Whenever I check the comments on social media or articles, I tend to notice individuals with suspicious accounts will leave links to websites promising money or other obvious scams. Until I gained a deeper understanding on how Google and other search engines handle site traffic, I would have never thought that anyone would click on this. These spam links, even if not clicked, would be indexed by search engines, and improve the rating of those sites when people search for keywords. To curb this problem, the nofollow link was introduced.
The History of “Nofollow”
To understand why a nofollow link is relevant to your website, we first must take a step back and see why they were created in the first place. Basically, when you create a post with a link to a website, Google takes note of that and gives advantage to websites with a lot of sites linking to them. Many spammers have used it to their advantage, as they would comment on blog posts and link to the site they want to be pushed up in organic rankings.
Before nofollow links were first introduced, there was no clear method of stopping spammers from linking to their websites. In 1994, the robots exclusion standard was proposed to tell web crawlers what they could not look through. However, this was purely suggestive, and robots could choose to ignore the warnings on a site.
Even if a robot decided to follow the protocol, the robots.txt used would blanket entire pages, which made it difficult to control. With the addition of nofollow to HTML link attributes, the owner of a website could point to specific links to not follow, such as login links that appear on every page that lead to restricted areas.
A nofollow link will not be tracked by a search engine when counting website rankings. This means that if you use nofollow links on your blog and your article links to a website 5 times, that website will not get any additional boost when users search for them.
To create a nofollow link, modify the default HTML link tag from
Nofollow links can also be used in the robots.txt to blanket an entire page, so in the header, you might add: <meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow” />
The impact on your website
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should be a part of any good digital marketing strategy and your efforts can be hindered If the sites you’re linking to are dishonest. When you link to another site on your blog, you are basically saying, “I think this site is legit, so you can go ahead and scan it!”. Search engines will associate them with you and if they’re marked as bad, your organic rankings will lower – which is not good.
To put this into context, your business may appear at position #1 for a service you offer (which is great) but after your blog is scanned and indexed and found to be linking out to bad websites with “dofollow” links, you could be pushed down. This means you are less likely to get the online traffic from that search and you could be losing business if you don’t have a supplementary paid search marketing campaign running.
This is where the usefulness of nofollow comes; you can choose which sites you trust and know are legit while staying away from untrusted or unknown sites.
If you are a brand-new blogger, it’s important to protect your reputation so that you don’t get stifled by search engines because you linked a website that is spam. Also, if you are an established company, it’s also important to make sure that spammers cannot leech off your reputation. Just because a link might be nofollow doesn’t mean it won’t help you out. If you are featured on another website, it can still drive new traffic to your site.
Posting links to your articles on social media can grow your site even if a nofollow link won’t directly improve your rating. Convincing followers to click a link is step one, but if you want further exposure why not tag a company that is relevant to your article? Gaining visibility is just as important and will help you overall.
Digital Marketing/Public Relations Consultant for Matter Solutions
Julian is an Aussie marketer, passionate about helping small and medium businesses in Australia leverage the marketing capabilities of online platforms.