When it comes to link building and technical SEO, there is a lot of vocabulary to keep track of and understand. If you’re just starting out, it can be quite overwhelming. Trust me, I know. However, it’s essential to learn these terms so that you can work best towards effectively growing your webpage’s number of quality backlinks and therefore also growing its Ranking.
As someone learning how to build backlinks for your website, the terms you’ve most likely come across often are nofollow vs follow link attributes.
Other websites looking to explain these terms will often over complicate matters using jargon and overly technical information, and it can be quite overwhelming. Using the simplest of terms possible, we want to clarify for you exactly what the difference is between follow and nofollow links, why you should care and how you can utilize them to maximize the reach of your website.
Let’s get into it.
What are Link Attributes?
First and foremost, before getting into the comparison of follow vs nofollow links, we have to clarify what a link attribute is.
If you’re not familiar with HTML, it’s essentially the behind-the-scenes code that programs the way web pages look and function. Within this code, there are tags and attributes. For the sake of this article, we will be looking specifically at attributes applied to links. Attributes contain additional pieces of information. Therefore the attributes applied to links will provide additional information to them.
To keep it short and to the point, follow, and nofollow are rel (relationship) attributes applied to links. For example, <rel=”nofollow”> would be the additional piece of code applied to a link tag. These rel attributes will help specify additional information about the relationship between where the link is and the page that the link points to.
So What is the Difference Between the Follow & NoFollow Links?
By default, all links are follow links unless they have been attributed differently in the code as there is no such thing as a follow attribute. This is also considered to be a “follow” backlink. This happens whenever another website (or even your own webpage) links to your website with a standard link. These follow backlinks can directly affect your search engine rankings depending on the credibility of the site linking to you.
When another website is linking to one of your web pages, they are essentially endorsing your site and therefore helping to contribute to your website’s ranking. When left without an attribute, this tells search engine crawlers that the content from the link is relevant and trustworthy and that it should count towards building the web page’s PageRank. With each Follow link, your web page will get an increase PageRank, and over time this will contribute to your webpage being displayed higher in search results for your determined keywords.
Contrarily, for a link to be considered a nofollow link, it needs to be attributed with the <rel=nofollow> in the HTML of the webpage linking to your site. Nofollow links are also considered to be backlinks; however, they don’t come with the benefit of counting as a backlink contributing to your Page Ranking.
The nofollow attribute was introduced back in 2005 as a response to spam blog comments where webmasters would try to utilize the comment sections of websites to maximize the number of backlinks they could create for their web pages. Later, in March 2020, Google announced that they now see the nofollow attribute as a hint rather than a directive. In addition, they also added two more rel attributes for identifying the intent of links: Sponsored and UGC (user-generated content).
What are the two new link attributes?
<rel=“sponsored”>: This identifies links on a website that were created as part of sponsorship or advertisement.
<rel=“ugc”>: This identifies links that appear within user generated content (UGC) such as comments and forum posts.
Up until late 2019, the nofollow link attribute had been used as a general catchall for links that web pages didn’t want to pass PageRank. In introducing the two new rel attributes, it simply provides more information to Google about the links that you don’t want to pass PageRank, as an option to webmasters.
How Can I Find if Links are NoFollow Links?
To the blind eye, a follow and no-follow link will look identical and will operate the same way. It’s when you look at the code that you can find out if a link is attributed to be a follow or nofollow link.
There are many plugins that can easily highlight nofollow links within a webpage, however, the most straightforward way to check if a link is a follow or nofollow link is by inspecting the code. This can easily be done through your Google Chrome browser by right-clicking on the link you are interested in and picking the inspect option. It will then open the HTML of the webpage directly to the section containing the link you chose, and from there, you can see if the link has a <rel=nofollow>, <rel=sponsored> or <rel=UGC> attributed to it.
Does a NoFollow Link still bring my website value?
Although they might not bring as much value to your webpage in terms of PageRank, as they are not considered in the eyes of search engine crawlers, nofollow links are not entirely worthless. In fact, all web pages should have a combination of follow and no-follow links in order to balance out a webpages natural link profile.
What is a natural link profile?
Natural link profiles are important for your website’s SEO. If a webpage has too many follow links, this can make it appear unnatural. Therefore, having a balance of follow and nofollow links is a great way to ensure a well-rounded natural profile. There’s no best practice when it comes to your webpages nofollow to follow backlink ratio. However, some believe having 50/50 is a good mix, while others say 40/60 or even 30/70 in favour of Follow backlinks.
In some cases, nofollow links might even drive more traffic to your webpage than a follow link. This is especially the case if a well-known site links to yours with a nofollow link. Although their link to your webpage won’t be passing PageRank, their audience will have a direct link to your work and a large number of them might open it to see what it is about, driving traffic to your website.
How to Utilize NoFollow Links to Your Benefit
Nofollow links can be utilized when trying to control Google a little bit by directing their attention to specific areas of your webpage. Strategies for this can include managing a crawl budget or practicing page sculpting.
What is a crawl budget?
A crawl budget is the idea that when optimizing your webpage, you only want Google to crawl specific parts of your site, allowing these certain parts of the website to get seen more frequently. With nofollow links, this is made possible because it will help the search engines skim by the nofollow links and pay more attention to the links you’ve left as follow links.
For example, often, when you scroll down to the bottom of a business’s website, you’ll find a large number of links available for users in the footer. These are great for the user’s convenience; however, in terms of optimizing your webpage, you might not want Google to follow all these links throughout your website. To solve this problem, a simple <rel=nofollow> can be added to the links so that Google will draw its attention elsewhere on your website.
What is Page Sculpting?
Page sculpting is the idea that you can sculpt and focus the attention of the search engine while it is crawling the pages of your website. For example, if you have ten links on a page but want one of the links to receive the most attention and weight, you can give the other nine links nofollow attributes so that your one follow link gets more attention from a search engine like Google.
So, when Should I use a Follow link vs a NoFollow link?
You can use follow and nofollow links throughout your webpage when linking to others or even to yourself. Here are some situations where they could each be best utilized:
- If you are linking out to a source that you find trustworthy and want to be associated with.
- Within unpaid guest posts to link to the author or their webpage.
- When linking to your own personal social media profiles on your webpage.
- If a link or content has been sold or sponsored in any way.
- In the comment sections of a blog or webpage.
- In the footers of a webpage where large amounts of links are displayed.
- If there is the possibility that your website may be penalized for the link.
- For widgets.
- When trying to distance yourself from being associated with another website.
- When a link appears in the same spot on multiple pages.
Let’s Sum it Up
When looking to build backlinks to grow your PageRank, knowing the difference between follow and nofollow links is vital. Every web page should contain a balance of follow and nofollow links. Although they might not provide the same value as Follow links in growing your web pages’ PageRank, the NoFollow link can still be a great tool when looking to drive traffic to your website, directing the attention of search engines, and more.
Need Help with Building Backlinks for your Webpage?
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