No Value in Nofollow Links? No Way!

Marvin Russell

Founded MySiteAuditor • Former Agency Owner • Let's connect on Twitter
Marvin Russell

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The infamous nofollow link-some SEOs are adamant about its lack of value while others profess its potential. It’s time to put this argument to rest and discuss what exactly a nofollow link can do for your link profile.

What is a Nofollow Link?

A link defined as nofollow provides a way for webmasters to tell search engines “Don’t follow links on this page” or “Don’t follow this specific link.” (Google Webmaster Tools). Often implemented on blog comments, webmasters use this attribute when they don’t vouch for the links that are being posted on the site. Other reasons the nofollow is used include (from Google Webmaster Tools):

Paid Links-

Google urges site owners to tag paid links with nofollow so they don’t influence search results or throw off visitors.

Crawl Prioritization-

Search engines cannot sign in or register on your site so there’s no reason to invite crawlers to view these links. By implementing the nofollow, webmasters can prioritize other links on the site.

Search Engines’ Official Stance on Nofollows

Google

“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.”(Google Webmaster Tools-About rel=”nofollow”)

Yahoo

“If we find a link we make it available to our algorithms to find new content, whether it has a ‘nofollow’ attribute or not. However, if the ‘nofollow’ attribute is present, it means that no attribution is given to the target from the source of the link.”
(Search Engine Journal-How Google, Yahoo & Ask.com Treat the Nofollow Link Attribute)

Basically, Google says they don’t follow nofollow links nor do they allow any authority to pass along to the site. Yahoo allows the crawlers to follow the link but doesn’t allow any authority to pass from the source. Each search engine will handle links differently so understanding the nuances will help your overall link building strategy.

So What’s the Point of Building Nofollow Links?

Based on Google’s and Yahoo’s official stances, it may seem rather pointless to target these links if they don’t pass any authority. However, there is much debate on whether these official stances are entirely accurate. Just check out Sphinn’s Discussion of the Week from a little while back- Do you think no-follow links are worth more than Google says?

You’ll notice a few different views in this discussion:

Whatever Google says is EXACTLY how it is. Nofollow links do not pass along any authority, therefore I ignore these opportunities for links.
Google isn’t telling us everything. I’ve seen results from Nofollow links so I still use them.
Nofollow links may not pass page rank, but they promote traffic to your site.

Alternative value of Nofollow links.

1. Nofollow Links Promote Traffic:

Even if the nofollow link doesn’t pass any authority, it still offers an opportunity for people to access your site. If you create an insightful and engaging comment on a blog post with a link, people will be compelled to visit your site. If they like what they see on your site, they may want to link to you and invite others to do the same. The initial nofollow link starts quite the chain effect if you ask me.

2. Nofollow means DO NOT FOLLOW, not DO NOT COUNT:

As with Yahoo’s official stance, their crawlers don’t necessarily exclude the link. The links may not pass authority in the traditional sense but they’re still factored in the algorithm. Others speculate this is what Google does as well.

3. Google follows nofollow links from Social Media:

When Google partnered with Twitter (who uses nofollows) to bring Realtime search results, they calculated all the links shared on Twitter and promoted them in the Top Links display. Clearly these nofollow links were being counted in some way. Realtime search has been suspended for the time being, but I’m sure not for long.

4. Diversifying Your Link Profile:

One of the cardinal rules of link building is to have a diversified link portfolio. Obtaining a variety of links from a variety of sources with varying anchor text helps support a more natural profile-which is preferred by search engines. Therefore, both follow and nofollow links should be included.

Link building is not an easy task and excluding an entire category of links makes it even more arduous. I encourage SEOs to reevaluate their positions on nofollows and understand how they can benefit your clients’ link profiles. A link is a link is a link. Follow or no follow, every link is of value.

We’d love to hear your opinion on this! Please comment below