In the chaotic world of links that is the web today, there are some technical nuances that are invisible to the user. However, it is these details that have a huge impact on how links are perceived by search engines .
Two decades ago, search engines followed every link they found. But the appearance of spam in comments changed this situation forever, giving rise to a series of technical solutions that are still in force today.
When one website links to another, there are two ways to do it, with dofollow links and nofollow links . Although both types of links accomplish the same goal of linking from the original site to the destination site, they tell the search engine two different things.
IT ALL HAS TO DO WITH THE “LINK JUICE”
Link juice (which can be translated as “link juice”) is a term used in the world of SEO that refers to the amount of authority or value that one website transmits to another through external links, or backlinks .
In general, the more link juice a page receives, the better chance it has of ranking for its keywords in Google and other search engines.
Website links with higher authority and relevance to a topic will generate more link juice and help a page rank higher in results. But what if we want to control the flow of this “link juice”?
DOFOLLOW LINKS VS. NOFOLLOW LINKS
To the average user dofollow and nofollow links look exactly the same. Strictly speaking, there are no dofollow links . This is simply the default state of a link, so a dofollow link is, in fact, a normal link.
It gets a special name to emphasize that it must meet the regular expectations, i.e. pass link juice and authority to referred sources. If other websites link to your website with normal links (ie dofollow ), this can have a direct impact on your search engine ranking.
However, nofollow links include a small piece of code, called an attribute, that lets search engines know not to follow the link.
A nofollow link looks like this: < a href=”URL” rel=”nofollow” > Link text </ a > and can be understood as the following: the a element ( anchor or link) has a rel attribute whose value is nofollow .
COMMENT SPAM AND THE ORIGIN OF NOFOLLOW LINKS
Google proposed nofollow in 2005, in response to the rise of comment spam. Back then, website owners left links to their sites in the comments sections of hundreds or even thousands of external websites or forums.
In this way they ensured a better search ranking, which was independent of the relevance of the comment and the general quality of their pages.
The proposal was quickly adopted by other search engines, such as Yahoo! and Bing. In a short time it became one of the recommended methods for marking advertising, sponsored links and those in third-party generated content (such as comments and wikis).
This stopped some tampering, but didn't solve all the problems with different link types and trust levels.
WHERE ARE NOFOLLOW LINKS USED?
A nofollow link should be used when you do not want to pass link juice to, or endorse, the linked website. Links from the following types of content are typically nofollow links :
- Comments on blogs.
- Social networks.
- External Wikipedia links.
- Press releases.
- Sponsored content.
There are four situations where the use of nofollow links can be useful. These are:
PAGES YOU DON'T WANT TO BACK UP
These are pages that you want to link to, but you don't want the search engine to establish any relationship between your site and that page. There are many reasons for this, but having no control over what happens to the external site (especially in the future) should be enough to make it the default behavior.
Buying links is a strictly prohibited activity in Google's guidelines. So you don't want to be surprised by Google getting a link, but you also don't want to blatantly sell links on your own site.
Until 2019 the only way to do this without risking a penalty was to nofollow all sponsored links. Now Google also proposes the rel=”sponsored” attribute that will be discussed in another article.
Very similar to the previous point. Although affiliate links are not sponsored in the strict sense, it is still good practice to nofollow them. Although the new sponsored can also be used.
USER GENERATED CONTENT
Whenever a visitor can insert a link to a website, the rel=”nofollow” attribute should automatically be used . This can happen in blog comments, editable pages (such as wikis), and forums. For these cases, Google has recently proposed a special attribute rel=”ugc”.
ARE NOFOLLOW LINKS BAD?
Websites aim to get as many external links as possible, ideally dofollow links . But receiving nofollow links is also worth it , as they can increase traffic and brand awareness.
Do not forget that they are still links and if you are doing link building for your pages , you should know that the natural link profile consists of a distribution of dofollow and nofollow links.
HOW TO KNOW IF A LINK IS DOFOLLOW OR NOFOLLOW?
To check if a link is dofollow or nofollow, simply inspect the link in the browser and check the source code. From a desktop browser it is very simple, you just have to right click on the link and select “Inspect”.
This will display the code associated with that link. If you see the rel=”nofollow” attribute , then the link is a nofollow link . And if you don't see it, then it will be a dofollow link .
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