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

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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.

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Comments

Matt
Aug 27, 2013

When building a website, is there any occasion for using no follow links?

Victor Pan
Aug 27, 2013

The following sections in a website might be a good idea to use no follow links as the default:- The comment section (to prevent spammers)- Sponsored ads (to prevent endorsing paid links)- Blogroll (to other websites, which can also look like paid placements to search engines)Hope this answers your question Matt!

Jameyson MacDonald
Jun 14, 2014

Hey Matt, this is pretty standard with most websites these days. By default, most commenting systems add a nofollow attribute to most links. I'm not really sure why, except maybe for the purpose of limiting the number of spam links being circulated on the web.

David
Jan 26, 2015

Now i understand how Follow links and No Follow links are working. Thanks for sharing

Pierre Goldman
Jan 31, 2015

Great article , I like the images , especially the batman no-follow, in your opinion what would be a good proportion to have in follow and no-follow mixup?

Kind Regards

Pierre Goldman

Randy Garcia
Feb 08, 2015

This is a great list of quality back links Megan. I will give it a shot and I'll let you know how it works out, thanks for sharing!

Sriram
Feb 12, 2015

Hi,

How many back links are needed to get our website in Google's 1st page. Currently i am 137 back links but i submitted more than 300 remains are pending for approval and all between 3-8 PR directories :) :D

E-biznes
Feb 19, 2015

Ok so if i want to put some links to other (trusthworthy)websites is better to put nofollow or dofollow. I know that when i put dofollow i lose some juice so what i suppose to do?

Sajid Ali
Mar 10, 2015

hmm very informative keep on spreading this kind of information thanks

Rodrigo Matos da Silva
Mar 12, 2015

excellent tip is important to know the importance of backlinks and what not follow

Miguel Araujo
Mar 13, 2015

Great post, thank you

Joshua Mutisya
Mar 17, 2015

Very informative piece.Been busy posting links to blog comments!! This has saved me a great hustle.

Solbari
Mar 28, 2015

Thanks for the great post. It all makes sense now.
Kate

lakshmi
Apr 08, 2015

Thanks a lot for writing this article. I am new to blogging, and this helped me understand a lot about SEO and links.

Sachin Bansal
Apr 16, 2015

Nice post, I was always being confused between dofollow and nofollow links. Thanks for sharing this info.

nội thất phòng khách
Apr 23, 2015

Thank you for the great explanation

weldon snowden
Apr 24, 2015

after reading through this article i found out that i have been doing no favor to my website. it is really hard to get a do follow backlink especially when you are starting a website, guest posting is the solution

Moinur
Apr 29, 2015

Hi: You fantastically describe the difference. Believe me it cleared my confusion. Before that i use direct link but now i will use the nofollow tag where it required.

Thanks a lot again for the article.

JobsOrbit
May 07, 2015

Very nice explanation,thank you very much.

Andrew T.
May 07, 2015

Very helpful for a beginner such as myself. I still have a way to go when it comes to understanding online marketing but this was a nice nugget of SEO insight. Don't know how much has changed in the last year and a half since the last post. But you have whetted my appetite to do some more research. Thank you!

Daniel Obaike
May 10, 2015

Nice work. This article has really answered my question. I'm new to SEO and was wondering the importance of no follow links if they don't pass links Juice.

I actually got referred by Neil Patel to read this article. Thanks to him and the author of this work.

I do agree that no follow links are very important in an overall marketing strategy. If no follow links can generate traffic then they are as good as follow links.

Very Good article and many thanks for the insight.

Anik
May 13, 2015

good

adi
May 16, 2015

how to get a link from the New York Times or BBC? can you tell me the trick?

Bilal
Jun 09, 2015

Thanks for the great post.

Rasel Hossain
Jun 14, 2015

This is an awesome post i don't what is dofollow and nofollow link. But now i understand it. I want to post my incometrick site but i don't know what is different them but now i know it.

