which social media platform and why that is going to help build your brand awareness, audience, and even generate traffic, leads, and conversions to your site.

But do you also know that all those social media accounts can benefit your SEO?

It’s known as social signals in SEO terms.

And according to ‘Social Media Explorer‘, Google uses social signals to find out how updated, how widespread, and how active your blog is.

social signals

Undeniably, every social media network is a bit different. But above all, social signals are nofollow.

Here are a few nofollow links on Twitter:

twitter

And some nofollow links on Facebook:

facebook

However, the story is a bit different on Pinterest. As you can see from the green highlighted links here:

pinterest

Pinterest actually appears to use dofollow links – I’m not so sure of this, though.

That will undoubtedly benefit your SEO in a good way, even more than a social network that provides nofollow links.

But even with the “no” or “do” tag before “follow,” those social media signals help your SEO directly.

According to CognitiveSEO, there’s an apparent correlation between the top ten results in the SERPs and the presence of those blogs on social media:

social signal and seo

But it’s not just about how present those sites are on social media. How active they are also matters:

social signal and seo 2

Naturally, that makes a lot of sense.

That means that the more active you are on social networks, the more backlinks you’ll get to your site, especially if you’re sharing blog posts from your own website.

That is to say that for each time you post…

For each updated social media account…

And for each share you get…

You build nofollow backlinks that are directly helping your SEO.

Therefore, who said that nofollow links are useless?

Well, they’d perhaps never heard of social signals.

6. Helps with influencer marketing

Have you heard of influencer marketing before?

Well, if not, let me explain:

Influencer marketing is a means of accessing the audience of someone who has a large audience than you and will be interested in your business.

Ideally, after working with the influencer to promote your business to his audience, some of them will join your own audience. By so doing, you’ll now have direct access to those people without the influencer’s permission.

It’s an insane strategy for driving traffic, leads, and of course, conversions.

The reason is straightforward. People trust influencers.

According to BabsReviews:

81% of consumers in the U.S trust recommendations from websites, and about 71% of consumers are most likely to buy a product if they see a recommendation for it on social media site.”

influencer marketing

That’s why big companies have been leveraging influencer marketing for a long time now.

OK. So you already know that influencer marketing is outstanding for driving traffic, leads, and conversions.

But how does all that relate to no follow links?

Well, influencer marketing also shows that nofollow links aren’t really worthless.

Think about it. The backlinks you generate with influencer-marketing campaigns are often nofollow.

But, of course, it’d be wired to think that those same backlinks are meaningless. With those nofollow links, you get access to a considerable audience, build your own audience, and perhaps even sell some items.

Many brands have leveraged influencer marketing campaigns to build massive nofollow links.

And that is because those references and mentions are remarkably valuable, irrespective of their nofollow roots.

You can also use the same tactic.

Difference Between Nofollow and Noindex

Some of the pages on your website serve a purpose. But ranking on the search engines or driving traffic isn’t part of that purpose. These pages need to be there because regulations require them to be on your website, or they serve as the glue for other pages.

Now, the noindex and nofollow attributes are what will help you deal with these pages.

Here’s what it usually looks like:

<meta name=”robots” content=”[VALUE1,VALUE2]”>

  • By default, VALUE1 and VALUE2 are set to index, follow. This means that the page can be indexed, and all the links on that page can be followed by the search engine crawlers to index the linked pages.
  • VALUE1 and VALUE2 can also be set to noindex, nofollow. Noindex is another way of telling the search engines not to index the pages. As you already know, nofollow also means that it shouldn’t follow the links.

How Are They Different?

Nofollow and noindex are quite different in utility.

Noindex can be used when asking the search engines not to store your web page for display in search results. And Nofollow can be used when you are asking the search engine spiders not to follow the links on your page.

Therefore, in simple terms, noindex is for your webpages, while nofollow is for the links on your webpages.

When Should I Use Each?

An excellent example of where you can use the noindex meta tag is on your “Thank You page.” You don’t want your thank you page to be displayed in the SERPs. This is typically a page that users land on once they’ve completed your lead generation form.

Now, for the search engines to know that they shouldn’t store this page, you must tell them by using the noindex meta tag in your page’s header code.

On the other hand, you should only use the nofollow tag when you don’t want the search engines to follow the links on the page. This is especially important if the page contains a litany of affiliate links or paid links.

