Nofollow Vs. Dofollow: What’s the Difference?

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.

Why Isn’t My Page Ranking for Google Searches?

There’s nothing easy about getting your content noticed in a place where literally everyone is creating something new every week. Your competitors seldom take a day off, and every single day you have to get your content out there and get your page ranking higher in Google searches.


The internet is basically just a big claw machine, with a rotation of players with an attention span shorter than a goldfish’s. If what you’re offering doesn’t attract their attention right away – bounce – they’re gone, and on to the better-looking things in the pile.


What happens when you put the content out there, diligently and consistently, and your site still doesn’t rank? There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been spinning your tires and never gaining any traction.


Why High Page Ranking on Google is So Critical


Google search engine result pages


While Google rankings aren’t everything, search engine users are a major driver of traffic. With over 3.5 billion searches per day, Google has become the driving force behind audience growth and revenue potential for everything from e-commerce sites to blogs.


If your page isn’t ranking well in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), then you’re missing out on a massive chunk of audience that could absolutely be a game-changer.


If people can’t find your website with a Google search, you’re going to be forever relegated to building your audience the hard way – through networking, advertising, and cross promotion. It’s labor-intensive, it’s often very expensive, and it’s not going to pay off nearly as much as just being on the first page of the search engine results.


Why Your Site Isn’t Ranking


So what’s the deal – why isn’t your site ranking?


The answer is never simple, but the culprit is usually a combination of SEO errors and poor content. Content is king,  but even high quality, organic content is a massive factor in good SEO practices.


If you’re not paying attention to the basics, keeping your content focused, or engaging in good linking practices, your site won’t just stay off the SERPs – it might even get penalized by Google’s algorithms.


Bringing Your Site’s SERP Rankings Up



It’s time to stop just mindlessly posting content, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best. Your competition is going to try harder than that, so you can bet you’re going to have to as well. Don’t be a punk and rig the game, but don’t count on the raw awesomeness of your content landing you on the top SERPs either.


Here are some basic SEO practices that you can start incorporating into your strategy TODAY, and make that editorial calendar of yours actually work.


#1 – Make Your Content Relevant to Your Target Audience


All too often, we get so caught up in the brainstorming and content creation aspect of running our sites, that we forget who we’re talking to. If you’re not tailoring your tone and content for your target audience, they’re not going to stick around.


Spend some time getting to know your target audience and their interests. What kinds of problems do they have? How do they typically speak? What is their age range?


Just like you likely wouldn’t speak to a college professor the same way you’d speak to a friend in a bar, you need to customize your voice and subject matter for the people you’re trying to reach. It’ll keep them around, and keep them engaged with your site.


#2 – Create Actionable Content


Creating actionable content

All too often, blogs are publishing content that really doesn’t do anything for the reader. In the content creation community, we know what’s up – those people are just writing for the sake of their posting frequency, and not actually to add value for their readers.
Whenever you write something for your blog, ask yourself:


What problem is this article solving for my readers?


If it’s not providing content that readers can take and apply to their own lives to solve a problem, then it’s not going to do anything for your traffic.


Remember: subscribers = sustained traffic, and without the traffic, your page isn’t going to rank in the SERPs.


As you put together blog posts, structure them like this:


  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. What is a problem they have in common?
  3. How will this article help them solve that problem?
  4. Offer the solution, and include a firm call to action to keep them engaged.


People notice when a blog is providing more than just filler. If you build it, they will come.

#3 – Plan Time-Sensitive Content Ahead of Time


I’ve written for a lot of agencies over the years, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten some last minute, urgent, top-of-the-stack article request because the editor just realized a big event was approaching that we had to cover.


The bottom line is, current events get a lot of search traffic, and it’s a great way to bring in fresh readers to your blog. Get a feel for the events that your niche audience is interested in, and then orchestrate plenty of content around that to stick in your editorial calendar.


Keep in mind too that most events have something to do with most niches, so even if the spin isn’t apparently obvious from the beginning, just put yourself in their shoes for a moment and consider what the event might mean to you.


Boom – you have your angle. Now put it in your calendar.

#4 – Only Post Well-Written Content


Check spelling with Grammarly

As a writer, it is insane to me what counts for passable writing on the interwebs these days (and hey, some of you may be thinking the same about me).


