To follow or not to follow? That is the Shakespearean question of our modern day blogging industry. Before discussing the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, we need to understand a little thing called Google PageRank. Google PageRank is a number between 0-10 assigned by Google to a website that ranks their importance. Google uses a number of things to calculate the PageRank, but number of links is a huge factor. Pages with higher PageRank are more likely to appear towards the top of Google search engine results.
As a blogger, your PageRank is your reputation. The more valid, trustworthy links that are pointing to your site, the better your SEO will be. It also determines how much SEO value you are giving when you link to other pages. I like to refer to SEO value as “juice” — when highly ranked sites link to you, they are pouring juice into your glass, and by linking to others, you are pouring juice into theirs. (Are you thirsty now?)
Now that we’ve covered the importance of links in determining Google PageRank, you need to understand the different types of links and how they affect your ranking.
- Sites with related and relevant content
- High quality, credible websites with good reputation
- Link to original source
Dofollow links give search engines permission to crawl your content and connect your page to other internal and external pages on the Internet. Dofollow links offer significant SEO value because they are considered to be credible from Google. Dofollow links are endorsements either from your site to others or visa versa– saying that the linked site is high-quality. These types of link pass SEO juice from the linking site to the linked site (the higher the page rank of the linker’s site, the more SEO benefit to the linkee’s site). If, for example, a site with a high page rank such as Forbes.com linked to your site, it might help increase your page rank.
Dofollow links connect your site and reputation to others, so it’s very important to use them sparingly. You don’t want to link to an unreputable site and have Google think you are endorsing it. Likewise, you shouldn’t buy links from untrustworthy directory sites (which was a common practice in the olden days of SEO). If Google catches wind, it can negatively affect your rankings. When in doubt, consider the phrase “you are judged by the company you keep” and trust your intuition. Which brings us to…
- Paid links
- Blog comments
- Untrusted content
- Non-indexed pages
Nofollow links are not followed by search engine bots and so they don’t have any direct SEO perks. They are still important, because it helps you protect your site from spammers who sneak untrustworthy links in comments. Consider it a plug to keep your hard-earned SEO juice from leaking to sites that don’t deserve it!
The other, possibly most important, use of nofollow is for affiliate links or paid links. These are links that you are getting some sort of monetary benefit from and need to disclose. NEVER add a dofollow link from a company that is paying you or offering you something in exchange for a blog post. I’ve had several friends tell me that they received angry emails from companies who wanted dofollow links when they sponsored the post. Nice try, but no cigar. Don’t be bullied into losing your credibility.
Affiliate links should also be nofollow. These are links where you are getting a commission from clicks/sales, including Amazon.com, ShopStyle, and rewardStyle. Matt Cutts from Google explained that for most big affiliates, they already take care of the nofollow on their end, but it’s better to be safe than sorry…
We handle the vast majority of affiliate stuff correctly because if it is a large enough affiliate network we know about it and we handle it on our side. Even though we handle I believe the vast majority of affiliate links appropriately if you are at all worried about it, I would go ahead and just add the nofollow because you might be earning money from that. (Matt Cutts, Google)
The basic principle behind making affiliate/paid links nofollow is that Google wants website rankings to be organic. They don’t want people to cheat the system or buy links. Even though the affiliate websites could be from trustworthy companies, you still stand to gain something monetarily by linking to them, so your “endorsement” is tainted.
Now that you’ve determined which types of links should be dofollow and nofollow, how do you add them to your website?
By default, all links are dofollow. The only time you have to worry about adding code is when you want a link to be nofollow. To do that, you add html code to your link.
The typical link code looks like this: <a href=”http://website.com”>Website</a>.
For a nofollow link, you need to add the rel (relationship): <a href=”http://website.com” rel=”nofollow”>Website</a>.
If you don’t want to mess with html or have a large amount of nofollow links, WordPress has plugins that can help make the process easier. I use a free plugin called Rel Nofollow Checkbox, which adds a convenient nofollow option anytime you insert a link.
Dofollow/Nofollow links can be tricky– I always recommend that you err on the side of caution and make links nofollow, if you’re not sure. If you have any specific scenarios, feel free to post them in the comments and I’ll weigh in! P.S. Shout out to Sevi for requesting this WordPress Wednesday topic. Would love to hear what else you want to learn about WordPress!