When it comes to SEO, getting backlinks are critical for businesses.
And if you’re familiar with SEO tactics, you’ll know that ‘dofollow’ links, in particular, are critical for businesses. They are the lifeblood of a website’s success, providing a steady stream of traffic that can help a company grow and thrive.
And while it’s true that not all links are created equal, dofollow links remain the most important type of link a business can get.
But what about nofollow links? Do they have any value at all? Many people believe they don’t, but that’s just not true.
Nofollow links offer many benefits that businesses should pay attention to. In fact, if used correctly, nofollow links can be just as valuable as dofollow links. Provided you know how to leverage them.
We’ll explore how you can do this in this post.
About backlinks and the two main types of links
Backlinks are links from other websites that lead back to your own. They are an important part of SEO, as they help you rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are two (main) types of backlinks: dofollow and nofollow.
And dofollow links are considered more valuable than nofollow links. Some people believe that nofollow links are worthless.
However, they still have value, just less than dofollow links.
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If you’re looking at the long term and understand the power of compounding, you’ll realize that both dofollow and nofollow links can increase your website’s visibility and rankings.
You need to build them both. Keep reading to understand why and how.
What are ‘dofollow’ links
Strictly (and technically) speaking, there’s no such thing as a dofollow link. It’s basically a link that goes to your website that doesn’t have the nofollow attribute.
We’ll explore nofollow links in more detail in the next section.
In general, dofollow links are valuable because they are seen by search engines as a ‘vote of confidence’ for your website. That is, if someone trusts and values your site enough to link to it, it must mean that your website has authority and relevant content.
While Google won’t explicitly say so, it uses backlinks to help determine which pages should rank higher in SERPs.
A report by Backlinko found that the first result in a Google search page has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than results in positions ranging from 2-10.
Backlinko’s report found a correlation between backlinks and higher rankings
Other platforms, agencies, and experts have also experimented with and analyzed results to assert the same thing: dofollow links matter.
So, the more quality dofollow links you have pointing to your site, the better your chance of ranking highly.
It would seem that it’s a good idea to focus on dofollow links exclusively. But as you keep reading, you’ll see that it isn’t the only effective way to boost your site’s credibility, ranking, and traffic.
What are nofollow links and how do they work?
A nofollow link is a link that does not pass any link juice or ranking signals to the linked site. In other words, it’s a way of telling search engines, ‘don’t count this link’. Or ‘do not follow this link’ – hence the name ‘nofollow’.
There are several ways nofollow links appear on a website. Here are the main ways:
- Links with the rel=”nofollow” attribute: This is the most common type of nofollow link. Any link with the rel=”nofollow” attribute is a nofollow link. For example: <a href=”http://example.com” rel=”nofollow”>Link</a>
- Links with a ‘noindex’ meta tag: If a page has a ‘noindex’ meta tag, all links on that page will be ignored by Google. Strictly speaking, this isn’t a technical nofollow link. But the links on such pages won’t get noticed by search engines at all. For example: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
- Links from .htaccess or robots.txt: You can also use your .htaccess or robots.txt file to tell search engines not to follow certain links on your site. For example: Disallow: /path/to/file
Nofollow links were introduced by Google in 2005 as a way to combat comment spam. Prior to that, all links were considered dofollow links and passing link juice was the norm.
This means that shady websites and users could simply spam blog posts with links and send ‘juice’ back to the linked site.
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This meant that search engine rankings could be manipulated, as sites with the most links would rank higher in SERPs.
So Google introduced the nofollow tag to help stop this from happening.
Nowadays, there are still many misconceptions about nofollow links and how they work. In reality, nofollow links can still be valuable for both SEO and traffic-building purposes.
While they may not help with your direct rankings, they can indirectly impact your SEO campaigns by helping to build brand awareness and authority.
Moreover, they can also help increase the overall number of visitors to your site by giving you more opportunities to be found online.
As such, there’s really no reason to avoid using them altogether. If anything, you should focus on building high-quality nofollow links from sites that are relevant to your niche or industry.
Imagine having a link to your website from a premier platform like Forbes or The New York Times. Sure, a nofollow link from them might not pass authority, but it still makes your business look credible.
So, don’t dismiss nofollow links altogether.
How to use nofollow links to your advantage
Why do brands and websites use nofollow links when it doesn’t pass along authority?
Here are three reasons:
- To deter spammers: If you have a blog or forum, chances are you’re familiar with comment spammers. These are people who leave comments on your site with links back to their own sites in the hopes of getting some free exposure. By using nofollow links on your comment section, you can discourage spammers from wasting their time.
- To avoid being penalized by Google: Google has been known to penalize sites that sell text links as a form of advertising. So if you’re selling text links on your site, it’s best to use nofollow links so as not to run afoul of Google’s guidelines.
- To give credit where it’s due: There are times when you may want to link to another site but don’t necessarily want to pass along authority credit. For instance, if you’re linking to an informative article or blog post that isn’t part of your normal niche, you may still want to give credit to the author by linking to their site using a nofollow link.
- To protect SEO ranking: Search engine algorithms can be unpredictable, so it’s important to protect your SEO rankings by using nofollow links. For example, if you’re linking to a site that has a low domain authority, using a nofollow link can avoid the impression that you’re creating and sharing low-quality information.
As you can see, there are several legitimate reasons to use nofollow links. So if you’ve been avoiding them because you thought they were bad for SEO, think again.
The evolution of nofollow links
When Google first introduced the nofollow attribute, it was a way to overcome comment spam.
But the algorithm has taken modern contexts into consideration and introduced two more attributes.
