If you are new to the world of digital marketing, then you are probably hearing some key terms over and over again. If terms like SEO, link building, and rel=nofollow are beginning to run through your mind even when you are sleeping, you have come to the right place. Understanding this terminology is essential for finding success online. In simple terms, Nofollow is an HTML element used to dictate to search engine bots that a hyperlink should not impact the target link’s order in the search engine indexes.
The world web wide is an enormous place filled with different voices competing to be heard. To get your voice (on your website) heard, you must employ the most strategic digital marketing techniques to gain viewers and page rankings. Unfortunately, this is more complicated than it sounds. The internet gurus at Google have a confusing algorithm to rank each site’s popularity. Your website’s popularity on Google directly affects your viewers. Therefore, you must play by Google’s rules.
Why Links are Essential
SEO stands for search engine optimization. When you hire an SEO company for SEO services, these SEO professionals work diligently to make sure your site is optimized to be attractive to search engines. By creating great content, having a well-designed website, and building links, your website will be more liked by search engines like Google.
The whole “backlink thing” is extremely important. When your website has other websites link to it, it is like you have gained a point. The more points your website gains, the more it grows in popularity. For example, Google’s PageRank algorithm counts hyperlinks as votes for popularity. Basically, those pages with the most links pointing back to them are considered the most popular. Once a site is deemed relevant and popular, it becomes one of the first pages to show up in Google’s search results.
What is the Rel=NoFollow Attribute?
Now that we’ve established why links matter, you must understand the rel=NoFollow attribute. Often, this attribute is referred to as a tag. This is because it is included in the HTML 5 specs. The “rel” is short for “relationship” – as in explaining the relationship between what a link has to the page it leads to. So, if you do not want to vouch for a website, you use the rel=NoFollow attribute to show Google that you are not endorsing the page.
Here is a quick example of what it looks like without rel=DoFollow:
< ahref=http://www.example.com/”>link to page < /a >
And, here is a quick example of what it looks like with rel=NoFollow:
< ahref=http://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow” > link to page < /a >
When this attribute is used, it tells Google not to count the site for those popularity points used for ranking.
Why Did NoFollow Begin?
You may be wondering why you would not want to give a site “credit” or use a NoFollow link. It seems a little mean. It’s not mean; it’s simply wise. The whole reason NoFollow began was to protect websites against earning a poor reputation from Google.
In the early 2000s, spammers began to realize that they could leave links in blog comments and elsewhere in order to help their website’s ranking improve. As Danny Sullivan explains, “People understood that search engines liked links as a ranking signal, so some people unfortunately decided an easy way to get links was to spam blog comments with them. This put pressure on the search engines, in particular on Google, to provide a solution.” Therefore, the search engines came up with NoFollow.
Essentially, if your page has several links, it may send a red flag to Google that you are doing something that is frowned upon in the SEO world. When Google thinks you are unethically using links, it hurts your reputation. By giving web publishers a way to acknowledge another site without “helping” that site gain points, it helps their reputation.
Google’s Request for the Attribute on Paid Content
Primarily, Google wants you to attribute any paid links (or any links you can buy) on your site. This means you use the rel=NoFollow tag for any paid links, advertisements, affiliate links, and native advertising. Here is Google’s Stance on Paid links:
“A site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge webmasters use nofollow on such links. Search engine guidelines require machine-readable disclosure of paid links in the same way that consumers online and offline appreciate disclosure of paid relationships (for example, a full-page newspaper ad may be headed by the word “Advertisement”).”
How Does This Work for Buying Links?
But, links are essential to a website’s site, so what does NoFollow mean for buying links? For instance, many links are used simply to build a brand or get more visitors and not to “cheat” on their rankings. If everyone was buying and selling links, that makes it extremely difficult for search engines to distinguish between reputable sites and which are not.
As Matt Cutts writes, “What if a site wants to buy links purely for visitor click traffic, to build buzz, or to support another site? In that situation, I would use the rel=”nofollow” attribute. The nofollow tag allows a site to add a link that abstains from being an editorial vote. Using nofollow is a safe way to buy links, because it’s a machine-readable way to specify that a link doesn’t have to be counted as a vote by a search engine.”
Why It Matters for Comment Sections (Untrusted content)
In addition to Google providing the NoFollow as a way to safeguard against paid links, the NoFollow attribute is also a way to protect your website’s reputation against untrusted content. For instance, with the spammers attacking blogs, it became necessary for protection. This is because blog commenting sections allow for dofollow links, so spammers will take advantage.
