Follow Links Vs. No Follow Links: Should You Care?

252

Those new to SEO might be wondering what all the hullabaloo is about follow links vs. no follow links. Confused? Not to worry, we’re going to clear it all up.

Follow vs. Nofollow

What is a Follow Link?

To really understand what is going on with follow vs. no follow links, we need to provide a bit of background about how most links work in the realm of SEO. When a site page gets an inbound link, which is a hyperlink pointing to that page, the page gets a small SEO boost. Think of a link as a point, and the more links you have, the more points. More Points = Winning, like Charlie Sheen.

Google takes note of these points, watching how many inbound links a page has and from what sites. Google figures, hey, if a lot of people are linking to a certain page, it must be a really good page! Let’s give preference in our search engines to that page over others of a similar topic so we can easily deliver the very best pages to our search engine users.

Google created a metric called PageRank to calculate the link points. Many SEO folks refer to link points as “link juice.” The link juice flows through sites and into new sites through hyperlinks. The more reputable the site, the bigger boost of link juice the linked-to site gets. Getting a link from the New York Times or BBC is pure gold!

Now we can define a follow link – Follow links are links that count as points, pushing SEO link juice and boosting the page rank of the linked-to sites, helping them go higher in the SERPs as a result.

What is a No Follow Link?

A no follow link is a link that does not count as a point in the page’s favor, does not boost PageRank, and doesn’t help a page’s placement in the SERPs. No follow links get no love. Theirs is a sad and lonely life.

A no follow link is created with the nofollow link HTML tag, which looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.website.com/rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a>

The nofollow tag is basically a notice sign for search engines saying “don’t count this.”

Isn’t that just mean and terrible? Why would anyone do such a thing? There’s a reason for the nofollow attribute, and boy is it a good one!

Want more traffic? Here are 25 Ways to Increase Traffic to Your Website.

A World Without No Follow = Spamalot

As we discussed earlier, the natural do follow form of links is used by Google to measure PageRank. More links means more link juice, which results in higher ranking website pages. In its unadulterated state, PageRank exists to see what pages are the most popular (and therefore, likely the best quality pages), and deliver those top pages to searchers. 

Well, ours is an imperfect world, and, as you might have heard, some self-proclaimed SEO “experts” scheme to trick search engines and inflate their rankings using black-hat, unethical methods, and in the times before the nofollow attribute, link-building was an easy way to artificially boost page rankings.

nofollow seo

Once PageRank was discovered by SEO black-hats, all hell broke lose! Suddenly it was all about the links for SEO. More inbound links meant better PageRank, and SEOs were determined to get as many links possible, even if it meant spamming everyone on the web to get them. Blog comments were a joke, riddled with self-promotional nonsense and linking gibberish.

nofollow links

follow links

Wikipedia got messy too, as people tried to add their own sites as references on hundreds of Wikipedia pages all in the name of the coveted link juice.

The blogging community was worried – these spammers were destroying any chance at fostering real community and authentic discussion on blogs. In 2005, Google, the self-styled web police, stepped in. Google’s Matt Cutts and Jason Shellen of Blogger stepped in to introduce the nofollow attribute.     

NoFollow: The Tag the Internet Needs, But Not the One it Deserves

The necessity of the nofollow tag highlights the crooked and spammy mentality commonly associated with SEO, but there’s no denying we couldn’t get by without it.

nofollow

The no follow link tag has done a lot of good for the online world – most SEO spammers won’t bother posting irrelevant links to blogs or forum posts if they know they won’t get to publish a follow link. WordPress automatically assigns the no follow link attribute to all user-submitted links, and Wikipedia does the same for its reference section.

While blog comment spam still happens, no follow definitely dampened it.

As a webmaster, you might find yourself wondering when to use the no follow attribute and when to allow for do follow links. No follow links primarily belong in:

  • Paid links (it wouldn’t be fair to buy link juice, now would it?)
  • Comments
  • Forums
  • Anything involving what Google calls “untrusted content”

Some webmaster may disable the nofollow attribute as a reward for blog commenters who are contributing to the blogging community or online discussion, but that’s up to individual discretion.

So I Just Shouldn’t Bother With No Follow Links, Right?

Absolutely not! Just because they don’t provide SEO link value doesn’t mean no follow links are worthless. No follow links still provide valuable referral traffic.

A well-placed blog comment or a relevant forum post, no follow or not, can send a huge amount of traffic to your site, which then can funnel down to leads and conversions!

