I get asked A LOT about DoFollow and NoFollow links — about how they work, what they are for, how and when to use them, and if they really matter. As a reminder, search engines move through the internet by following links from one web page or blog post to another. You could say that internal links are like roads through a website, and outbound links or inbound links from one site to another are like bridges.
When one web page links to another — whether it is an internal link between two URLs on the same website, or a link from one site to another — it passes some of its “page rank” (where it ranks in the search engines) to the page it is linking to, giving it a boost.
Here’s a quick review of how links pass page rank:
- Do Follow Links — Also known as follow links or regular old HTML links, are links that allow search engines to follow them from one web page to another or one website to another. These links are thought to pass some page rank — also referred to as SEO juice, link juice, and Google love — with it.
- NoFollow Links — Have extra HTML markup added to the link code to prevent search engines from following the link, and to prevent a page from passing on any of it’s page rank. NoFollow links operate as a sort of detour, telling search engines not to follow this link.
- NOTE — Some SEO experts argue that search engines still do follow (travel through) NoFollow links, but that they just don’t count them toward the passage of page rank. For example, search engines are now taking into account links from social media sites that are set to NoFollow. It’s important to remember that SEO is not an exact science, and that what works for one person may not work the same for you, or that what works today, may not work tomorrow.
Why You Need Both NoFollow And DoFollow Links
Some so-called experts will tell you that you shouldn’t waste your time with inbound link building strategies that result in gaining NoFollow links. They’ll advise you to only focus on gaining DoFollow links for the chance of gaining some potential page rank and a boost in your rankings.
While it’s no secret that building quality inbound links to your website is an effective SEO strategy, don’t listen to this advice! If you do, you may be sabotaging your website’s success without even knowing it! You see, search engines may not follow or even pay attention to NoFollow links, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t valuable. Consumers who use the internet, consume content, search for solutions to their problems and needs, and spend money DO pay attention to those links — and not the HTML behind them.
The fact is that NoFollow links can generate website traffic, increase exposure in new communities, and help you gain citations for your website — all of which will help you improve your success online.
So stop worrying about whether a link is a NoFollow or DoFollow link, or if the link is good for SEO. Instead worry about whether or not the link makes sense for your business, is good for your brand, and whether or not it can be found, and clicked on to bring new visitors to your website.
What Does This Mean For Blog Commenting?
One of the more common strategies bloggers have employed to gain back links to their website is commenting on blogs. Unfortunately to help avoid comment spam and prevent the passing of page rank, many blogs have their comment links set to NoFollow by default.
Does this mean you should stop commenting on blogs? No Way! First, I hope that boosting your SEO isn’t the only reason you’ve been commenting on blogs — because that’s not what it’s about. Commenting on blogs that you resonate with is about conversation, about sharing thoughts, about supporting the author, starting and building a relationship, and about being part of a community. The fact that a link to your site accompanies the comment should be viewed as a bonus.
Plus, if your comment isn’t lame and spammy, others reading the comments may like what you have to say and click the link to visit your site and learn more about you.
Mix Up Your Link Building
With the recent search algorithm changes, many website owners were penalized for what appeared to the search engines as spammy link building practices or for lots of what were deemed bad links.
Search engines, especially Google, are looking for natural authority — and they reward it with improved search engine rankings. If all of the inbound links to your website are DoFollow, if every mention of your brand is a link, if every link to your site uses the exact same keyword, that could look unnatural and suspicious, and the search engines may think you’re trying to game the system.
You need diversity in the way you show up online. You want to build a mixture of NoFollow and DoFollow links, of plain old brand mentions and citations that aren’t links, and of inbound links containing a variety of keywords and longtail key phrases. This approach shows a natural presence online. It demonstrates to search engines that you’re letting your authority grow organically and not trying to cheat to get ahead.
Plus, gaining a NoFollow inbound link from a high authority site can still help boost your rankings, and even more important, send lots of new traffic to your website. Even a mention on a highly-popular authority website can be beneficial because it shows that people are talking about you.
When To Use Nofollow Links:
Here are some of the more common instances where a NoFollow link makes sense:
- NoFollow links to untrusted content, or user generated content you don’t control
- NoFollow affiliate links
- NoFollow outbound links that are irrelevant to the content of the page or site (like links in testimonials)
- NoFollow paid links
- NoFollow links to log in, sign in, registration, or purchase links
- NoFollow links to downloads, opt-in gifts, and paid products (also done at the page level)
The Bottom Line On NoFollow And DoFollow Links
Don’t worry so much about link building for search engines. Instead focus on gaining exposure for your brand and website above all else by joining in conversations, engaging with others online, building relationships, and publishing great content consistently. Understand that both NoFollow links and DoFollow links are good for your website. While one is used to direct search engines, both are used the same way by consumers looking for a solution to their problem — and they aren’t looking at the HTML!
What about you? Do you successfully use NoFollow links? I’d love to hear from you below in the comments.
- The Real Story About Inbound, Outbound, and Internal Website Links
- 10 Ideas To Build Quality Inbound Links and Increase Website Traffic
- 6 Ways You Can Use Internal Website Links for SEO
- Learning The Difference Between a Good Link and Bad Link
- The Secret to Building More Inbound Links
- Understanding Reciprocal Links and How to Use Them
- Why Broken Links Are Bad For Business