I believe you already know this by now if you followed this post from the beginning.

Interestingly, it’s effortless to apply the noindex or nofollow tag if you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin.

noindex and nofollow

Mastering the resources to optimize and protect your content for search engines is essential for your content marketing and lead generation success.

Using the NoIndex and NoFollow meta tags the right way will also help you make the most of your content initiative and ensure you aren’t losing out on valuable leads.

Google 2019 Update about Nofollow Links

Before the September 2019 update, Google used the “nofollow” tag as an instruction to pay no attention to the link. From then on, Google uses it as a pointer for rankings and later – beginning from March 2020 – it will also take it as a hint for crawling and indexing.

Now, what does using it as a “pointer for rankings” mean? Before, the “nofollow” tag was a command, and it’s instead a recommendation now. This means that if Google considers it necessary – it’ll credit such links, identify them as spam or use them for different ranking purposes.

To put succinctly:

Google did not use nofollow links for indexing or rankings.

As of September 10, they were used as “hints” for rankings.

And starting from March 2, 2020, Google will be taking them as “hints” for indexing and crawling.

In addition, Google introduced two new link attributes to indicate the specific role of a link: rel=”ugc” and rel=”sponsored” (more on this later).

Prior to this moment, the “nofollow” tag was the only way to identify a link that Google shouldn’t take into account. Now, Google introduced more specific options.

The “ugc” attribute should be used for links in user-generated content, i.e., forums posts, comments, etc., and the “sponsored” tag should be used to mark all sponsored and paid links

In Which Cases We Should Use No Follow Links?

You will have many reasons to use nofollow links on your site. They may be in different areas, as well. Let’s discuss some of the most common areas and why you should prevent the search engines from using the link for SEO.

1. Links in comments

If people can get dofollow links from comments, they will abuse the privilege. They can and will easily post a comment, linking to wherever, and your website will pass along link juice and PageRank.

That is basically you vouching for several spammy sites out there, and they can always get it at will. You don’t want that to be the case, so it’s crucial to nofollow those links. The good thing, however, is that WordPress does this by default.

Additionally, by nofollowing every link in the comment section of your blog, you will also help facilitate interaction as real people’s comments and threads won’t get interrupted by worthless comments.

Doing this is beneficial for everyone.

2. The entire page is not relevant to your niche

Let’s assume that you operate an automobile website. If, for any reason, you publish a blog post about how to clean a lawn or have a page on your site promoting a local sporting festival. You link to a bunch of relevant resources for that topic.

But, on the other hand, Google may look at the whole website and presume that the page was included there against your knowledge because it’s totally different from your regular content.

The search engine would conclude that those were part of a fishy link building and then penalize you for it. In such a situation, you can just add a nofollow attribute to your header. With that, every link on the webpage would become nofollow.

Mind you, this is what the nofollow tag was originally meant for. It was later changed to be applied to individual links for more control.

3. Distancing yourself from undesirables

Just like every content marketer, you’ve probably done this before. Linked to a site that you knew was somewhat bad news, but for some reason, needed them for a reference. Perhaps, you linked to an infographic from a news website that you don’t want to be related to.

Maybe there’s a hack, scam, or a scandal, and you link to it just to warn your audience, but don’t want to give them any ranking boost. So, in that case, the best thing is to make the link nofollow. This will prevent you from giving them any rank boost and from telling Google that you trust them.

4. The link shows on many pages in the same spot

If you have links in your sidebar that shows on every page on your website, then make them nofollow. This is because every time you create a post or update an old post, a new backlink is generated, and sooner or later, you will appear as one of the rotten eggs to Google.

Footer links equally fall into this, and, if for example, you operate a web design agency that links back to your homepage on each client’s website, you may want to consider nofollowing the links. People can still click it and visit your site, but you’re also trying to avoid Google penalties.

5. You were paid to add the link

If you add sponsored or paid content on your blog, that’s excellent. It’s a brilliant way to monetize your blog. However, you need to tell your readers and the search engines that the content is sponsored.

Whenever you have a link that is only on your site because you have been paid to include it there, it shouldn’t be a dofollow link. You absolutely need to add rel=”nofollow” to it.