Besides, search engines today are looking at a lot of factors outside of link juice and PageRank. Social signals like those from Twitter and Facebook are increasingly valuable, despite being no follow. The key is to build your brand – don’t think of what links are good for SEO, but instead think what links are good for your business, your brand, and what links can help establish you as an industry authority. Remember that links, no follow or not, build trust.

It’s also still worth pursing Wikipedia links when appropriate. Wikipedia is very picky about their references, so you’ll have to provide very niche, unique content, but if you can get a link it can bring about some pretty cool results – including other do follow links.

Wikipedia nofollow links

Gianluca Fiorelli of IloveSEO notes that once, when doing competitive research about sites related to traveling to Patagonia, he found that the site that was ranking in first place on Google had a Wikipedia link. He says:

“I dug into that link and discovered that it was to a post about the Welsh immigration in Patagonia present in that site's blog. Is that link sending traffic to the site? Probably not at all, but it was noticed by someone in the BBC website, who finally linked to that same post citing Wikipedia. Boom, now that travel site not only has one link from Wikipedia, but it has also an important backlink from another trusted seed: the BBC.”

Wikipedia links, despite being nofollow, can still drive traffic and might earn you some platinum do follow links down the line. 

How to See if a Link is Follow or No Follow

How do you decipher between follow links vs. no follow links?

In Chrome, go to the navigation bar and click View>Developer>View Source. Alternatively you can just right-click on a page and hit Inspect Element. For Firefox, do Right-Click>View Page Source.

From there, do an Edit>Find and search for “nofollow” in the search box. All instances of the nofollow tag will be highlighted.

How to See Which Links Are Nofollow

For the SEO pros who want to keep careful and easy track of no follow links, there are many extensions available to download for Chrome and Firefox that automatically highlight no follow or do follow links on the pages you visit.

A few for Firefox are:

For Chrome:

How to Get Follow Links

We’ve talked about why links are important, regardless of their no follow/do follow status, but you probably still want a few follow links to even out that link profile.

The best ways to get do follow links is the honest way: creating awesome, original content that gets shared and linked to naturally. Other approaches include guest blogging, especially on a site relevant to your own so that you can build referral traffic in addition to getting an SEO boost.

Follow or No Follow: A Balanced Link Profile is Best

Remember, ultimately you want a healthy balance of do follow and no follow backlinks for the perfect link profile. Do follow links may do more for SEO, but both deserve a place in your online marketing strategy.

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.

Comments

Arthur
Oct 15, 2013

Thanks for the detailed writeup. Does anyone here know of  any Bookmarking Site  that provide FOLLOW links?

Yeasmin Akter
Oct 18, 2013

I learn a lot of from this post. I know about dofollow and nofollow but now I know more about this. Cheers!!

Laurel Staples
Oct 22, 2013

Thank you for this post! This really helped clear a few things up for me, especially since I've been doing a lot of guest posting recently.

HP Lino
Oct 28, 2013

I just wonder if no floow is still in charge for Google as it was in the begining 

Abu Bakar
Oct 30, 2013

Great difference between nofollow and dofollow links. Nice tips & keep up the good work. Thanks. Appreciated it.

Ted
Nov 08, 2013

I found you post about this topic both intriguing and informative... haa haa.. just kidding. I'm building community site which will have blogs. One of the settings is whether to add nofollow to any links and I was stuck... follow or nofollow, I really don't know. I'd like to keep the search engine spiders crawling my site for as long as possible, but I don't want to get on the bad side of the powers that be (google) by having all nofollow links. hmm... tough decision. After reading this article, I've decided to go the nofollow route. I think the best traffic comes from people who really do want to visit my site, and direct referrals seems to be the best way to get that traffic. Let the search engines do what they want... I have a community to build. :)

Anonymous
Nov 10, 2013

Very informative post. Thank you

irtouring
Nov 18, 2013

nice article, from what i know, Google did add that if you are mass spamming at a huge scale, Google may take manual action on your links to discourage your spamming, despite the links being nofollowed. anyways, tnx for the article and please keep in up as i am refer from time to time

Robert A.
Nov 23, 2013

When you do backlinks for your website, you do not just look for dofollow backlinks, because nofollow are also important for your site, Google needs some amount of nofollow backlinks like backlinks from your own country and so on.

