Skip to main content

The Role of Nofollow Links in SEO

Learn how nofollow links impact SEO and why they're still valuable. Discover how to use them to improve your website's search engine rankings.

A robust SEO strategy has a lot of moving parts. You may have heard that backlinks play a crucial role in helping you rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). Your backlink profile is actually much more complicated than you realize, consisting of Dofollow and Nofollow links.

You may already know the importance of Dofollow links for SEO; they pass PageRank signals to your website to increase your authority and ultimately boost your rankings. So what are nofollow links? They're the exact opposite of dofollow links, telling Google and other search engines not to pass page rank.

But what does all this mean for your SEO strategy? You want follow links because they pass website authority or "link juice." Nofollow links don't pass authority, but that doesn't mean they're useless to your overall strategy.

Keep reading to learn more about the role of Nofollow links in SEO and how they help your business grow.

When we refer to links on a website, we're talking about backlinks that link one website to another. Businesses that invest in SEO may have a comprehensive backlinking strategy to try to gather backlinks from various sources.

Nofollow links don't refer to internal links that link from one page on your website to another landing page on the same website. Internal links are part of an on-page SEO strategy that optimizes meta tags, headlines, content, and images.

On the other hand, backlinking is part of an external links off-page SEO strategy that includes link building, content marketing, and social media. For your reference, there is a third type of SEO called technical SEO, which deals with page speed, structured data, and sitemaps.

Backlinks are tagged in HTML in two ways — they're either Nofollow or Dofollow, telling search engines whether or not to pass authority from one web page to another. Nofollow links don't pass authority, so a collection of Nofollow links is unlikely to affect your search engine rankings.

Dofollow links, or just follow links, pass authority from one page to another, telling search engines they should point back to another website or blog post.

Every time a website inserts a dofollow link back to your website, it strengthens your authority and can improve your rankings. Meanwhile, every time a website inserts a nofollow link back to your website, it doesn't pass authority.

The average user can't tell the difference between nofollow and dofollow links because the tag is located in the source code. Anyone who clicks on a link on a website or in a blog will be taken to that page.

Both types of links are important for websites. While nofollow links may not boost your rankings, using nofollow links on your website can improve navigation and help you cite sources without passing authority to them. We'll discuss later on which types of links should be nofollow vs. dofollow to help you get a better understanding of when each is used.

For right now, all you need to know is that nofollow links don't pass authority, so they have little impact on your search engine rankings.

The role of nofollow links in SEO

Backlinks are a Google ranking factor, but nofollow links aren't. Instead, these links tell search engines not to pass authority. There's much debate among the SEO community about whether nofollow links can boost SEO.

Unfortunately, search engines haven't made any clear statements. Google has, however, noted that they simply don't follow nofollow links. So while nofollow links likely don't have a direct impact on your SEO, they can affect your website traffic. Let's take a look at some of the indirect ways nofollow links may impact your SEO strategy.

Increases website traffic

Let's say you're a pet business that sells dog food. If a popular pet blog gives you a nofollow link, they're not passing authority to your website. However, they're still promoting your brand in some way since nofollow links can send traffic directly to your website.

Diversifies backlink profile

Search engines look for a natural backlink profile. Natural backlink profiles demonstrate authority because it means you're producing quality content other sites want to link to. However, if your profile only consists of dofollow links, it can appear spammy. Search engines want to know that you have a diverse profile, which consists of nofollow and dofollow links as equally as possible.

Some websites, especially news sites, will use nofollow links automatically, and search engines know it doesn't make sense for all your backlinks to be dofollow. If all your backlinks are dofollow links, it can signal that you may be employing spammy or black hat SEO practices.

May protect against penalties

Followed paid links are against Google's Webmaster Guidelines. Therefore, if you want to pay a publication to link back to your website, you can only get a nofollow link. Some people don't believe that Google can accurately determine if a link is paid. However, even if Google can't find paid links, they have a tool that allows individuals to report a website for buying or selling links.

Most website owners won't risk a Google penalty that impacts their rankings and website traffic. If search engines find out that paid links are being given the dofollow tag instead of the nofollow attribute or tag, it can be detrimental to both sites.

The impact of nofollow links on page ranking

Most experts believe that nofollow links are largely ignored by search engines. In other words, they don't pass authority. However, dofollow backlinks are a ranking factor that can increase your performance in SERPs.

Google has strict guidelines website owners must follow, so they'll review your backlink profile to determine if you're engaged in spammy practices like purchasing backlinks. If you don't have a good balance of nofollow and dofollow links, you could get penalized, affecting your page ranking.

Therefore, while nofollow links don't directly impact your rankings, they may indirectly affect them. The entire goal of SEO is to increase website traffic organically, which in turn, increases conversions. Even though nofollow links don't improve your rankings, they can increase traffic to your website, ultimately supporting your SEO goals.

What's most important when considering your external links strategy is the type of links. Nofollow and dofollow links are both important, even though nofollow links don't pass authority from one site to another. That said, there are instances when it's appropriate to use nofollow links instead of dofollow links, such as:

Identifying low-quality or spammy websites

Nofollow links can be used to link to low-quality websites or those that search engines may consider spammy. If you're writing a blog and want to cite your source, but the source is on a low-quality website, you might use nofollow links to prevent your website from passing authority to another.

You should always use the nofollow tag if you've been paid to provide a link. According to Google's Webmaster Guidelines, all paid and sponsored links must be tagged as nofollow. This includes any paid links in blogs and websites of any kind. And paid links don't only refer to the exchange of money. Instead, Google considers a paid link any link you give in exchange for something else, whether it's money, products, or services. Technically speaking, Google even considers link exchanges — when both websites exchange backlinks — as a violation of the guidelines.

User-generated content

User-generated content, such as comments on social networks or forum posts, should always include a nofollow link. The nofollow attribute, in this instance, signals to search engines that you're not trying to use these links as a method of advertising. Since anyone can comment on blogs and forums, it's always better to be safe to not pass authority to unknown and low-quality sites.

While there's some debate on whether nofollow links pass authority, there are several myths that simply aren't true. Let's take a look at some common nofollow link misconceptions:

Nofollow links aren't beneficial: Even if you believe nofollow links don't pass any authority from one site to another, it's incorrect to say they're not beneficial for your website. Nofollow links can increase referral traffic, giving you more website visitors that you can convert into paying customers.

Nofollow links can hurt your business: Nofollow links can't hurt your business. Instead, using them correctly can help you rank higher on search engines and avoid penalties that affect your rankings. Additionally, some of the highest authority websites only use nofollow links when discussing other businesses. For instance, a top-tier online publication might mention your business name and link to it with the nofollow attribute. This doesn't hurt your business; it just doesn't pass that website's authority to yours.

The importance of properly using nofollow links in SEO

Properly using nofollow links on your website or blog will ensure you're not passing authority to spammy websites or the competition. Search engines may or may not use nofollow links as a ranking factor, but these links can still be beneficial for your business in several ways by ensuring you have a natural-looking backlink profile and increasing traffic.

Using nofollow links on your website is easy with Mailchimp. When you redesign your website using our suite of tools, you can use the meta robots tag that tells search engines whether or not to follow your links. Try Mailchimp today.

Share This Article