Even though your contract doesn’t expressly state that you have to link to any specific site, just create the content, you still need to nofollow everything related to it. To the company’s website, to a product page, to a contest form – anything at all.

Don’t forget that they are paying for referral traffic, and not link juice. By the way, this equally includes affiliate links. So add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to those, as well, since you’re profiting from them.

How to find Follow and Nofollow Links Ratio?

Are you wondering about what is the best dofollow and nofollow ratio? If so, then I must tell you that there is no optimal ratio for follow/nofollow links, only good links (natural/relevant), and bad links (paid/spammy). Take it from the Moz Community:

dofollow and nofollow ratio

That said, to check the ratio of follow vs. no follow backlinks for any site or page, head over to the overview report in Ahrefs Site Explorer:

Site Explorer => enter the domain name, URL, or subfolder => Overview

bloggers passion

From the report, it seems like 66% of the referring domains to the Bloggers Passion blog are dofollowed.

Is this a good or bad sign? Honestly, like I said before, provided there’s some diversity here, it’s clearly a good sign.

You don’t want to see a 100% dofollow or anything close to that, that’s a sure sign of shady practice. From experience, I would say anything from 60 to 90% is good; however, that range isn’t final. If you suspect any manipulation, delve deeper.

Bottom line: Ultimately, you want a good balance of dofollow and nofollow links for a healthy link profile. While dofollow links may be more beneficial for SEO, both deserve a place in your online marketing tactic.

How Do I Use Nofollow Links on My Site?

It all depends on what technology your website runs on.

For instance, if your site runs on the WordPress platform, all blog comment links will have the nofollow attribute by default.

There is also a plugin called “Nofollow for external link” that’ll help make all your links nofollow:

nofollow for external link

Else, it’s just a matter of hiring a developer to automatically or manually add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to your external links.

New link attributes

In September 2019, Google introduced two new link attributes as an upgrade to the old nofollow attribute to have new ways of identifying the nature of links.

For nearly 15 years, the “nofollow” tag was the only way for disclosing advertised or sponsored links. From now on, there are three ways to identify these links:

rel=”ugc”

UGC stands for “User Generated Content.” You can use the attribute for user-generated content such as blog comments and forum posts.

rel=”sponsored”

The rel=” sponsored attribute is meant for sponsored links and paid links.

Does this mean we should replace the nofollow tag with the new ones? Not at all, you can leave your user-generated or sponsored links with the “nofollow” attributes.

Can we use the new attributes together with “nofollow”? Yes. They can be used together if required: rel=”nofollow ugc,” rel=”nofollow sponsored.”

Bottom line: Everything’s fine, guys! There’s no need to worry, no need for any major changes, just remember the updates in the future.

Conclusion

When used the right way, both nofollow links and dofollow links are great that serve specific purposes at specific times. And I believe you already know what those are.

That said, nofollow links play a significant role when it comes to SEO. And if you’ve been neglecting it before now, you perhaps need to reconsider your stand.

Hopefully, this guide has been able to arm you with the knowledge needed to make nofollow links work for you – not against you.

Before I conclude, I have one final – probably very obvious – point to make: If you’re actively building backlinks to your site, then it makes sense to focus more on building dofollow links. These are the ones that pass link juice and PageRank and have a direct impact on SEO.

But remember to mix things up with some nofollow links in order to stay safe. Do let us know if you have any questions.

Anil Agarwal

Dofollow and Nofollow Links: How They Impact Rankings in 2020Anil Agarwal who owns Bloggerspassion.com, is a full-time blogger and SEO expert who has been helping people build profitable blogs for over a decade. Bloggers Passion has been featured on premium online sites like Forbes.com, Huffingtonpost, SEMrush, Problogger, Crazy Egg, The Next Web and so on.

3 Comments

  1. ovjjewels19 says:

    i am a seo analyst this article really very helpful for me. i learned lot of useful information about dofollow and nofollow links from this post. article is nicely explained and easy to understand. thanks for sharing this valuable information with us. keep your good work.

  2. Mahmudul Rubel says:

    hi Anil

    As usual, Awesome post.

    If you do only do Dofollow links in our blogs, Its suspicious to google. so we need to mix up with those two.

  3. Alex says:

    Thank you Anil For Sharing this awesome Article. Planning to build some Mixup do follow and no follow backlinks to my website.

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