Sky Range
Dec 03, 2013

I agree with you and think no follow links are not "completely useless" like some "SEO"s claim. I like when you say a well balanced link profile is best. You've got to make it look organic, and obviously a lot of organic internet users will unknowingly post nofollow links to their own blogs and pages. You rock, really enjoyed the article! Thanks!

eva
Dec 04, 2013

Thank you for the great article in explaning the different links in plain terms. I did wonder if I should be doing something else with my blog comments, but you have convinced me to elave them as no follow.Thanks again for sharing your expert knowldege.

Dixit
Dec 07, 2013

Nofollow link effect in SEO or not i am confused???

Arlene Prunkl
Dec 10, 2013

Hi Megan,Just came across your blog post. My old HTML site always was on page 1 of Google.com for my searches. Recently I switched to a new Wordpress site, and my Google rankings fell off the planet. Yesterday, someone told me my Resources page was the culprit, where I have 100s of highly relevant outbound links and none of them are "nofollow." So I am now meticulously putting in "nofollow" tags for all of them. Now I am reading that there are conflicting ideas about "nofollow." What is your opinion? Should I be adding "nofollow" to all my outbound, relevant links on my Resources page? I spent dozens of hours gathering those links, and they were fine on my old site without the "nofollow." Could this be the problem to the awful search results my new site is getting?

Kundan Raj Bhattarai
Dec 10, 2013

Thank you for the valuable information. I am trying to get Google Page rank for my site and for this I am trying to get the backlinks. I have few of them and I saw nofollow links which I ddin't know what it was. Your article has cleared my doubt. I will try my best to have quality article.

kopi morgan
Dec 13, 2013

as i know, both follow link and no follow link are better for SEO.. So, i do woth of them to make a great collaboration..thanks a lot for the information..

Byron
Dec 18, 2013

This was all helpful and should help me make some significant advances in my SEO indeavor.  Thank you all for your feed back. 

Arindam Dutta
Dec 19, 2013

A nofollow tag is a basic piece of html. Appended to a hyperlink, it allows webmasters to control whether search engines follow a link or not. While a nofollow link is ignored, but popular social networking site like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace sites are nofollow, but they do provide a lot of other benefits.

Anonymousjozane
Dec 19, 2013

A great descriptive article. I am beginner in blogging and your article helped me a lot. Thanks!

Robert
Dec 19, 2013

I have a sneaky suspicion that no-follow links DO serve some SEO purpose and pass on link juice, but this is just a personal suspicion. I think Google is smarter than we give them credit for. 

Firdaus Aulia
Jan 02, 2014

The software do not know whether the website it is commenting a relevant one to a site it is linking to, or not. If you want to avoid such spams, Wordpress can accomodate different commenting platform. One excellent one you could try is Disqus. There is a disqus plugin that can replace Wordpress default comments area.

Tryary
Jan 10, 2014

Thank you for the breakdown. I've look at other blogs that try to explain Do Follow and No Follow and they are quite confusing. Now I get a clear idea.

Matt Wilkinson
Jan 16, 2014

are we 100% sure that google completely ignores no follow links? Its hard spending time going after no follow when they dont pass juice, but i guess its all about the link profile as youve mentioned...

ChristopherLanne
Jan 16, 2014

Hello Megan,Thank you for this article. I am professional freelance writer: I must admit that it is frustrating to me that writers these days need to be educated on marketing to do their job effectively. So, I really appreciate articulate articles that help me keep up with the marketing aspect of writing on the Internet.

zuan emily
Jan 17, 2014

Clearly explained about follow and no follow links.

Riddhi Vora
Jan 21, 2014

I learn lot's of thing by using this blog and this post is really helpful for SEO developer so Keep in touch with SEO updates and share it. Thank you from jano to mano boss

Ahsan Ali
Jan 21, 2014

Hi megan,You have mentioned such key points related with follow and no-follow links. Both are important for a blog to servive.Yes no follow links can only provide us traffic not worth in the eyes of search engines. It is also believed that follow links are best for both traffic and SEO prospects.Now a days its not easy to get follow links for those who don't believe in guest posting.I just want to rise one question and that is when its difficult to get follow links and only guest posting is the way to get these, then why don't google give some more weightage to no-follow links. Can you say something about thisthanks

MightyTravels
Jan 23, 2014

Nofollow can be a great too for internal linking. I think it will do little to reduce spam. Disqus has switched to Javascript only - I guess that is the way to go.

Sankar Sanaka
Jan 24, 2014

Really very nice explanation of No-follow links. But, if all websites have No-Follow links, then we it will be hard for webmaster to grow.

