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


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=””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.


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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vinay kumar
Mar 19, 2014

nice no follow link site list !  

Julie Deneen
Mar 19, 2014

I am so glad I found this blog. Very insightful for us newbies out there. Thanks for the list.I believe that no-follow links do not provide any pr link juice but chance in feb 2014, my study has recommended that they be used to generate traffic to your blog. They can not be ignored but first choice will be keywordluv.Would be very helpful for my backlinking. Thanks for sharing.

Mar 10, 2014

Great article Megan on dofollow and nofollow links explained, wasn't sure what the difference was before but now it's clear.

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

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.

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!!

Oct 15, 2013

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

Dec 07, 2013

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

Oct 12, 2013

I am considering doing some (paid) content marketing w blogs and was researching what impact no follow links would have on our site. Thanks for answering all my questions, Megan. Great post!

Jainendra Singh
Mar 03, 2014

Thanks for valuable information, this is one of the best posts on do follow and no follow .

Syed Ashraful Hoq
Oct 03, 2013

Hi your article is awesome but one thing can u tell me is there any icon showed do follow or no follow like PR icon.

Christian Schön
Feb 23, 2014

Good post about the difference between dofollow and nofollow. Thanks. I am wondering now, what would happen, if I change all links on my page either to dofollow or nonfollow. What would be the impact to the ranking of the two approaches? One better then the other or no difference?

Lori Burdoo
Feb 15, 2014

I truly don't believe it! I think I FINALLY understand follow vs. no-follow (ok, maybe about 85% or so). Regardless, I've looked all over for this exact info. You broke it down so easily with great examples. Thank you!

Aimy Wilson
Sep 30, 2013

Thanks for the giving great explanation for dofollow or nofollow.Use NoFollow when linking to internal pages that don’t need PageRank 

zumaira ali
Sep 23, 2013

lets say i have 3 places on my homepage, all pointing to one link. now i do not want to make such an importance of the link, so i would like to nofollow two of them and leave on intact.

Sep 23, 2013

Hi ,This information on this blog is great. I am new to SEO and it really does provide me a better understand of the different terms used.This is definately valuable informationThanks,Kenneth 

Feb 12, 2014

Thank you for the great explanation! I just started using a new SEO tool, where I saw the report about follow and notfollow links and didn't know what the difference is.Now, I deffinately understand, how to put more effort in order to build more follow links. 

Sep 04, 2013

Thanks, cleared my confusion on the subject. 

Nova G
Feb 06, 2014

Only few people understood the importance of NoFollow links. Most out there still promote Follow links MORE than the NoFollow ones. Btw, I laughed a lot with that equation, "A world with no NoFollow = Spamalot" This is so true. It means you are trying to manipulate SEO and overdoing optimization. Google watches like a hawk. There's got to be some balance so Google won't suspect your actions. ahahaha.... 

Feb 06, 2014

I've been reading about no follow/follow links with no real clarification on what they are. Thank you for clearly explaining it. Sometimes I read SEO stuff that's more like a jumble of tech-speak and it's very frustrating.

Feb 04, 2014

Thanks Megan! This guide really help me a lot to understand the difference between DoFollow & Nofollow Link.

Sep 03, 2013

Great article. I guess my question would be regarding what happens if you have too many outbound links? And what is too many? Sometimes I discuss other products and services so I feel like it would be a benefit to the reader if I link to that product or service. At the same time I assume I'm giving away my "juice". 

Apr 20, 2014

I've never cared about no follow or follow links. Never even thought about it.I only care about content. I've hired seo techs with different ideas and opinions, but they always got my eye off "the ball". I learned young in little league baseball, take your eye off the ball either from distraction or fear, and you miss. "The Ball" is content. I try to make relative, interesting, informative content people will want to save and share.I could tell you how many no follow links and follow links I have, if I ever looked, but I don't.  I look at conversions, what layout elements and traffic sources caused them they become my control to test against.I also look at pages with traffic and no conversions. Those I simplify and promote, usually with results. Anything that is not working, simplify it before disgarding it. A lot of good ideas don't make it because people tend to over complicate things.    Build great content and all kinds of links (people who buy things) will follow.All the Best!

Jan 31, 2014

Nice article. But I am a bit confused - Do you mean that if we post on a webpage where link is NoFollow it would not be counted in page rank factor?

Jan 29, 2014

Good post, this really clarified the difference between the 2 and how it helps SEO

Sep 03, 2013

Ok great post and I guess all SEO's and ecommerce stores have and will continue to find ways to abuse.

Jan 25, 2014

Sorry,another question regarding nofollow on my internal links:lets say i have 3 places on my homepage, all pointing to one link. now i do not want to make such an importance of the link, so i would like to nofollow two of them and leave on intact.Will search enging nofollow two of them, as I set out, and keep the one remaining in tact or will it completely ignore any remainder of link pointing to same page?Let me know your thoughts, thank you.

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.

Aug 29, 2013

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

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.

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

Feb 11, 2014

I rarely ever post on blogs or article submissions but I have to say, this provided an in-depth but simple explanation to an issue I have been having for a while - thanks!Quick question though for anyone: What strategy would you incorporate for building white hate SEO quality backlinks quickly? I realise that content is key but are there any alternative routes currently available? 

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

Steven J Fromm
Feb 12, 2014

Megan, one of the best articles I have read on do and no follow links.  Really understand this issue now and how to approach it.  So thanks for your insights.

Feb 12, 2014

Excellent break down of Do follow and No follow links!  I always kind of knew the difference but you really spoke in a language that everyone can understand and even with a little comedy thrown in!  Nicely done, that was an excellent "matter of fact" approach to the subject Megan!

Feb 12, 2014

Thanks , before reading your article i thought that no follow links are useless.

zuan emily
Jan 17, 2014

Clearly explained about follow and no follow links.

Glam & Flower By Tola
Feb 17, 2014

Great... It would be awsome to get a link from NYT!!!!!!!!!!

sonu kumar
Aug 28, 2013

Nice article! good article for webmasters and seo guys!

Jan Rose
Feb 25, 2014

I have for the last six month tried to figure out why I was not ranked. I have asked ever question I could and all I got was Google does that on it's own. Because of this article I was able to figure out that every post I have ever done is a no follow. Now I understand the meaning and the background I can fix this and hopefully get ranked! Thank you so much! 

Mar 28, 2014

THanks for this post.It is very helpful for me.I'll be following these tips that you given.... :)

Mahendra Singh
Mar 04, 2014

Great Article for beginners.

Mar 04, 2014

Hi Megan,When I give a comment to any blog with my name that linked to my site and that comment approved, I see it  redirect to my site if I click my name is it a do follow link? If not then why it isn't a do follow link?

Norman Weathers
Mar 05, 2014

I didn't understand the difference between the two types of links, so thanks for clearing it up for me. Very useful article. 

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.

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...

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.

Mar 22, 2014

Dear Megan,Very interesting post!. I was really wondering what follow and no-follow links are? The terms are really cofusing and explained it in an understandable way. I usually don't time to add comments.  I loved the way you explained and I have to admit, I have become a big fan of your writing.Thanks a lot!

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.

giay nam
Apr 08, 2014

thank your post, but I do think good content for the site is still the best option