What About Nofollow Links?

There is much confusion about nofollow links around the various forums we visit so today we are going to gather up all the reliable information we could find about the nofollow attribute and place it here. Read through and make your own decision whether getting a link from a blog or site that uses the nofollow attribute is worth it or not.

Nofollow Links

But first we have to clarify something…

There is No Such Thing as DoFollow!

There is no such thing as a dofollow link. This incorrect word/phrase is constantly used across the web.

By default all links are followed by the search engine bots. Before the nofollow attribute was created you had to use a meta tag in the head section of your page(s) to tell all bots you did not want the page links followed.

<meta name="robots" content="index, nofollow" />

The line of code above tells the polite search bots to index this page but do not follow any of the links on the page. Today, you still have to do this for the bots that do not honour the nofollow link attribute.

History of NoFollow

Originally the nofollow attribute was brought into existance with the purpose of trying to curtail blog spam. If you have a blog or site where the general public can leave a message (reply or comment) on your article quite often the software you are using allows the person to insert a link to their own website. While this is good for legitimate comments you make (people reading your comment can see who is behind the comment if you make a good comment) it attracts spammers trying to get links for themselves or their customers. This spoils it for everyone unfortunately.

Google got the ball rolling for the use of the nofollow attribute in 2005.

From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn’t a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it’s just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.

Official Google Blog: Preventing comment spam – January 18, 2005

These days Google, Yahoo! and Bing support the nofollow anchor tag attribute, each in their own way. We explain later in this article.

Misuse of the Nofollow Attribute

Google created a monster by creating the nofollow attribute. SEO people started using the nofollow attribute to do what is called PageRank sculpting.

PageRank sculpting is where one tries to manipulate the Google PageRank of pages by reducing the flow of PageRank from one page to another.

What is a NoFollow Link?

A nofollow link is a web page link which contains the nofollow attribute within the anchor tag coding.

<a href="http://www.domainname.com/" title="title attribute of the link" rel="nofollow">link text</a>

Not all search bots honour this attribute.

When HTML5 becomes a standard, the nofollow attribute will be included in the specification as of this date. Note: Right now the HTML5 specification Links section is labelled W3C Editor’s Draft. This is how the wording in the specification is today: Link type “nofollow”

The nofollow keyword may be used with a and area elements. This keyword does not create a hyperlink, but annotates any other hyperlinks created by the element (the implied hyperlink, if no other keywords create one).

The nofollow keyword indicates that the link is not endorsed by the original author or publisher of the page, or that the link to the referenced document was included primarily because of a commercial relationship between people affiliated with the two pages.

4.12 Links — HTML 5.1 Nightly

What the Major Search Engines Say About NoFollow


How does Google handle nofollowed links?

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.

rel=”nofollow” – Google Webmaster Tools Help

Read the referenced article to see how Google suggests the nofollow attribute be used. There is also a video on that page you can watch.


Note that with the rel=”nofollow” attribute, a REP-compliant bot will not follow that specific link on that page. However, if any other page on the site (or a link on an external site) refers to the blocked page without any REP directives blocking it, the page may still be crawled and could make it into the index. This caveat goes for all REP link blocking directives that are not consistently applied to a specified page. And in the case of external sites linking to the page on your site that is supposed to be blocked, which local webmasters cannot control, these pages may still be crawled and indexed. In this case, the <meta> tag’s noindex solution for that page is the best option.

Bing Prevent a bot from getting “lost in space” (SEM 101) – Webmaster Center blog


To prevent the crawler from following links from a webpage, use the NOFOLLOW tag.

How to keep your pages from being cached in Yahoo! Search

How the Search Engines Actually Interpret the NoFollow Attribute

Wikipedia has a nice chart in their nofollow article on how the search engines interpret the nofollow attribute.

The Search Engines Know What You are Up To

You will see ads and lists of sites around for links which do not use the nofollow attribute (a.k.a. dofollow). The search engines are not stupid. If all your incoming links are from only sites without the nofollow attribute they will know what you are up to – unnatural link building.

The best link building strategy is to not care about whether the link is going to be nofollow or not. It looks much more natural for your backlink portfolio to be all mixed up.

Is It Worth Getting a NoFollow Link?

The idea behind incoming link building (besides actually getting a link to your site) is to build a reputation in your chosen field as someone who knows their stuff. How do you do that? By participating in communities like forums, on social networking sites and by joining the conversation on blogs.

Don’t worry about whether the site is using the nofollow attribute. Worry more about buiding your reputation and business through sharing knowledge.

  • Build a relationship with the site owner by participating on their site. They might ask you to write a guest article for them or write about your site/business.
  • Only SEOs and marketers are obsessed with whether a site uses the nofollow attribute or not. The average surfer probably doesn’t even know what a nofollow link is.
  • Readers of the site could turn into friends or business alliances, you never know.

Can Nofollow Links Hurt Me?

Let’s get the answer to the question “Can nofollow links hurt me?” right from Mr. Cutts, Head of Google’s Spam department:

September 9, 2013

Should I use rel=”nofollow” on internal links to a login page?

In this video Matt Cutts goes over using the rel=”nofollow” attribute within your own site.

September 30, 2013

Are You Still Worried About Nofollow Links?

Have we helped you decide whether worrying about the nofollow attribute is really worth the worry? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. We would love to discuss your thoughts on nofollow links.

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