Nofollow Links & When to Use Them

We’ve mentioned nofollow links before in the authority overview, and it’s about time to explain them in more detail. Nofollow is just an attribute you can give to any link you create to prevent that link from passing any authority or ranking factors. The html for a normal link looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.domain.com/awesome.html”>Click Here</a>

That is the standard, simple, default link format that will pass authority and help the target page rank better. The text “Click Here” will be the highlighted link. A nofollow link looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.domain.com/awesome.html” rel=”nofollow”>Click Here</a>

The nofollow link will not pass any authority signals and will not directly help the target page rank better. Despite the name, however, Google will follow nofollow links — Googlebot often crawls these links, but makes a note that they don’t count for ranking purposes.

Many webmasters and SEOs use this attribute incorrectly. As we learned in PageRank, the PageRank that flows out from a page is divided by the number of links. Some SEOs still use nofollow to try to concentrate more PageRank into the other links: this does not work. Some SEOs think that Google won’t follow a nofollow link: this is not true. Google does follow them.

There are basically only three kinds of links you will want to make nofollow:

  1. Any kind of paid link, or link you were compensated for in any way, should be nofollowed. It’s against Google rules to pay for a link that passes PageRank, and a site that buys or sells links can get severely penalized by Google. Thus all ads should be nofollowed.
  2. User Generated Content (UGC) links should be nofollowed. This means anyplace where a user can write something on your page — like forums, comments, reviews — any link they include should automatically be nofollowed. You have no control over where they might link and you want to distance your site from those links, particularly if they link to spammy sites. Further, keeping them nofollow will somewhat reduce the amount of spam you get (from all the SEOs trying to use your forums/comments to build links to their own sites).
  3. Any links to sites you really, really don’t want to help. If for some reason you are linking out to a site that you are competing with for rankings (perhaps you sell information on Black Mold and want to link to the Wikipedia page but don’t want to help it outrank you) you will want to nofollow that link.

For the most case, other than ads and UGC, none of your links should be nofollow. Links to your privacy terms or to your social media account do not need to be nofollow, and it doesn’t help you if they are.

The Key to Understanding Nofollow Links

The core principle to remember with nofollow links is that making a link nofollow does not help your site in any way. All it does is prevent that link from helping another site. But your site will flow the same amount of PageRank and be crawled just the same regardless of what you do with nofollow.

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