The bottom line is, poorly written content can and does affect your page rankings and SEO, so don’t allow guest posts on your site that are written in garbled, broken English, and always hold your own language skills to the highest standard.


The Yoast SEO tool has a readability function that you can either choose to take or leave, but it’s a good way to gauge how well your content is flowing.


Here are some common problems with content I see:


  • Wandering topics
  • Long, dense blocks of text
  • Improper punctuation
  • Sentence fragments


Keep it on topic, use some tools and extensions to check for basic grammar and punctuation, and be sure to keep your article easy to read. You’ll notice readers sticking around longer, and your rankings improve as your bounce rate goes down.


#5 – Keep the Number of Links Within Reason


Including links in your posts is helpful to readers because it provides them with in-text references. When you talk about something and feel like an explanation of the topic would be an article on its own, or like someone else would be a better authority on the subject, that’s when it’s time to use a link.


You can have links flow naturally within the text without devoting any attention to explaining it, like this:


The architecture in Sydney is world-renowned for its elegance and modernism.


, or you can try for something more direct, to encourage your readers to check out a resource that you value and trust. It’s a healthy link to have on your page, and definitely a great way to build a relationship with another site (link exchange anyone?):


To learn more about architecture in Sydney, check out the Sydney Architecture Walks.


What raises red flags for Google is when an article has several outbound links. Avoid these mistakes when adding links to your content:


  • Linking to spammy sites
  • Using links that aren’t relevant to your content
  • Using paid links
  • Using more than one or two per paragraph


Can you link internally to one of your own pages or posts? Absolutely, and it’s a great way to help the Google crawler index your site. If you’ve already written something that’s relevant to what you’re posting, or have a product that may help your readers solve a problem referenced in your article, link away!


#6 – Don’t Over-Optimize Your Anchor Text



In addition to sourcing quality, relevant links for your content, make sure you’re using anchor text that flows naturally. It’s fine to use anchor text optimization to improve your SEO to a certain extent, but doing so over and over again will set off alarms for Google that you’re trying to inorganically rank your pages.


Diversify your anchor text to keep the content flowing naturally.


#7 – Using Keywords in H1 Text


This one is pretty important. If you’re trying to boost your site’s rankings for a particular search term, then you need to make sure that you naturally work that term into as much of your H1 text as possible (headers).


While Google’s algorithms are generally pretty good at overlooking common stop words (at, the, a, etc.), it’s always best to avoid letting them break up your target keywords too much in your H1 text.


Again, make it flow naturally, but make sure it’s in there.


#8 – Include Target Keywords in Your Meta Descriptions


Meta descriptions in SERPs


Your meta descriptions are the text that shows up underneath your listing in the SERPs. While not necessarily a factor in rankings, meta descriptions play a huge role in your CTR on the SERPs.


These descriptions are typically 155 characters in length, and describe the content of your page in enough detail that a user can decide if it’s the result they’re searching for.


While including your target keywords definitely can’t hurt, it’s important to make sure that the meta description accurately depicts the content that the user is going to get. If it’s misleading for the sake of keyword stuffing, your bounce rate will go up, and this can negatively impact your page rankings.


#9 – Include Target Keywords in Alt Text for Image


Alt text, or alternative text, is basically a description for the images on your site. Besides the title you choose for your image, this detailed information tells Google what your image is about, and helps your pages rank higher for your target keywords in the SERPs.


Always make sure the alt text you write is accurate and relevant, and include crucial keywords. Keep in mind that in cases in which the image doesn’t render, or the user is visually impaired, the alt text will be all that the viewer sees, so make it relevant and well-written. Usually three to five words is sufficient.


#10 – Use Relevant Titles for Images



As you’ve probably guessed, the same goes for image title text. This is another piece of the information puzzle that Google will use to help searchers find your images, so make sure you optimize them for easy identification on your site and make them easy to find for searches.


Use your target keywords in the titles of your images (where relevant), and opt for hyphens (-) over spaces and underscores (_) to make it easier for Google to find your image.


