Backlinks: Nofollow vs. Follow Links

What are nofollow and follow links?

A link, or a backlink, is a hyperlink on a web page that leads to another site. A follow link allows searchers and crawlers to click on a link and be redirected to the linked site. A webmaster will make a link ‘nofollow’ to tell the search engines not to follow that link; which means a human can click on the link and be directed to another website, but a search engine crawler can not.

Positionly University provides information on nofollow tags for internal linking as well.

Why are nofollow and follow links important?

Nofollow and follow links play one of the main roles in boosting rankings in SEO; a nofollow or follow tag is what determines what type of link it is. While there is not a follow tag, any links not tagged with nofollow is by default a follow link. A follow link will pass on link juice from the original site to the one it links to, meaning that it is passing on some of its credibility. Credibility, in link terms, refers to page authority and ranking power. The more credibility a site has, the better it will rank in the SERPs.

By making a link nofollow, no link juice is passed on to the site it’s linking to. The webmaster does not want to give the linked site its credibility by telling crawlers to ignore the link. There may be a few reasons for this, such as that the link is a paid ad so it needs to be tagged nofollow. Therefore, the nofollow tag will not help boost the rankings of the site its linking.

It’s important to note that having nofollow links is completely natural, and even expected. In fact, no legitimate website exists with thousands of backlinks and yet none are nofollow. So don’t fret about having some nofollow backlinks.

How should I use and create follow and nofollow links?

If you want to link to a site, it would look like this:

<a href=””>link to a page</a>

Remember anytime you link to a page, it is automatically a follow link. If you want to create a nofollow link, you must add the tag rel=”nofollow”. Please see the examples below.

Nofollow tags may be used for a specific link, it would look like this:

*<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>link to a page</a>*

It may also be used for entire pages, meaning all the links on a page is a nofollow. This can be done at the page-level meta tag, like this:

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

It is recommended that you tag external links as nofollow if they meet one or more of these criterias:

  • Paid links

    • Google will penalize you, as this is considered black-hat SEO! Paid links are not earned organically, and therefore they all should definitely get the nofollow tag.
  • Crawl prioritization

    • There are some (rare) cases when it comes to internal linking that you don’t want the crawler to follow certain links and have it focus on indexing other pages instead. A good example of this is a login page, because crawlers can’t login or register on your site.
  • Comments and user-generated content

    • If you do not know who and what they will post, it’s best to tell search engines not to follow comments and user generated content, in case they post spammy links.
    • This will also discourage spammy comments from being posted on your site to begin with, knowing that they will not earn a backlink through your site because of the nofollow tag.
  • Other content you don’t want to endorse

    • If you simply do not want to endorse the content, whether you don’t trust it or for any other reason, you can give it the nofollow tag. You know what they say- better safe than penalized!

We’ll show you in Positionly exactly which links gave you a follow or nofollow. Check it out in our Inbound Links section!