These attributes are the ‘sponsored’ and ‘ugc’ tags. They were added to help Google get more ‘hints’ about how to understand the relevance of a link.
The ‘sponsored’ tag is used to indicate paid links, while the ‘ugc’ stands for ‘user-generated content’. In other words, it’s used to label links that are created by a user on a blog or forum.
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Some SEO experts interpret these attributes as being the same as nofollow links – they aren’t desirable and don’t help your site gain authority.
However, Google says that the ugc and sponsored attributes provide ‘hints’ to help Google analyze links better. Meaning that it will use these attributes plus other factors to decide if a link is useful and relevant.
As always, Google works in mysterious ways and there’s no way to confirm whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for any of these attributes to exist in your links.
It’s good to know about these details as they’ll help you during your backlink building and search engine optimization.
Now, let’s move on to the practical aspects of how using nofollow links can affect your website.
The effects of nofollow links on your website SEO
So, is there any value to getting nofollow links? Let’s have a look.
Here are the many ways nofollow links can impact your website’s SEO.
Nofollow links can drive traffic to your site
Nofollow links can help increase the overall number of visitors to your site by giving you more opportunities to be found online.
For example, if you have a link to your website on a highly-trafficked page or blog post that is related to your niche, this can lead to more visitors, which can in turn lead to more sales or leads.
You can find reports and case studies showing that even nofollow links help get more traffic, more referrals, and social shares.
It can also help a page get indexed even when a link to it is nofollow.
Nofollow links can impact search rankings
We’ve repeated several times that dofollow links are more valuable than nofollow links because dofollow links share authority.
However, it’s not cut and dried that getting dofollow links is the only way to increase your site’s search engine ranking.
Author Adam White tested and found that a significant increase in his search engine rankings with just nofollow links. He made sure that the anchor text matched the page content, and these few actions led to his site ranking at the top for several keywords.
Such examples and case studies are anecdotal but illuminating. There’s no complete certainty when it comes to how Google ranks web pages.
Nofollow links show Google that you’re trusted
Google may not give direct search engine ranking benefits for nofollow links, but it can still help build your reputation and trust with the search engine.
When you get a nofollow link from a reputable website like CNN or The New York Times, it shows Google that your website is credible and trustworthy. This, in turn, can help you develop a better overall reputation with the search engine, which can lead to better rankings in the long term.
Nofollow links can help build brand awareness
Not all links have to pass link juice. Getting nofollow links from established websites or influencers in your niche can be beneficial for increasing brand awareness and credibility.
Having a link to your website from a premier platform like Forbes or The Guardian helps you stand out and look more credible.
Nofollow links can help diversify your link profile
As mentioned above, having a well-rounded link profile is important for SEO. Having some nofollow links can help diversify the types of links pointing to your website, which can help your website appear more natural to search engines.
Another possibility is that nofollow links help improve your website’s relationship with Google, even if they don’t directly impact your rankings. As mentioned before, if a high-authority website links to your site– even with a nofollow link– that’s still a pretty big vote of confidence.
How to get more nofollow links and make them count
I believe we’ve established that nofollow links do have value. So, it’s important to work towards getting more nofollow backlinks.
Here are some tips:
- Reach out to bloggers and influencers in your industry and offer to guest post on their blog or write a testimonial for their site. Most blogs include a link to the author’s website as part of their bio section, so this is a great way to get a high-quality nofollow link from another site.
- Participate in online discussions and forums related to your industry. Many forums allow users to include a link back to their own website in their signature, so this can be an easy way to get some exposure and build up some link juice over time. Just be sure not to spam these forums with self-promotional content– otherwise you risk getting banned.
- Contribute to forums like Reddit, Quora, Medium and other platforms. By creating useful answers and posts on such platforms, you create context for your links.
- Make sure that you create content that’s relevant when building your links. Also, ensure that anchor tags are natural and fit the content of the blog you’re linking to.
- Create high-quality content and share it on social media. This can attract users to visit your website and link to you since your content is useful and informative. Take advantage of social media. Many nofollow links come from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Make sure that you’re active on these platforms and that you’re sharing interesting, engaging content that will encourage people to click through to your website.
- Submit your website to online directories and resources. While many of these will give you a dofollow link, there are still several that use the nofollow attribute. And since these directories tend to have high authority themselves, getting listed can still be beneficial for your site– even if the link itself isn’t passing along much authority.
- Make sure that your website is high-quality and worthy of being linked to. This means creating blog posts that are relevant, structured, and informative. And when you do get nofollow links, ensure that they’re from good websites too. Nofollow links are valuable if they come from websites that are respected and authoritative.
If you’re carrying out a link building as part of your general SEO campaign, then getting nofollow links should be easy. Easier than getting dofollow links, in fact. Simply carry out your usual outreach efforts and get links as often as possible. They’ll have a positive effect on your business, however minimal.
Nofollow links may not pass along a lot of link juice, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any value. In fact, nofollow links can still be beneficial for your website’s SEO efforts. They help to diversify your link profile and improve your website’s relationship with Google.
To make the most out of nofollow links, try reaching out to bloggers and influencers in your and offer to guest post on their blog or write a testimonial for their site. You can also participate in online discussions and forums related to your industry, contribute to platforms like Reddit and Quora, or submit your website to online directories. And when you do get nofollow links, make sure they’re from high-quality websites.
With these and other tips I shared, you can successfully build more nofollow backlinks and give your website the visibility it needs.
Over time, you’ll see traffic growth and minor effects that snowball into visibility for your brand.