When to Use Nofollow Links?

The internet is founded on links. Without links, it would be like a city without roads, sidewalks, or trails. Isolated buildings might stand taller than anything for miles around, but no one can get there, so what does it matter?

Links are also the foundation of how Google’s search works. Beneath all of the search ranking factors, beneath all of the technical aspects of SEO, beneath user experience and site speed, is links. Google was founded on analyzing links to and from websites, giving them weight and value, and ranking sites based on them.

In the earliest versions of the search ranking algorithm, it was all pretty simple. A website has more value if it has more links pointing towards it. Two sites, equal in every other way, would rank differently depending on the number of other sites that link to them.

Google quickly grew more and more sophisticated in response to the ways this system can be abused.

Is Nofollow Link Stripping Authority?

They recognized, for example, that multiple links from the same domain might not be as valuable as links from multiple domains. One site linking to another five times won’t give that site as much of a boost as four sites linking to it would.

They also recognized how easy this system was to exploit. They began to analyze the kinds of links, their quality, their position. Links in footers and sidebars are less valuable than links in the content. Links from a relevant site are more valuable than links from an unrelated site. A plumber won’t get much use out of a link from a game developer, but they would from a fixture manufacturer or a home repair site.

Google also recognized that there are times when a site owner might want to link to a site without giving that site any value. I might want to link to a site I know is part of a private blog network, or that is a spam site, or that is unrelated to my business, to use as an example for you all. I can say “see this spam site? Here are the 10 things wrong with it, and what you should avoid doing.”

Sure, I could get around linking to it by writing their URL in plaintext and using screenshots, but I’m savvy enough to know about link-based SEO. Someone who isn’t might not do that. Should they be penalized because they don’t know the deep inner workings of Google’s algorithms? Of course not.

That’s why Google introduced the nofollow attribute.

The Introduction of Nofollow

So, what is the nofollow attribute?

When to Use Nofollow Links?

Google created the nofollow attribute as an attribute for links in HTML code. It’s a meta attribute, meaning it has no impact on the user’s use of links or the existence of those links. It’s only relevant to search engines, and only if those search engines care about it. Google does. Bing probably does. Does Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo, or Ask? Who knows.

The attribute was created in 2005 as a way of fighting comment spam. Google recognized a problem. Blogs have comment sections, where anyone can leave a message. When a user leaves a link in that message, the link is a link on the webpage. Spam sites would then go out and leave comments on millions of websites (with links back to their websites) as a way to boost their SEO.

Read more here.

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