Whenever you’re researching something related to search engine optimization, you often come across words like dofollow, nofollow, noindex, meta robots, etc. These are important words to know about because, in the world of SEO, they all have important meaning. In this post, I will be talking about NoFollow and DoFollow links. If you are a newbie, this is an important blog post for you because if you don’t know the difference between these two, you will have a very hard time ranking on page 1.
The first thing you must know is that not all backlinks were created equal. Some links provide more value while other links function more like a cherry on top.
What Is a DoFollow Link?
To really understand this concept, we need to know a bit more about how backlinks actually work in the world of SEO.
You see, when a website gets a backlink, which is basically a hyperlink pointing to another website on the internet, the page that is receiving that link gets a boost in the search engine rankings. You want to think of these links as a popularity contest. The more links you get, the more popular you are, and the higher you will rank.
It is similar to the Kim Kardashian effect.
And Google is looking at all the links you are receiving and it sees everything. It knows where you are receiving those links from and how often people are linking to your website. So, now that you are consistently receiving backlinks to your website, it seems that you are more popular than your competitors.
And Google thinks that if that many people are linking to your website, you must have some unique information on that page. And so it starts giving preference to your website over other pages. Because at the end of the day Google only wants to serve the best pages to its users.
But obviously, people started taking advantage of that. They started using software to create thousands of backlinks to their websites. And eventually, there came a time when websites literally had tens of thousands of inbound links. Google had to do something about that. Or else the internet would go crazy with these links.
They created what was called PageRank. It was also known as “link juice.”
What it means is that it will calculate the average of all the backlinks your website is receiving and then rate your website anywhere between 0-10. The higher your rating is, the more authoritative/powerful your website is.
So let’s say that HuffingtonPost has a PageRank (PR) of 8. And if it links to your website, let’s call it abc.com that has a PR of 1.
When you receive a backlink from a PR 8 website, your PR would go up as well. Because a very important website is linking to you. So a backlink from HuffingtonPost would be gold for you.
This works almost like it does in the real world.
If you were someone who is very close to the President of the United States, you too would be an important person. And you don’t need to be close to the leader of the free world to see this working in real life.
Even if you are close to the owner of your company, suddenly you would be a more important person among other employees.
So, what is a DoFollow link then?
All dofollow are links that can be counted as valid popularity points. These dofollow links push SEO juice to your website and help you rank higher in search engines.
What are NoFollow Links?
NoFollow links are the opposite of dofollow links.
NoFollow links are not counted as links that would benefit you or hurt you when it comes to your search engine rankings. NoFollow links are basically just links with no additional SEO value.
And that is the reason why you see that most people never really focus on nofollow links. Because there is literally no benefit in spending their time and resources building them up.
How do you find out if a backlink is dofollow or nofollow?
You will see that there is a little nofollow HTML tag in the backlink of a nofollow link. If you view the code of the website, that backlink would look something like this:
<a href=”http://www.abc.com/” rel=”nofollow”>link text</a>
You can also use an extension if you’re using Google Chrome or an addon if you’re using Firefox. This will save you a ton of time by just highlighting the nofollow backlinks on a page. So instead of digging into the source code of a website, you can just see if their outbound links are highlighted by these extensions/addons.
If they are, they are nofollow links.
Google NoFollow highlighter extension
Firefox NoFollow highlighter addon
Nofollow tags are a signal to search engines to let them know that they shouldn’t count these links.
Why would someone create a tag like that? I mean, that should be one hell of a mean person walking this planet, right?
Well, it turns out, it is not mean at all. In fact, this tag was created for the benefit of the internet.
Why Are NoFollow Links Important In This World?
As I said earlier, dofollow links make up the majority of the backlinks that are created these days. And Google only considers the dofollow links as valid popularity points to decide where your website should rank.
But the internet is filled with interesting people. And if you have been researching about SEO, you might have read in some forums that there are people who trick search engines and inflate their rankings through some black hat techniques.
And that is what they did when the world did not have nofollow links.