This is Google’s policy on untrusted content: “If you can’t or don’t want to vouch for the content of pages you link to from your site — for example, untrusted user comments or guestbook entries — you should nofollow those links. This can discourage spammers from targeting your site, and will help keep your site from inadvertently passing PageRank to bad neighborhoods on the web. In particular, comment spammers may decide not to target a specific content management system or blog service if they can see that untrusted links in that service are nofollowed.”
What Happens When a Link is Rel=NoFollow?
When a link is rel=nofollow, it tells search engines to not give it any additional points or weight that affects its search engine rankings. Basically, it stops a link from becoming a vote for another webpage. When you use the rel=no follow tag, you are protecting your website from any loss of reputation.
When Do You Need to Use the NoFollow Tag?
You must use the rel=nofollow tag with ANY paid links on your website or with any paid links you buy to point back to your own site. When you do not use this tag for paid links, it appears unscrupulous and like you are trying to “beat the system.” In this case, Google will penalize your website.
In addition to use the nofollow tag for paid links, you should also use the nofollow tag for any page you are not willing to vouch for. As we discussed earlier, this means setting up the blog commenting section as nofollow rather than dofollow.
Quick tip -the webmaster can easily see do follow versus nofollow links in the source code. The webmaster can also manually add the rel=nofollow attribute where it is deemed necessary.
Plus, many sites are immediately deemed no follow. For example, social media links and open submission content sites like Quora or Reddit are no follow. Again, this is to prevent spammers from commenting with links for points.
It is Your Decision
Ultimately, it is your decision to use rel=nofollow or not. There are some people who go to extreme lengths and add this tag to every link on their website. However, this is highly unnecessary. For instance, if you are linking to a reputable website like Forbes or National Geographic, you have no reason to include this attribute.
Of course, I strongly encourage you to follow Google’s rules for using this attribute for any and all paid links on your site. If you do not follow the policy, you can be penalized. And, then all the money you spent trying to get visitors to your site will be for naught.
As Shaun Anderson suggests, “Use nofollow only if you don’t want to vouch for the page you’re linking to, for fear of losing reputation.”
How Will NoFollow Links to Your Site Affect You?
But, what if someone links to your site using the rel=nofollow tag? Well, it might not thrill you, but it is not the end of the world. It will not help your Google reputation or hurt it. When the tag is used, it will minimally affect your website. As long as you are not the one spamming other websites, your site will receive little to no damage from another site giving the attribute to your link. It simply does not give your site any ranking weight.
What NoFollow Links Still Do for Your Site
You may have just read that above paragraph and feel bummed. Don’t be. It can be discouraging for those trying to boost their rankings to learn that someone has added the rel=nofollow tag to a link to their page. I get it. This means that link will not improve your Google search ranking. But, here is what it will still do.
Links bring awareness. Even if it does not count towards Google’s popularity points, it still brings a potential reader to your website. If the content is, in fact, relevant, then the reader may turn into a customer. Without even having the “do follow,” your links still are seen and still bring people to your website.
For instance, social media sites are nofollow, but consider how many webpages are visited simply because of a Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram mention or post? These sites are getting traffic and making sells without having the “do follow.” And, isn’t that what really matters for success on the internet?
How to Get Follow Links
If you are still hoping to get reputable sites to link to your website without using this attribute, there are some things you can do. First, consider hiring SEO professionals. They know building links like the back of their hands, and they know how to do it well. Next, reach out to the webmasters. If they use nofollow tags, respect it. But, continue to write exceptional, relevant content. If you earn a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy, the webmaster may begin to drop this attribute from links to your site.
What About Other Search Engines?
Multiple search engines use the rel=nofollow attribute; however, how the attribute affects rankings varies. As we discussed with Google, this tag simply tells Google not to give the site any points that would go towards its ranking. Therefore, it does not lower and higher its ranking.
Bing, on the other hand, does use the rel=nofollow attribute, but it is not used in the same way. This is because while link buying is frowned upon, it is not banned. Therefore, you do not have to use the tag with the same stringency as Google. However, reputation still matters. If your site seems untrustworthy, it will affect your ranking.
To Wrap Up…
If you want to beat your competitors and gain more traffic to your website, avoid doing it through unethical link building practices. Instead, invest your time and money into writing and providing quality content to your website viewers. Protect your reputation by using the nofollow tag with any and all paid links and with any spammers.
And, if someone uses the nofollow tag for your website, do not be discouraged. Your website is still being linked to and seen be a wider audience. Remember, it is more important for your website to be reliable and trustworthy.