Fahim Bashar
Jun 14, 2015

This is a great post . I like it very much it clear my idea about dofollow and no follow link.

Avinash
Jun 14, 2015

Now I understood why event after having some really good technical articles on oracle fusion my website doesn't appear on top.

Really sad though :(

Thanks
http://iavinash.com

Aamir
Jun 30, 2015

Awesome website
Thanks for the info! Good writing. no-follow links makes sense to me now.

Lynn Serafinn
Jul 06, 2015

Was searching for an article on dofollow/nofollow when I was researching stuff for a chapter on SEO in a book on blogging I'm writing. Just wanted to say how well-written this article is. I love it when techie people explain things in language that mere mortals can understand. To be honest, I was always a little confused as to what it meant too, but it's all very clear now. :-)

I've shared it on Twitter (have tagged you) and am following you there now, and I look forward to reading some of your more recent articles.

Look forward to connecting,
Lynn

Gary Beach
Jul 13, 2015

Thanks for the great article Megan. I did an "Inspect Element" on this site and received this:
rel="dns-prefetch"
Does this mean it is a No-Follow?

Thanks,
Gary Beach

teknotrait
Jul 22, 2015

Good Article

Steve
Aug 05, 2015

Thank you for this information, I have read at least 20 articles about back linking and how you should post on forums for dofollow links ect. Now I've 7 dofollow links and 485 no follow and it's effecting our Google rankings. Have you any tips for increasing dofollow links? Thanks

Zeeshan Ahmed
Aug 28, 2015

Awesome article, I really like the extension you mentioned in this article. Also I have wrote the article in which I have mentioned about Firefox which is also used by a lot of people in the world.

Shafi khan
Aug 30, 2015

Hey,
Thanks for such awesome explanation. I am a newbie in blogging field and it was a hell lot of confusing what is do-follow and no-follow links. Your post helped me a lot in understanding these and now I can continue blogging in peace :)

steve b
Aug 30, 2015

Thanks for the "Wikipedia tip" I'm def going to look into that.

Birima
Sep 01, 2015

Hello,

Help!

Being relatively new to this subject, I decided to check my domain with openlink profiler. I see 93% nofollow links and almost all of them come from only one particular site in the same field of interest, where I only posted once a comment on one article? I feel like huh? what did I do to this guy? I don't really understand the meaning of this and is harmful for my blog in terms of SEO?

Thank you

Rakhibul
Sep 05, 2015

Great Article.Thanks a lot for your Nice article

Percetakan
Sep 08, 2015

I really like your posts , and I have little doubt about the link dofollow and nofollow , after reading your article , I have no doubt .. Thanks

Muhammad Jibrin
Sep 16, 2015

I needed this post. I now have to reconsider how I build my backlinks. Thought I could get link juice from commenting on post but I guess that is not the case.

Safi Ullah
Oct 06, 2015

Amazing discussion.thank you for doing.

Cheryl
Oct 08, 2015

Great article, thank you!

sarah mazar
Oct 10, 2015

awesome difference about follow and no follow thanks for sharing a great information

riyaz
Oct 19, 2015

Thanx for share

Jose
Oct 27, 2015

Great ! Do follow links make sense for my Pace Wisdom website than no follow links

marikashoel
Nov 03, 2015

It is very nice post about no follow and do follow links for website. Am going to concentrate about this in my site, Anyway Thank you very much for your Great post!

Tharesh Kumar
Nov 09, 2015

Thank you for sharing about the differences between do follow and no follow backlinks and to understand them well.

alina
Nov 09, 2015

still confused about these two ....but nice article

Truyen hinh FPT
Nov 11, 2015

Good explanation.
Thanks in advance

deepa tiwari
Dec 05, 2015

This is a great article. Thanks for sharing Now I understood meaning of Backlinks Do follow and No follow. You have explained deeply.

Lyla Mitsu
Jan 14, 2016

Thanks for article,
hope this site has follow link :D

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