People would literally post comments filled with self-promotion instead of adding value to the articles. It was all about creating backlinks for SEO and nothing else.
Everyone on the internet was getting spammed by these self-promotion blog comments. And people hated it because a lot of these spammers were using software to post those comments. This would enable them to literally post comments on thousands of websites on a daily basis.
It was a joke.
And it wasn’t just blog comments that messed with people’s websites and livelihoods. Wikipedia had to face some of the spam as well. And it is more than messy when it comes to manipulating data on Wikipedia because people trust everything they read on that website.
People would add their own websites as references on hundreds if not thousands of pages on Wikipedia.
This is when Google decided that something had to be done to police this massive spamming of backlinks. And so in 2005, Matt Cutts, along with Jason Shellen introduced what was called the nofollow attribute.
And since then, the nofollow attribute has done a ton of good for the internet than you would realize. It’s like Batman. It works in the shadows and you don’t even know about it. But when you do, you realize how important of a role it has been playing in your life.
Now you’ll notice that WordPress automatically assigned the nofollow attribute to all the blog comments. And Wikipedia does the same to all the links in their references section.
You still have to option to disable the nofollow attribute on your website/blog if you want to reward people for adding content to your website. But that is entirely up to you.
Just know that while comment spam still happens, it does not affect the website as much as it used to in the past.
So Are You Saying That I Should Just Ignore NoFollow Backlinks?
No. On the contrary. Just because you are not getting any concrete SEO value from those nofollow links, you will still get some valuable referral traffic from them. Remember the HuffingtonPost example I used earlier? Imagine getting that link to your website in real life. How many visitors would you get from that link alone?
Even if it’s a nofollow backlink, you are still getting traffic from it. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of SEO as well?
I mean why are you doing SEO in the first place? So that you can rank #1 for your target keyword and brag about it to your friends?
Or do you want to get more traffic to your website so that you can make more sales and then save up enough money so you can go to Paris this year?
I think you’re doing it for Paris.
So, even if you get a nofollow backlink from that blog comment, you are still adding value to the article. So why not post the comment?
This doesn’t mean that you should now go and start spamming blogs. You should only post comments on articles to which you can truly add value. Or else you should look to other ways of getting backlinks.
On the other hand, you might have already read on SEO blogs that search engines are now looking at a lot more factors than just backlinks. They are looking at social signals from Facebook and Twitter, to be precise.
Even though they are nofollow links, they still provide value and traffic.
The key here is to focus on building your brand. You still want to think about the links that you will be creating, but you want to focus more on how other people can benefit from the products and services you are offering.
Moreover, you want to first look at the struggles of your audience before even creating a product or service for them. That way, you will be working with them directly, instead of doing everything you can just so you can rank on page 1 of Google.
By focusing on your community and helping people, you will establish yourself as an authority in no time.
Remember, it is all about building trust. And people love doing business with the ones they trust. And the internet needs more trust, it already has a lot of backlinks 🙂
Another important thing I wanted to mention is that you should still try getting some Wikipedia links. This goes back to the traffic thing. Remember, Wikipedia receives millions of visitors every single day.
And a backlink, regardless of whether it is a nofollow or dofollow, will do you a ton of good.
However, I should let you know that they are quite picky when it comes to references links. So you might have to create content on your website that is very niche focused. But if you can get some links from Wikipedia, you’ll be thanking me in the comments section here.
You still want to make sure that you are getting enough dofollow links to rank higher in search engines. But that shouldn’t be something that you’re thinking about all day long. Look to create value and if you’re getting a backlink out of it, great, even if that link is a nofollow, you’d still have added value.
Check out this article that I just wrote that mentions the top 4 ways you can get more dofollow backlinks to your website.
It’s All About Balance
At the end of the day, you want to achieve a balance of dofollow and nofollow backlinks. That is what creates the best backlink profile.
I know that dofollow links will do more for you SEO-wise, but nofollow links should still be there in your digital marketing arsenal. Because you never know when you might want to use it.