What are “Nofollow” Links and When to Use Them

Disclaimer: The information about nofollow links in this post is true as of October 31, 2017. The information may change in the future and may even differ for various search engines. So, please take the article with a pinch of salt and always be on the lookout for any algorithm updates in the future.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO—a term most of us are familiar with. But SEO isn’t just about researching and using keywords in your posts. There’s much, much more to it.

The trouble is no one really has the complete list of guidelines that will help you rank your posts on the first page of search results. As a result, most of us spend hours agonizing about keyword research and usage. This is not to say it isn’t important or necessary—it sure is, but there are a few other smaller things you must do to get in the good books of search engines, especially Google.

Did you know Google can penalize your website (i.e. affect your ranking) if you do not follow their guidelines pertaining to link listings?

For example, while writing a sponsored post, you will create a backlink to your sponsor’s website at some point in your post. Any backlink to a certain website adds to the website’s trustworthiness. But the problem is you are being paid to create this “trust factor”—a big no-no! So, for such link listings, you must apply what is known as a “nofollow” attribute.

The What, When, and How of Nofollow LinksThe What, When, and How of Nofollow Links

Dofollow Links Vs. Nofollow Links

Most links, by default, have the “dofollow” attribute enabled. Which is why SEO experts consider guest posting and commenting so important in driving organic traffic to your website.

When you guest post on another person’s website, they will typically allow you to add one or two backlinks to your website in your post. One way to look at it is the exposure you are gaining by posting your content and backlinks. That aside, every backlink to your website adds more credibility to you being a domain authority, and thereby, your ranking.

Similarly, by commenting on other people’s blogs and leaving your website URL behind, you create more and more backlinks for yourself. Nowadays platforms such as WordPress and Blogger have set links in comments as “nofollow” by default.

When it comes to big companies, the stakes are exponentially higher. Imagine how many people must be linking to their website and/or product listings. A high percentage of these listings is paid and therefore, segregated from genuine backlinks. This is where the “nofollow” attribute comes into the picture.

When search engines find “nofollow” links, they know these must be excluded from their influence-building algorithm (don’t know what else to call it :-)). In other words, these links do not influence the page ranking of the website.

How to Create Nofollow Links

There are two ways of doing this—using plugins or manually.

Plugin Method

There are several plugins available for WordPress that will allow you to mark select or all external links as “nofollow” links. One plugin I have used in the past and liked is the “Ultimate Nofollow” plugin. It’s easy to use.

Alternatively, just search in the WordPress directory for the one you want to try out (keyword: nofollow).

Manual Method

I find the manual method more reliable compared to using a plugin. Additionally, every new plugin takes up web space and slows down your website. So, choose your plugins carefully.

When you create a link, it looks like this in the HTML view:

<a href=”http://www.YourLink.com”>YourLink</a>

This is an example of a “dofollow” link even though the words “dofollow” are not spelled out.

Search engines will consider http://www.YourLink.com as an endorsement of quality content. This will push the link higher in the search results.

Conversely, if you are endorsing a website because they paid you for it, you have to enable the “nofollow” attribute. This is how it will look in the HTML view:

<a href=”http://www.YourLink.com” rel=“nofollow”>YourLink</a>

This link will not count towards link building for the website.

When Should You Use “Nofollow” Links

Affiliate or Sponsored Links

First and foremost, any time you are being paid to write about a brand, all backlinks to the brand’s website must be set to “nofollow”.

Display Advertisements

Embedding third-party display advertisements, such as via Google AdSense and Media.net, on your website is a very common method of earning revenue. Make sure the HTML codes of these advertisements have the “nofollow” attribute included.

Non-example or Offensive Website

It’s possible you want to mention a certain website as a non-example. For instance, maybe you are listing websites that are not safe for the work environment or for children. You want your readers to know about these websites, so you link them. But you do not want to endorse these websites by creating legit backlinks.

General Non-endorsement

This is similar to the previous point. Often, you will cite another website to make a point but are not necessarily endorse them. For example, you may embed someone else’s YouTube video to illustrate something. But that doesn’t mean you want to specifically endorse that channel. Make the link “nofollow”.

I hope you found this post useful and will keep the pointers in mind. For more information, please read this detailed article about “nofollow” links (I have set the link to “nofollow” :-))

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The What, When, and How of Nofollow Links

Did you know search engines penalize your website for endorsing via backlinks? Here’s what you need to know about “nofollow” links.

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