SEO Basics: NoFollow Links & DoFollow Links
"I'm frustrated" John told me.
To improve his website's SEO, John had written articles and published them on dozens of websites related to his industry. Yet, despite his hard work, he was receiving almost no SEO credit.
John (which isn't his real name... to protect the innocent and what not) is a client who recently came to me wanting to improve his website's SEO after submitting his articles.
John did everything right - he wrote a bunch of great articles for other websites. He even had his brand featured on a few other websites with links back to his site.
The reason John wasn't getting the SEO credit he was seeking wasn't because of his work, it was because of the type of link used to link back to his website.
DoFollow vs NoFollow Links
When it comes to outbound or external links, not all links are equal. There are actually 2 different types of links, each with their own nuances and uses.
Here they are at a very high-level view:
DoFollow links allow search engines to follow a link and pass what's known as "link juice" (SEO credit) to the destination website it's linked to. We call this a "backlink."
Most links are DoFollow links by default.
You don't need to do anything special for a link to be a DoFollow link.
Here is what a normal DoFollow link looks like:
NoFollow links look exactly the same as DoFollow links for human readers. The difference is that they do NOT pass "link juice" to the destination website. Also, search engines do NOT follow the link.
Here is what a normal NoFollow link looks like:
<a href="https://google.com" rel="nofollow">Google</a>
Why the Heck Do We Need 2 Type of Links?!
TL;DR: comment spam.
Back in the early 2000's blogging grew in popularity. Some people (read: marketers - sorry), figured out that search engines used links as a ranking signal. Thus, an easy way to get links to your site (and boost your ranking) was to create spam blog comments with the links. A lot of spam blog comments.
To correct this, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft created the Nofollow link.
If they could prevent links in blog comments from passing credit, hopefully it would reduce the number of spam blog comments.
NoFollow did fix the SEO hack but if you've been on the internet for longer than 32 minutes then you already know it didn't fix the spam comment problem.
When to Use DoFollow Links vs NoFollow Links
Both DoFollow and NoFollow links have a time and place.
When you link to a website using a normal, DoFollow link, search engines consider this you "vouching" for the site you're linking to.
In other words, you think enough of this other website that you're comfortable sending your visitors there.
That's why search engines will then pass some SEO credit to the site you're linking to.
If a high-authority website provides a DoFollow link to your website, it will boost your credibility as well as your SEO.
Likewise, any time you link to another site that you don’t want to endorse, you can use a NoFollow link.
At this point it's important to note a rule we (should have) all learned as kids.
Don't be selfish.
If you make all of your external links NoFollow links, you're going to look like a jerk. Share the SEO love!
Here are some examples of good times to use NoFollow links:
- Blog comments
- Paid links (where you're compensated to link to another website)
- User Generated Content
Are NoFollow Links Worthless?
NoFollow links are definitely not worthless.
If another website is willing to link to your site (and send visitors your way) but they're insisting on it being a NoFollow link, that's ok. Thank them and smile anyway.
NoFollow links still provide brand awareness and human visitors are still following them.
NoFollow links just don't provide the same SEO benefits that DoFollow links offer.
Here is a cool infographic from SearchEngineLand.com about the NoFollow link:
All that to say this:
If you're guest posting on someone else's website, ask them if they provide dofollow or nofollow links back to your website (and maybe push a little for the DoFollow links).
If you've had any experience with this in your own SEO efforts or do you know a great way to get legit DoFollow links, let me know in the comments!