Nofollow Links: The Why, What and How for Your Own Website

August 6th, 2013 • By:  • On-Site SEO

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We have all seen comment spam linking out to pills, porn and casinos on high authority blogs. How could all of those nasty spammers been avoided? By simply using a nofollow tag on the backlinks created when someone comments. This simple and easy to use snippet of code can change the way your site ranks and helps to rank other.

What Are Nofollow Links?

A nofollow link is simply one that includes the tag rel=”nofollow” within the code. If you add this tag to the meta robots on the header section of a page, every link on that page will be nofollowed as well. This allows webmasters to decide which pages on their site should receive the page rank flow both on and from their site. To the user viewing the page, the links look exactly the same as other links on the page. The difference lies in the code and only those with a nofollow link identifier or those who view the code of that page will be able to determine if there is a difference with the links.

Nofollow link in code

Think of both internal and external links on your site as bridges. The anchor text is the sign at one end telling the bots where they might be going and having a followable link allows both humans and page rank from your site to cross that bridge. If you include a nofollow tag, humans can still venture to the other side, but page rank supposedly cannot.

Why We Use NoFollow Links

The nofollow tag allows us to tell the bots that we do not want to pass page rank or validate a particular link on the site. This tag is only suggestive, meaning that Google may still pass pagerank through this link if it chooses to, and will use other clues about it to determine if page rank should be passed. There is much debate about the effectiveness of the nofollow tag as a way to stop page rank flow.  Some believe that a nofollow link on a highly authoritative site may still pass on some authority, while a nofollow link on a low quality site will not.  This does not mean that a nofollow link on a page is not valuable.  If the site gets traffic to the page, your nofollow link may still drive plenty of traffic to the site and possible result in other, dofollow links on other sites.  A nofollow link is better than no link at all!

How NOT To use the Nofollow Tag

Unlike the Noindex tag, nofollow only deals with pagerank passing and not specific ranking of individual pages.  If a particular page has the noindex robots tag, that page can still have dofollow links and pass pagerank, even though it may not be found in the search results.  You do NOT want to add the nofollow page to any page you deem as noindex, because your site will lose valuable page rank within it.  You also should avoid adding the nofollow tag to every link on your site, as it is crucial to spread the page rank of your site to each internal page so they can receive the benefits of ranking and authority.

In the past, it was popular for SEOs to sculpt pagerank or to add the nofollow tag to links on their site that were not links to the main pages they wanted to rank for.  The theory held that if there were 10 links on a page and each received equal page rank, adding that nofollow tag to one link would redistribute the 10% link juice to the other 9.  Now, there is evidence that this does not work and looks fairly unnatural to the bots crawling the page, and that is the opposite of what we strive to achieve as webmasters and blog owners.  We know now that if there are 10 links on a page and you nofollow one of them, that page rank is simply lost and the others still only each receive 10% of the pagerank that could potentially be passed to those pages.

Where Should You Use Nofollow Links On Your Site?

Nofollow-Links-The-Why,-What-and-How-for-Your-Own-Website-quoteSign In and Register Pages: Google bots cannot crawl any page that needs a password to see, so having links to these pages on your site be dofollow is a waste of your crawl budget.

Privacy Pages:

Similar to Sign on and Register Pages, you want to conserve the crawl budget you are given for your website and hence can link to your privacy page with a nofollow link all over your site. Most privacy pages are generated automatically and have a similar page out there somewhere on the web.  While you could noindex this page, simply nofollowing for each link to it should be enough to tell the bots that you have no interest in promoting this page in the search results.

Comment Section:

Allowing commenters to get a dofollow link on your page from placing a simple blog post used to be a huge problem.  Spammers would seek out blogs that allowed comments and simply comment some illegal text on your article just to get the link back to their page.  By automatically making these comment links nofollow, you are telling spammers not to bother and protecting your site from passing page rank to and being associated with these potentially spammy websites.

Paid Outgoing Links:

If you are accepting money to place a link on your site, you will want to add the nofollow tag to the link in order to be in compliance with the Google standards.  You can place the link on your site within content, but passing pagerank to a link that you are being paid to place on your site is no longer acceptable.  This allows you control over your site and where pagerank flows to, as well as still allows the link to get click throughs and views, but will not help its rankings in the SERPs.

Be very careful with the nofollow tag.  Too many links containing nofollow on your site is a sign of spam and unnatural link manipulation, but too few nofollow links opens your site up to being associated with potentially bad link neighborhoods and keywords. If you are careful but tactful about where you use your nofollow tags, you will have a better flow of pagerank through your site, as well as help avoid spammers and penalizations.

If your site has recently been hit with an issue, email us now and ask about our SEO Audit Services to help get you back on your feet.

Brynna Baldauf

Brynna is a Search Engine Optimization Specialist at Vertical Measures where she helps clients improve their organic search engine rankings.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 at 5:00 am and is filed under On-Site SEO. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Nofollow Links: The Why, What and How for Your Own Website”

  1. John Gibb Says:

    hi Brynna

    I liked this affirmation:

    “This tag is only suggestive, meaning that Google may still pass pagerank through this link if it chooses to”

    At the end of the day Google is the master, he can do whatever they want; they can say one thing, and do the opposite – just look at how weird and scrambled today’s top SERPs look… very bad IMO!

    In my business, all links count, positive and negative, do follow and no follow, at least for traffic/link diversification, it’s helpful you gain back-links from both world, is it?

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