You can’t talk about SEO without mentioning backlinks.
Over the years, a lot has changed about how backlinks work.
For starters, it is no longer only about quantity. Instead, it’s the quality of the link that counts.
In the same way, Google introduced the concept of dofollow and nofollow links in 2005.
This article will shed some light on what they are and why they are important.
Let me begin by explaining the terminology first.
Dofollow links are those links that Google recognizes and passes the link juice from the referring site to the linked website.
By link juice, it means that some SEO value of the linking page is passed to the linked page, thereby strengthening the latter’s SEO.
Google search crawlers can follow these links and their anchor texts. Thus, it has a direct influence on your backlinks profile.
Here’s how a Dofollow link looks like:
By default, every hyperlink is a dofollow unless otherwise mentioned. You don’t have to add a rel attribute for regular links.
Nofollow links are those links that have a rel= “nofollow” tag applied to them.
It’s written like this:
Earlier, it meant Google wouldn’t take links marked this way into consideration while crawling.
In other words, Google doesn’t pass the authority (or link juice) across nofollow links. This HTML code tells search engine crawlers not to follow these backlinks.
However, with the new update, things got a little twisted.
Google will now use nofollow attributes as ‘hints’ to decide which links to consider or exclude within Search. It came into effect from March 2020.
Alongside, it added two new link attributes — “sponsored” and “ugc” — to the ‘nofollow’ bandwagon (more on that later). These attributes will help Google understand better how to appropriately analyze and incorporate those links for ranking purposes.
In 2005, Google introduced the nofollow attribute as a means to help combat comment spam.
When the popularity of blogs grew, people started to abuse the comment section. They, specifically spammers, started submitting links back to their site.
For example, you would have seen comments like ‘Please visit my beauty blog’, on a SEO blog post.
As a result, spammy sites were ranking on top of the Google search result page, pushing away high-quality sites.
And since this trick really worked well, more and more bloggers started to adopt this means. Thus, the nofollow tag was created as a way to ensure that spammers get no benefit from abusing blog comments.
Shortly after, other search engines, including Yahoo and Bing, adopted this tag.
D. Nofollow vs. Noindex: What’s the difference?
People are often seen getting confused between the two.
A noindex directive is a meta tag that you add to some specific pages of your website.
Here’s how it looks like:
<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex”>
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
It tells the search engine that you do not want those pages to be included in the search results.
Whereas, nofollow tag tells search engines not to follow a particular link.
You can even add the nofollow tag to the <head> of the page. But again, it tells search engines not to follow any links on that page.
So if you don’t want Google to index a certain page, a nofollow tag is not going to help.
You will have to use the noindex meta tag instead.
Soon after Google introduced the nofollow attribute in 2005, it became one of Google’s recommended ways for flagging advertising-related or sponsored links.
Since then, Google has come a long way. The web has evolved, and thus, they decided to introduce two new link attributes named ‘sponsored’ and ‘ugc.’
These attributes, along with nofollow, will now be used as ‘hints’ on how to treat these links rather than ignoring it completely. In other words, it will help Google Search to identify the nature of particular links.
These attributes are explained below:
rel = “sponsored”: Use this attribute to mark links that are advertised or created as a part of sponsorships or paid placements.
Note: Previously, nofollow attribute was used for these types of links, and it is still an acceptable way to flag them.
rel = “ugc”: UGC stands for User Generated Content. This attribute can be used to mark user-generated content links, namely comments, forum posts, and more.
Though Google recommends that if you want to recognize a trustworthy contributor, who has consistently made high-quality contributions, you can remove the attribute from links posted by them.
Google has made these changes because now they can collect data on the individual links, including the anchor text. Thus, it will help in better identifying link schemes while still considering the attribute signals.
F. Is nofollow bad for SEO?
Contrary to what most people believe, nofollow links can be good for your SEO.
Isn’t nofollow tag all about restricting Google from attributing domain authority to the linked page?
Well, yes. That’s the main idea of a nofollow attribute.
However, there is more to it. Even though Google might deny that they do not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links, many online studies prove otherwise.
Adam White ran a test to determine the impact of nofollow links. He wanted to rank his blog for the keyword “backlink software.”
He bought a bunch of nofollow links and saw a clear correlation between nofollow links and a rise in his ranking. He rose from position #19 to #1 for his targeted keyword in Google.
So what does it tell you?
Nofollow links seem to have some SEO value. It’s clear that Google still provides benefits to the referenced pages despite the nofollow tag, though it might not get the same link juice as dofollow links.
Let us look at some of the other benefits that nofollow link has to offer:
- They drive traffic to your site
Nofollow attribute doesn’t stop people from clicking on them.
One of the most significant advantages of nofollow links is that it can bring additional traffic to your website.
Websites with a large audience can send some traffic your way. And if the anchor text for the link mentions your brand name, it can create awareness for your brands.
Besides, a nofollow from a popular site can lead to dofollow links. If they see and find your content relevant, they will recommend it to others by adding links to their website.
Thus, nofollow links can be quite useful.
- They are a part of a natural link profile
Let me get this straight.
If your link profile looks unnatural, you are at risk of getting a penalty from Google.
Natural backlink profiles are built of both followed and unfollowed links.
If a website has only followed backlinks, it might raise Google’s suspicions.
Bonus: You can check the proportion of dofollow and nofollow links for any website using the Overview report in Ahrefs Site Explorer.
There are two basic ways to do that.
#1. Check the HTML code
Right-click on your mouse and click “View page source.”
Now look for the link in the HTML of the page. If you see a rel=” nofollow” attribute next to it, then that link is nofollow.
If you don’t, then the link is dofollow.
#2. Use browser plugins
Another quick way to check for nofollow links is to use Nofollow — Browser Extension, developed by IgorWare Applications.
It avoids the need to check the HTML manually.
This NoFollow extension outlines nofollow links, including ugc and sponsored as well. However, there is no way to visually distinguish it from the ‘nofollow’ value at this point.
It’s pretty simple to use. Once you have installed the extensions, just open a webpage.
If the page has any nofollow links, they will be outlined automatically.
I know a lot of people might have told you nofollow links are not worth your time and money. But I beg to differ.
Nofollow links play a crucial role when it comes to SEO.
They might not bring you as much link juice as dofollow links, but they can still build your SEO.
And with the new update, Google will be taking ‘hints’ from the nofollow links. That says a lot about the significance of nofollow links.