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SEO

NoFollow Links: Everything You Need To Know

04/12/2020

Nofollow links have been part of HTML programming and link building for more than a decade. Tags like rel=”nofollow” are also among the most basic yet critical HTML tags that shape your overall SEO strategy.

Furthermore, using nofollow links on the right places and lines in your code should level up your site’s capacity for search engine ranking and optimisation.

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about nofollow links and how to best use them. First off, let’s talk about the basics of nofollow links.

Nofollow Links, What Are They?

In HTML, nofollows are relationship attributes denoted by <rel=”nofollow”>. As such, rel attributes define the relationship between the current page and a linked content or webpage.

For instance, you can use a basic nofollow link as such:

<a href=”https://www.redsearch.com.au/product” rel=”nofollow”>this</a>product type.

Marking a link with the above rel attribute will instruct crawlers not to pass through PageRank, as stated in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. But keep in mind that the nofollow function will only work with the link you’ve inserted it on.

Former Google software engineer Matt Cutts also stated that sculpting your PageRank  using nofollow does not have any major impacts.

How to Check for NoFollow Links

You can check a link for a nofollow attribute by following the steps below.

  • Right-click on your browser window with your website opened, then click View page source.
  • Next, find the link you want to check in the page’s HTML code.
  • If you found the link with a rel=”nofollow” attribute in its string, then that particular link is nofollow’ed. Otherwise, the link has a dofollow attribute by default.
  • Alternatively, you can install nofollow browser extensions and plugins that outline nofollow links.

Different Types of NoFollow Links

It’s a no-brainer that all links with nofollow attributes are nofollow links. However, here’s a rule of thumb of inbound links that tend to be nofollow:

  • Social media links
  • Forum post and comment links
  • Links from user-generated content (UGC)
  • Blog posts and news sites
  • Widget links
  • Links in press releases
  • Paid links

Furthermore, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines highlights that any paid links you link on your content should have a nofollow attribute. Otherwise, it could end up hurting your PageRank and overall search ranking.

Do NoFollow Links Help with SEO?

At this point, you should have an idea about nofollow links and their impact on SEO. To reinforce our point, let’s recap Google’s actions on nofollow links:

  • PageRank won’t flow on nofollow links.
  • Google ignores all associations between your site and your linked site

In short, Google doesn’t follow links attributed to nofollow. However, nobody knows whether or not Google transfers a little amount of PageRank to some nofollow links. 

Regardless, a study on the correlation between Google ranking and several backlink attributes found out that the relationship between SERP ranking and dofollow links is lower than that of the total backlinks and SERP ranking.

Take it with a pinch of salt, as the study hasn’t focused on the direct impact of nofollow or dofollow links on SEO. But for what we know, nofollow links indirectly affect your SEO strategy because:

  • Nofollow Links diversify your link profile

An effective site has a diverse set of natural backlink profiles. That means different links should have attributes like dofollow and nofollow. Whether you like it or not, other sites will link to your content via nofollow links.

Also, a website with a noticeably higher percentage of dofollow links than nofollow tells search crawlers that something fishy is going on. 

  • Nofollow Links drive traffic, and traffic drives followed links

While SEO isn’t the primary goal of leveraging nofollow links, you can use them to drive referral traffic on your site. Besides, nofollow links from other sites expand your brand influence.

When another site links to yours, people will more likely:

  • Find your content
  • Engage with your content
  • Recommend your product/page to others via links or word of mouth

In short, nofollow links don’t help with ranking higher, but they have the sheer potential to drive more audience to your site and increase your followed links.

  • Nofollow Links provide peace of mind against link penalties

Paying for sponsored posts on an authoritative website makes sense. Also, investing for a feature article might tempt you to insert a backlink for readers to visit your website.

But as stated, Google flags this practice against their Webmaster Guidelines. And if paying for links results in a manual penalty from Google’s webspam team, then all your efforts won’t be worth it. Plus, that’s one less competitor for leading brands to rank on SERPs.