#11 – Create a Natural Backlink Profile


High-quality backlinks are extremely sought after in the SEO world, and for good reason. Getting an unpaid link on a high authority site will not only help to send more traffic your way, but will tell Google that your site is associating well with other reputable sites. We call this ‘good neighborhood linking’, or ‘white hat link-building’, and it’s a fantastic way to ascend the ranks of the SERPs.


Here are a few ways you can ethically source backlinks:


  • Create fantastic content that people want to share
  • Use plugins to make it easy for other sites to share and link to your content
  • Provide useful information with backlinks in forums and Q & A sites
  • Guest post on other sites
  • Use social media (Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+,etc.)
  • Put together an expert roundup, and encourage participants to share the link


In every case of sourcing a backlink, to keep the practice ethical, the link must be relevant. Guest posting for backlinks is a bit of a grey area in the SEO community, but when done openly and honestly with relevant links to the audience, it can be a powerful aid to your rankings.


Don’t go into it rubbing your hands together like a greedy little link-farming creton, and generally the outcome will be a positive, natural backlink profile that creates an organic network of links all of the web to your content.

#12 – Include Semantically Related Keywords


In the content creation industry, there is definitely such a thing as niching down too much. All too often, there are websites that miss out on massive traffic potential because they refuse to operate even one iota outside of their niche, and it’s hurting their rankings.


Using a semantic keyword tool like Text Tools, you can pull together data from your competitors that shows you what other topics they’re incorporating into their content that are semantically related to yours.


For example, maybe your blog is focused on architecture. When you do a little bit of playing around with Text Tools, you can see that your competitor pages are also ranking high for keywords like ‘design’ and ‘art’, so maybe focusing all of your content on architecture is actually narrowing your audience too much.


The results of a TF-IDF semantic keyword analysis


Chances are, a great deal of your readers work with other related industry professionals, so keep the core of your content niche focused, and then let your editorial calendar branch into these related topics to diversify, build your traffic, and scale the Google page rankings.

#13 – No Keyword Stuffing


Optimizing your content for your target keywords is one thing, but replacing every pronoun with that keyword (and then some) is not only going to make the copy painful to read – it’s going to set off alarms with Google.


Keyword stuffing takes optimization to the extreme and produces content that is robotic and clearly written for SEO, not for readers. At the most, the usual recommendation for keyword density in a page is 2-3%. Focus on using keywords in title text and where it flows the most naturally. If you can’t quite hit that 2-3% range without your copy suffering, don’t sweat it.


Remember: people first, SEO second.

#14 – Use Accurate Headlines


Frustration at the computer

Misleading headlines and title text is some of the worst SEO around, so don’t let your drive to optimize turn people off from actually getting what they want from their searches. It’s wonderful if your site is turning up in the first page of the SERPs, but if people are expecting one thing from your headline and getting another when they actually click, your bounce rate is going to go sky-high, and your rankings will suffer.


If your target keywords don’t fit in with the actual content of your page, just leave it out, and focus on making your title text relevant for searchers. Don’t stew on it – the traffic will come.


Honest, Ethical SEO + Great Content is the Best Way to Raise Your Rankings


When it comes right down to it, great SEO isn’t really that complicated:


  • Create fantastic content that solves a problem for your target audience.
  • Plan your editorial calendar well.
  • Include links within reason.
  • Make sure that it’s searchable by including target keywords in the copy.
  • Give images sensible names and accurate alt text.
  • Don’t leave your meta descriptions blank.
  • Facilitate healthy relationships with other sites to naturally build your backlink profile.
  • Create content for people, not search engines.


If you take this advice to heart, your pages will climb the ranks of the search engine results, and people will start finding you more. More importantly though, they’ll stick around, because what you’ll have on your site will actually be of value to them.

Ethical SEO practices


The internet can be a sleazy place, but Google is certainly doing its part to reward creators of helpful, actionable content, and keeping spammers at bay with algorithms that shut down cheap SEO tactics.


Climbing the SERPs takes time, and any SEO ‘expert’ that promises you a result in a set time frame is likely blowing smoke with false claims. The simple truth of ranking higher comes down to hard work, great content, and being a good networker. Get your name out there, and build that name on the quality of the content you deliver, and your rankings will come.


Looking for fresh ideas for your editorial calendar? Get Text Tools here, and start reaching a broader audience today.