Nofollow and dofollow links - what's the difference?

Nofollow Vs. Dofollow: What’s the Difference?


If you’re new to blogging, you’re likely being bombarded by a lot of technical information and terms that are just kinda blowing your mind. That’s okay, take a deep breath – I promise it’s not as complex as it seems.


Today, class, we’re going to cover a term you hear about in SEO circles, but particularly among bloggers: nofollow and dofollow links. First though, it’s time for a crash course in how links relate to your site’s page rank and SEO strategy.


How Links Are Connected to SEO


Google uses algorithms to sort through web pages and determine how valuable they are to searchers. There are countless factors that go into play, and in the end, only Google know exactly how they all work.


A big part of the equation though is the links that Google finds on your site. Every web page, no matter how small, has a link profile attached to it (you can see yours with tools like Moz). The links going to your site and from your site tell Google a few things about how popular your content is, but also how spammy it is.

Inbound Links


Inbound links are links from other pages to yours, and these are a very good thing. When Google sees a lot of inbound links, it figures, ‘Hey, this must be some really good stuff if everyone’s linking to it!’, and it gives you some more of its sweet, Google-y love.


You can get inbound links by having fantastic content for starters, but you can also actively build your inbound link list by guest posting on other blogs (read more about how not to do this in this post).


Outbound Links


Outbound links are links that you yourself put on your own pages going to other pages. When you think of something relevant that would enrich the content for your readers that isn’t on your site, cue the outbound links.


Use links on your own site with caution though – linking to spammy content is a great way not only to piss off your readers, but Google as well.


‘Bad Neighborhood’ Linking


When you have a bunch of inbound or outbound links going to or coming from spammy sites, it’s known as bad neighborhood linking, and it can seriously tank your SEO.


Google’s smart, way smarter than me or you, and when it sees these kinds of links, it can only surmise two things:


  1. You didn’t vet the content for quality control.
  2. You’re in cahoots with those no-good, dirty spammers.


It’s essentially like hanging out with the wrong crowd, and when Google sees a lot of links like this, it can have a negative impact on your SEO.


Which brings me to the crux of the solution…the glorious nofollow link distinction.


The Difference Between Nofollow and Dofollow links


Once upon a time, black hat SEO strategists (those are the jerks that spam everyone) figured out that they could boost their own pages’ rank by leaving comments with links on high authority blogs.


They sought them out in droves, even going so far as to use automated software to do it, and Google noticed.


Enter the invention of the nofollow and dofollow link distinction. Matt Cutts, software engineer for Google, developed a solution that gave Google the information it needed to not count low-quality links against a page’s rank.


By adding a nofollow or dofollow tag to a link, admins could ensure that their sites didn’t get dragged into the gutter by link farmers, and create a dividing line between good and bad links on their site.


When a dofollow link is used, Google counts the link towards your page’s rank, and it will either help or hinder your ascension to the top of the result pages. When a nofollow link is used, it tells Google not to count it, and the link’s poor SEO has no effect on your own page, whether good or bad.


Do Nofollow/Dofollow Links Still Matter?


Since Google’s Panda update, the necessity of nofollow and dofollow links has been frequently debated, and the consensus will vary depending on who you talked to. Some experts claim that link profiles no longer play that heavy a role in a page’s ranking, but, well – tell that to the strategists still aggressively pursuing this tactic.


Our opinion? It can’t really hurt. All this little tag does is tell Google whether you want to be associated with that link or not, and ultimately, if Google chooses to ignore that information, it’s not going to hurt your rankings.


We say stick with those tags, people.


Knowing When to Use Nofollow and Dofollow Links


So now the big question – when do you use a nofollow link, and when do you use a dofollow link? The answer requires a little detective work on your part.


First of all, actually go to the link and check it out for yourself. If the site looks reputable, there aren’t a ton of popups or scripts, and particularly, it’s a secure page (https), then you should be fine.


You can also dig a little deeper into the reputation of a page by taking a look at its own link profile. Again, just use your free Moz extension, hop into ‘Page Analysis’, and select the ‘Link Metrics’ tab at the top. Even with the free version of this tool, it’ll tell you the external followed links and total links.


The Benefits of a Nofollow Link


So is there any upside to landing a nofollow link on someone else’s page? Yes actually, because guess what people – it still brings in traffic.


If you have a link in an appropriate, relevant spot that’s placed in a way that’s helpful to the reader, then chances are it’s still going to bring you some traffic, whether it’s nofollow or not. While the link won’t do anything for your SEO, on a high-traffic site, it can still do a lot for your own numbers.

How to Specify a Link as Nofollow/Dofollow


Making a link nofollow or dofollow is actually relatively simple, but you’re going to need to glance at a tiny bit of HTML to do it manually. Don’t freak out, it’s not that bad – I promise.


When you have a hyperlink to a website, it looks like this:


21 Taco Recipes


Really though, on the back-end of a page, the HTML looks like this:


<a href=””>21 Taco Recipes</a>


Breaking that down, this is the HTML you use to create a plain-old, no distinction hyperlink:


<a href=”link goes here”>text goes here</a>


See? Easy peasy. To specify a link as nofollow or dofollow, you just add another piece to the puzzle, so that it looks like this:


<a href=”link goes here” rel=”dofollow”>text goes here</a>


There, that’s not so scary, is it? Now we bring it all together with our link information, and we have a shiny new, dofollow link (because what reader on this planet wouldn’t want to read 21 taco recipes):


<a href=”” rel=”dofollow”>21 Taco Recipes</a>


This method is easy enough if the links are going into the content you yourself are creating, but with blog comments, it can get a little trickier, and a LOT more time-consuming. Thankfully, there’s a plugin for that.


Using plugins like External Links, you can actually set up automatic settings that tell WordPress when to designate a link as nofollow, taking you out of your moderator hat so you can focus on content creation.


How to See if a Link on Someone’s Page is Nofollow/Dofollow


If you’re curious to see if a link to your page somewhere on the web is nofollow or dofollow, it’s as simple as checking out the source code.


In Google Chrome


At the top of your browser screen, go to ‘View’.


Select ‘Developer’


Select ‘View Source’


A window will pop up on the right side of your screen displaying all of the code for the page. Just use command + f to quickly find the link you want to check out, and look for that handy-dandy dofollow tag.


In Safari


At the top of your screen, click on ‘Safari’


Click on ‘Preferences’


Go to ‘Advanced’


Check ‘Show develop menu in menu bar’


Go to the web page and click ‘Develop Menu’


Click ‘Show page source


In Firefox


Easy peasy.


Go to anywhere on the page you’d like to see the source code for (except images or text, try the margins)


Right click


Select ‘View source code’


Do Nofollow/Dofollow Links Really Matter?


The jury’s still out on how effective these links really are at factoring in the reputability of links with Google, but the way we see it – it just can’t hurt.