Link building is one of the most efficient ways to improve rankings and dominate Google Search.
Did you know that some links don’t boost SEO authority and are instead used for a different purpose?
That’s what SEOs call “nofollow links.”
This post will answer all the questions you have about this type of hyperlink. You’ll learn what nofollow links are, why they’re crucial links for SEO, and when you should use them.
Let’s jump right in.
What is a Nofollow Link?
A nofollow link is any hyperlink with the (rel=”nofollow”) attribute that instructs Google robots not to pass link juice. In simpler terms, nofollow links are SEO links that lead from one page to another without boosting link authority.
The HTML code for a nofollow link looks like this:
This type of link is the opposite of dofollow links, which are the backlinks SEOs aim for when building links. Dofollow links help you improve page authority and therefore claim better rankings in the SERPs.
Are Nofollow Links Valuable for SEO?
To be honest…
Google is yet to give a definitive answer about whether its’ spiders give a lot of value to nofollow links. So that opened room for a lot of debate among SEO experts as to whether nofollow links are beneficial for SEO.
In other words:
Webmasters are wondering whether or not they should bother with building nofollow backlinks. Others want to know why they must use nofollow links and how that affects their websites.
Here are the three main reasons why you should use nofollow links:
1- Avoid Google Penalties
Above all, you should use nofollow links to avoid any possible penalties on your website, according to Google’s Outbound Links Guidelines.
Google expects you to help it better analyze the web and identify paid content more easily. So if you have any sponsored links on your website, you need to inform search engines about them to keep your site protected.
We’ll get in a bit into all the possible causes for Google penalties when building and using links on your website.
SEO penalties relating to link building are often harsh and could kill your progress overnight. Even worse, once you get penalized, you’ll have a hard time gaining your rankings back as Google would no longer trust you.
2- Boost Direct Traffic
While Google claims that nofollow links do not pass link juice, the click-through rate (CTR) on such links is the same as that of dofollow links. After all, your visitors won’t be able to tell the difference between the two.
Having nofollow links on your site will enrich your content and allow you to link to anything you find interesting on the web. On top of that, gaining nofollow links from external websites is going to drive loads of targeted traffic to your site.
3- Maintain a Natural Linking Profile
Search engines scan outbound and inbound links on your website to ensure that you’re not manipulating their algorithms. That makes nofollow hyperlinks vital for diversifying your backlinking profile and keeping it natural.
Think of it this way:
If a website has a high percentage of dofollow links, it could suggest that the owner is buying backlinks or building them in a shady way.
That’s why a diversified linking profile is a positive sign for crawling spiders to trust your website.
How Do Nofollow and Dofollow Links Differ?
The first thing to keep in mind here is this:
Both dofollow and nofollow links are super beneficial to SEO.
Google uses dofollow backlinks as the main ranking signal to assess PageRank and content quality. It considers these links as votes from external parties that your website deserves higher rankings and traffic.
The more authoritative sites link to your web page, the higher it will rank in the SERPs.
On the other hand:
Nofollow links don’t improve SEO by a lot, yet they help Google establish a clear distinction between links. Because without nofollow links, all links — no matter their nature — are the same and have the same value.
That’s why you should use both links on your site to maximize your SEO success.
When Should You Use Nofollow Links?
One of Google’s main challenges in the past was improving user experience in spite of all the spam and blackhat techniques.
SEOs had dozens of ways to manipulate PageRank and make their way to the top with mediocre content. Even worse, the algorithms couldn’t differentiate genuine links from those that could negatively impact user experience.
That’s when the search engine giant came up with the nofollow tag in 2005 to fight shady link schemes.
Unless your links are built naturally, they should have the nofollow tag in most cases. That includes:
- Spammy, low-quality content
- Paid links of all types (reviews, affiliate links, blog features)
- Blog comment links
- Online ads and sponsored links
- Unrelated topics or websites
- Press release links
Nofollow, Sponsored, and UGC: What’s the Difference?
Google recently introduced two new rel attributes similar to nofollow, which are “sponsored” and “UGC.”
As its name suggests, the sponsored tag is used for any links you get paid for, including guest posts and sponsored articles.
UGC — short for “user-generated content” — is a tag that covers any links your site users generate in your forum or comments section.
Now you might be wondering:
What is the difference between the three attributes?
The three HTML tags do the same thing, which is protecting your website against Google penalties. They tell crawling robots not to give importance to paid links or user-generated links.
However, Google wants to further improve the way it looks at links and how it graphs them. So it’s better to use these different attributes as recommended.
How to Tell if Your Links Are Dofollow vs. Nofollow
To the visitor’s eye, dofollow and nofollow backlinks look the same. They’re both hyperlinks you can click on to lead you to another page on the web.
How can you tell the difference between the two if you want to make changes to your hyperlinks?
Two simple ways:
1- Use the “Nofollow” Browser Extension
The easiest way to tell the nature of your links is to use a browser extension that scans the HTML code on the page. If you’re using Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Edge, you can download and install Nofollow with a few clicks.
The tool will automatically outline any external links with the “nofollow” tag on them to save you time. This way, you can distinguish nofollow and dofollow links anytime you’re browsing your website.
2- Inspect Page Elements
There’s always the old way to check nofollow links without the need for browser tools. All you have to do is inspect the HTML code on the page, then read it manually to identify if it comes with a rel=”nofollow” attribute.
Right-click on any link you want to check on a web page and click “Inspect”.
Your browser will then show you the HTML code for the hyperlink with all its’ attributes.
This method works fine if you only want to inspect one link. But in the long run, you’ll miss out on many nofollow or dofollow links that could hurt your SEO one way or another.
That’s why it’s always better to use the browser extension instead.
How to Create Nofollow Links On Your Website
As you’ve learned so far, creating nofollow links is as simple as adding a (rel=”nofollow”) tag to your link code.
So it should look something like this:
But there’s a problem with this approach:
When you want to create lots of nofollow links, you could make mistakes in your HTML code and break the whole page. For instance, you want to make sure that the “rel nofollow” tag is included within the two tags.
How to Create Nofollow Links on WordPress
The previous method works on WordPress since it has an HTML code editor. However, the process is a whole lot easier and takes less time when you use a plugin.
Using WordPress plugins gives you more control over your internal and external hyperlinks. Even if you’re creating dozens of nofollow links per page, you won’t make any mistakes in the code.
Go to your WordPress Plugins menu, search for All In One SEO, then install and activate it. The plugin will give you the option to add a nofollow tag to any link you create with a simple click.
For external links, be sure to also check the “Open link in a new tab” to keep visitors on your website.
Wrapping It Up
Dofollow links are the default option for any hyperlink you create… But using them 100% of the time can get you in trouble in the long run.
A healthy balance between nofollow and dofollow links is vital for maintaining a natural backlinking profile and winning in the SERPs.
When creating hyperlinks on your website, be sure to use “nofollow,” “sponsored,” and “UGC” to adhere to Google’s guidelines and avoid any possible penalties.
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