As a blogger, chances are you've come across the terms “nofollow” and “follow” when it comes to links. But what exactly do they mean? And which one should you be using on your blog? In this post, we'll go through what you need to know about Follow vs Nofollow links.
What are links, and why are they important?
Links are a vital part of the internet. They act as a way to connect different websites and pages. Without them, we wouldn't be able to navigate the web as we do today.
In addition to being necessary for navigation, links are also a ranking factor for search engines like Google. It was one of the first factors established back in the early days of the internet as a way to determine which pages (of all the online) were trustworthy and authoritative.
Essentially, search engines look at links as votes or referrals. The more votes (links) a website has, the more trustworthy and authoritative it must be – otherwise, other websites wouldn't refer (link) to it. Google has an algorithm, PageRank, that keeps track of these links (votes/referrals) and calculates the score.
Google even made PageRank public for many years, Toolbar PageRank, where you could easily see a website's PageRank, but that left a wide-open door for spammers and link networks to flourish, so Google removed it again in 2016.
PageRank very much still exists today and is still one of the very many signals (ranking factors) that Google has, but Google no longer discloses a website's score.
You can read more about the rise and fall of Toolbar PageRank here (it's really fascinating!). And I am mentioning all this because this Google era is why we have link attributes like Nofollow, Sponsored, etc. today.
You see, in the Toolbar PageRank era, link-sellers, link-chasers, and spammers were running wild, so in 2005, all major search engines introduced the Nofollow link attribute as a means to put a stop to the link-chasing madness.
Until that point, ANY link from one website to another would pass on PageRank (more commonly known as Link Juice or Link Equity), i.e., a vote or a referral. It didn't matter if the link was in the page's text, in a comment, or where ever else it was possible to insert a link. It still passed on the desirable PageRank.
Although the Nofollow link attribute originally started as a way to stop comment-spammers, it has since been extended and is now used in various situations. More on that later.
But first, let's talk about the Nofollow link attribute.
What is a Nofollow Link?
The Nofollow link attribute is a tag you add to a link to tell search engines not to follow it and to not pass any link juice to it. In other words, you're informing the search engines that you are not voting for the linked-to website.
Here's what a Nofollow link looks like in HTML:
<a href=”http://example.com” rel=”nofollow”>This is a Nofollow link</a>
As you can see, it's just a regular link with the addition of the rel=”nofollow” attribute.
It's important to note that the Nofollow link attribute is just that – it doesn't physically stop Google from crawling the linked-to website. Google can still crawl it if it wants to, but most of the time, it will just ignore the link.
Nofollow links still have some value
Despite what you might think, Nofollow links aren't entirely worthless. Remember, links are votes and referrals, so even if a link doesn't pass on PageRank, it can still be valuable in other ways.
For example, a Nofollow link from a high-traffic website (like HuffingtonPost.com) can still bring you lots of visitors. These visitors might not help your SEO much, but they might buy something from your website or sign up for your email list, which can still be valuable.
What are Follow links?
Technically, there isn't an attribute called Follow (or Dofollow, which it's also referred to sometimes). It's often considered the opposite of the Nofollow attribute, but there isn't a rel=”follow” attribute tag.
Instead, when there isn't a Nofollow attribute tagged (or any of the others we'll review soon), the search engine bots are free to follow that link and crawl the linked-to website.
The linked-to website will also receive a slight boost in PageRank, especially if the linked-from website is high quality and authoritative.
Here's what a Follow link looks like in HTML:
<a href=”http://example.com/”>This is a Follow link</a>
As you can see, there isn't any rel attribute added.
When should you add an attribute to a link?
In most cases, when you're linking out from a page (whether that link is to another page on your website or another website), you want to allow crawlers to follow it and pass on link juice, especially when you link internally (so other pages on your website.
Let's look at when to use nofollow links or sponsored links and when it's better to let the link juice flow, depending on the type of content you're writing.
What link attribute should I use when I write an affiliate post?
If you're writing a post where you're linking to products or services that you're an affiliate for, you should use the Nofollow attribute.
For example, if you're writing a post about the best WordPress themes and you link to a theme you're an affiliate, you would want to add the Nofollow attribute to that link.
What link attribute should I use when I write a sponsored post?
If you're writing a post where you're being paid to promote a product or service, you should use the Sponsored attribute.
For example, if a company wants to pay you to write about a specific product they sell, and you link to that product in your post, you should add the Sponsored attribute to that link.
What link attribute should I use when I write a guest post?
It's recommended that you use the Nofollow attribute if you're writing a guest post for another website.
What link attribute should I use when I link to another page on my website?
You should not use an attribute if you're linking to another page on your website (an internal link). Instead, you should let the crawlers follow the link and pass on the link juice.
What link attribute should I use when I link to an external website (when it's not an affiliate or a sponsored post)?
You should not use an attribute if you're linking to an external website (when it's not an affiliate or a sponsored post). Instead, let the crawlers follow the link.
However, you can use the Nofollow attribute if you're linking to a low-quality website or a website that you don't want to give link juice to.
In general, though, it's best to let the crawlers follow the link and not use an attribute unless you have a specific reason to.
How TO CHECK IF A link is a Nofollow?
If you want to check the link attribute on a link, you can do it in a few different ways:
– Right-click on the link and select “Inspect”
– Look at the HTML code for the link
– Use a tool like Screaming Frog or Ahrefs
How TO mark a link as follow or nofollow in WordPress?
Setting the link attribute is really easy in WordPress.
When you're writing a blog post, all you do is when adding the link to the anchor text, and you also toggle the relevant attribute setting.
And there you have it! So now you know the difference between follow vs. Nofollow links and when you should use the link attributes. If you want to learn more about how search engine works, you may be interested in my course, SEO Basics for Bloggers.
I'm Petra Pearce, and I help women bloggers learn and do SEO without the overwhelm. My mission is to provide easy-to-follow SEO tips and resources so you can feel confident and in control when optimizing your website and content. Read more about me here ->