Victor Pan
Sep 04, 2013

Q: What happens when you have too many outbound links?A: In the worse case scenario, Google believes you're creating a spammy page meant to pass link juice. In the best case scenario, you'll rank well for that page because others link and bookmark it for the value it brings to them and their audience (e.g. resource pages). In other words, it depends.Q: How much is too many when it comes to outbound links?A: The litmus test is simple - when you are giving more links than is helpful to your reader, you have too many outbound links. A resource page with over 1,000 links in one category, for example, would be way too many links.Q: Should I link to others' product or services if I believe it will benefit my readers?A: Assuming you sell a non-conflicting product or service, the answer is yes. Follow up with said product or service's team to let them know you helped promote their business too! Maybe their readers could use your product or services.If said product or service also targets keywords you're targeting and they rank above you in search, you can consider nofollowing said links, as you wouldn't want to aid your "search" competitors with your links. 

Richard
Oct 27, 2014

That is true but it is a big put off for people who need answers quickly and you have to make a whole account up. Plus you dont pick up as much link equitythrough discuss??

Negocio Facebook
Apr 10, 2015

Right here is the perfect web site for anybody who wishes to find out about this
topic. You know so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa).
You certainly put a new spin on a topic which has been written about for years.
Great stuff, just excellent!

kasha
Jun 24, 2014

I believe it's wonderful companies have to put in the man power to get backlinks from the follow to no follows since before there were no strict regulations governing how the ranking were based on to be listed on the first page. I can say I am glad to know no following is still a good link to have.

vinay kumar
Jun 25, 2014

Thanks for sharing this information with us !  

Cryptocurrency
Jun 25, 2014

I do believe that link should be a balance but I also think that user engagement is worth more than just the links! I remeber back in the day, (pre 2010) and the whole rush towards collecting backlinks, however now its replaced with social media and the rush to get fans! The best way to get links is by first building up a fan base; loyal fans will share and naturally bring you more traffic, including returning traffic. 

amit saini
Jun 26, 2014

This information is nice. It is useful for seo campaign. I will share it with my seo circle.

norah downey
Jun 30, 2014

Dear Megan.Thank you!This is the first article that laid this topic out in a way that clicked with me.I finally get it; as well as  the reasoning behind having both types of links for a balanced link profile.I never knew about the Firefox add-ons. I looked at them briefly and can't believe how helpful having one will be.Thank you again.Sincerely,Norah

Ethnic Food
Jul 04, 2014

Magnificent post. THanks for sharing

rafael vildan
Jul 04, 2014

f it's your website pointing to your social media profile, then you should follow those links. This helps Google establish the legitimate relationship between your website and its extended social media profiles.If you ever mention a competitor with a similar name, I would nofollow that link ;)

oyun oyna
Jul 04, 2014

i would like to nofollow two of them and leave on intact

KasurLatex
Jul 06, 2014

Will follow link from a paid sites any good or just harming the website? I see some competitors website using a paid followlink and backlink but has a high page rank and show very good in google. Any comment??

shashikant chauhan
Jul 07, 2014

do follow link and no link is so much important get serp,its alwasy to help  me for my blog after reading your post.thanks man. 

Ouyeah
Jul 07, 2014

Finally good article about no follow. I wondered long time if no follow links help with seo, but as you wrote it do not help. So they are only good for some additional traffic to web. Thanks for this article. Good luck

naveed akram
Jul 07, 2014

There is a computer age everywhere.And all people want to help(guidness).This is a good site for getting help(tips).Thanx to the owner of this site. :)

Naina
Jul 08, 2014

This is a wonderful article i must say, So much info given in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website, keep on sharing more...Aire bra

vinay kumar
Jul 09, 2014

Nice information about no follow n do follow links !  

Amit kumar
Jul 09, 2014

well Matt... thanks for the information... 

Monis
Jul 10, 2014

Thanks, I'm new to SEO and this article was very clear. Thanks :).

Esmeralda coaching Rouen
Jul 10, 2014

Very nice information thank you for this sharing

Muneeb
Jul 11, 2014

Awesome post, and learned a lot from that. Near to me, it doesn't matter either blog is offering nofollow or dofollow link on commentig.The reason pretty damn simple, "its all what we have", if someone wants to build backlinks by commenting then unfortunalty no one evenblogs with low PR , not offering follow link in comments. So we have to take , what we are getting. The balance between Follow links and NofllowlLinks are really important and according to experts, its a ranking factor of Google.Thanks 

kanopi minimalis
Jul 13, 2014

how to improve the website in google search engine ?

Pages