Insight April 30, 2019

The Value of Nofollow Links


We have talked in the past about link building and how important it is to your overall search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. What we didn’t tell you is that not all inbound links are created equal. But that’s okay. All inbound links may not be equal, but they do have value.

Link building is unquestionably one of the most important facets of SEO. Backlinks, or inbound links to your webpage, tell search engines that people trust what you have to say – enough to send their visitors to your website. You could say that every link to your page is like a vote or endorsement telling search engines that your content has value.

Since the late 1990s, Google has relied on links to measure the value and authority of webpages. It uses an algorithm called PageRank to measure the value and authority of webpages, assigning a score from 0 to 10 (10 being the highest) to reflect that value. But, in the early days of Google, spammers began to abuse the system, posting spam links on popular blogs and resorting to automated link building processes to boost their page rank.

To combat link spamming, Google, MSN and Yahoo! teamed up to introduce the nofollow HTML microformat. Any link with the nofollow attribute effectively puts up a stop sign signaling to search engine bots that they should not follow the link, so it will not be used to calculate PageRank.

When the nofollow attribute first arrived on the scene in early 2005, it spooked some marketers. Now, all their time and effort spent pitching a product or a piece of content could be undone with a short line of code: rel=”nofollow”. But is a nofollow link truly worthless?

Search engines today aren’t simply looking at backlinks and link juice. Social signals, like links shared on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn factor into your PageRank, despite being nofollow. Plus, any link, nofollow or not, helps build trust.

When Google first introduced the nofollow attribute, it wasn’t to penalize webpages that earned their backlinks fair and square. It was to control spamming. Typically, webmasters use nofollow for:

  • Untrusted content: Whenever you cannot (or will not) vouch for the content of pages linked on your website, you should apply the nofollow attribute. Social media posts, blog posts, forum posts and other user-generated content are typically nofollow to discourage comment spamming.
  • Paid links: Google takes a strong stance when it comes to paid links, asking webmasters to help ensure that advertisement links do not affect search engine rankings. Using the nofollow link is similar to providing a disclosure of a paid relationship (e.g., Sponsored posts on Instagram) that can be read by the search engine bot.
  • Crawl prioritization: When you have a page that does not need to be indexed by Google (i.e., pages that will only be valuable to humans, not bots, such as the registration page or login page), use nofollow to indicate to Google that there are other pages you would prefer to have indexed.

When you think about the three primary reasons for using nofollow, getting a nofollow link can feel like a slight. You’re working hard to produce great content and build links to your webpage, but all your efforts won’t affect your PageRank.

Still, there is value in the nofollow.

How Do You Make the Most of Nofollow Links?

Sometimes, we get so focused on the process of link building that we forget the goal: Creating opportunities for people to discover your webpage and convert. Every link, regardless of the link attribute, has the potential to send referral traffic to your webpage. Anytime someone posts a backlink to your webpage on their website, their readers have the opportunity to check out your content. Plus, as more people discover your content, there is a chance that other webpages will cite it as a dofollow link.

  • Test your headlines. When you share you content on social, make sure you regularly test your content to see what compels your fans to click.
  • Build up your network. Reach out to other authorities within your industry and invite them to review your content. Stick with sharing a standout piece that’s relevant to your target audience and you might just earn a share.
  • Keep an eye on the bounce rate. Getting people to your webpage isn’t helpful if they don’t stick around. Make sure that you’ve optimized your website to provide the best user experience on desktop and mobile.

Nofollow links aren’t the end of the world. They’re just one more opportunity to get your content in front of a new audience.

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