To search engine optimization gurus, the use of nofollow links is pretty old news. Nonetheless, nofollow links still serve a purpose and are important for working towards a higher rank in search engines like Google.
If you have yet to learn when and where to use nofollow links, there’s no better time than now!
What are nofollow links?
Before we can explain what nofollow links are, it’s important to understand what ‘PageRank’ is.
PageRank is a metric invented by Google’s owners. It takes a number of different factors into account to determine how trustworthy a page is.
Google formerly used PageRank to determine where a website would rank in search engine results. While Google no longer does this, PageRank still has indirect effects on ranking, such as:
- It’s one of a couple hundred ranking factors used by Google to decide a page’s popularity.
- Topic relevant backlinks from websites with a high PageRank will help improve page authority.
- If you receive backlinks from sites with high PageRank in a fishy manner, you risk search engine penalties.
Point is – you want to strive to increase your website’s PageRank.
When you link to an external website, Google considers this a vote for their credibility. The more you link out, the more you’re diluting your own page’s PageRank. In order to keep that precious PageRank and give credit where credit is due, the nofollow link comes into play.
When to Use Nofollow Links
Nofollow links can serve as a handy tool for giving credit to other websites without vouching for their credibility.
Say you found a quote in someone else’s blog that you’d like to share on your website, but you’re not certain of the website’s trustworthiness. This would be a great occasion to make use of a nofollow link.
Other scenarios you may want to use a nofollow link in:
Badges on your website.
You’re paying for “trust” badges like Norton to begin with and the Better Business Bureau already has enough PageRank on their own. Why pass them your PageRank for nothing?
Google considers crawlable paid links as a big no-no. Here’s what Google guidelines say about paid links:
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”).
See Google guidelines for more information on paid links.
Some internal links.
Perhaps the main purpose of nofollow links is for linking to questionable websites. If you’re using a website as a bad example of something, you probably don’t want to send a vote of credibility their way.
How to Use Nofollow Links
When you view the HTML side of your website (or click the ‘text’ tab when entering content into a WordPress website), you will see links that look like this:
Link that passes PageRank:
These links are automatically follow links. To change them to nofollow, it’s simple. Just add a bit of code after the ‘<a’ and voilà.. It becomes a nofollow link.
Link that doesn’t pass PageRank:
<a rel=”nofollow” href=”http://www.website.com”>Text</a>
Are nofollow links even relevant anymore?
It’s been debated whether nofollow links still work. Reason being that Google can still ignore your suggestion and follow the link. According to Google Webmaster Guidelines, in general they do work:
In general, we don’t follow them. This means that Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links. Essentially, using nofollow causes us to drop the target links from our overall graph of the web. However, the target pages may still appear in our index if other sites link to them without using nofollow, or if the URLs are submitted to Google in a Sitemap. Also, it’s important to note that other search engines may handle nofollow in slightly different ways.
Although the “in general” part gives Google some wiggle room, it’s safe to say that nofollow links still work to some degree and serve a purpose.
Has this helped you decide when to use nofollow links for you website? Let us know if you have any additional questions or comments below!