Audit Your Site for Nofollow-related Issues

Keeping a couple of dofollow backlinks and outbound links that raise a flag against the Webmaster Guidelines can pose a threat to your site. Additionally, Google can also flag internal nofollow links as spammy or detrimental for your SEO.

That’s why you might need to run a quick on-site audit to determine and fix any nofollow-related issues you find.

1. Remove follow links With exact-match anchors

More often than not, websites minimise using keyword-rich anchor texts when building links to your site. Identify and eliminate any exact-match anchors that can be signs of backlink manipulation.

Here are a few examples and guidelines to consider when dealing with various outbound and exact-match links:

2. Paid links on low-quality sites

Ask the webmaster to remove or nofollow the link. Disclaim or retract the page or domain if you receive no response from them.

3. Bio links on guest posts

If you used keyword-rich anchor texts on a guest post bio link, you could ask the editor in charge to change the keyword link into a branded link. Otherwise, you can ask them to nofollow the link if they want to keep it.

4. Widget links

If you find dofollow links on your site widget, change its HTML rel attribute to nofollow. Consequently, ask those who have embedded your widget on their sites to nofollow the widget link.

5. Sitewide links

For internal or sitewide links, you can change it to nofollow or swap with a branded anchor link. But keep in mind that exact-match followed links can also occur naturally and in compliance with Google’s guidelines.

In short, auditing your links means investigating them in-depth before making any decisions, as it could be more detrimental than beneficial to your website if you fail to do so.

6. Look for followed sponsored links

To reiterate once again, you should nofollow any backlinks from sponsored posts and paid links. That’s because paid links shouldn’t earn PageRank points. So if you find one on your site, you can reach out to the editor and ask them to nofollow any followed sponsored links.

7. Identify keyword-rich followed outgoing links on your site

If you’ve previously accepted guest posts or user-generated content, then you might have encountered followed outgoing links. High domain authority (DA) sites also found out that many guest contributors sell followed links in their articles.

And with the massive scale of all links across all posts, brands decided to flip the switch and completely nofollow all outbound links.

8. Determine followed sponsored links on your website

If you accept sponsored posts on your site, you need to ensure that you set the link’s rel attribute to nofollow. But if you’re not sure, here’s how you can check it:

  • Run a Google search with the query site:websitename.com “sponsored post”. From the search results, click each link and determine the sponsored link.
  • After finding the link you need, install the nofollow Chrome extension to find all nofollowed links on the page easily.
  • If the link you want has no highlights or outlines, then it’s probably followed. You can confirm this by right-clicking, selecting Inspect Element, then finding the rel=”nofollow” tag.

9. Identify nofollow internal links on your site

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t nofollow a link unless they redirect to pages that you don’t want to index. Hence, if you spot any nofollowed link internally, try to find where these links come from and see if there’s an apparent reason to nofollow the link.

Otherwise, you can simply remove the nofollow tag to turn the link into followed.

By following the above steps, you should be able to conduct an entry-level yet efficient on-site audit for nofollow links.

Summary

Despite the long age and history of nofollow links, there isn’t much about its direct impact on SEO. Even so, its purpose and contribution as an essential HTML tag make it a vital component for a competitive and effective SEO strategy.

There is much to learn about nofollow links and how to use them properly. What’s more intimidating is developing an effective link building strategy that drives sustainable traffic to your site.

Designing and streamlining an actionable and bespoke SEO strategy can be possible with a reliable SEO agency in Sydney. With the latest information and a best-in-class SEO Strategy, you can realise your long-term brand objectives with Red Search.

At Red Search, our passionate and determined team of search experts uses results-focused and data-driven SEO strategy to secure and maintain your spot on the first page of SERPs.

For your questions and enquiries, feel free to call our SEO experts at 1300 101 712 and drop a message in our contact form.

Daniel Law
Written by

Daniel Law

Daniel Law is Managing Director at Red Search, an SEO agency based in Sydney. With over 10 years of experience in SEO, I've grown a burning passion to help Australian brands achieve their business growth goals by leveraging powerful SEO and content strategies.

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