Nofollow 101 – Understanding the Nofollow Tag, for Beginners

by Shannon Hutcheson September 16th, 2008 

What is Nofollow?

Nofollow is an html attribute first introduced in 2005 by Google. Originally, the rel="nofollow" attribute was added to discourage comment spam in blogs. Links with nofollow should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine.

From the Google Blog:

From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel="nofollow") on hyperlinks, those links won't get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn't a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it's just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.

From Google Answers:

"Nofollow" provides a way for webmasters to tell search engines "Don't follow links on this page" or "Don't follow this specific link."

So the rel=”nofollow” attribute is a tool that can help define your most important links to the search engines.

Search Engines

Search Engines that support nofollow: Google, MSN Search and Yahoo!

History of Nofollow

Originally, the nofollow attribute was used on the page-level with a meta tag. It instructed search engines not to follow (crawl) outgoing links on a page.  Example:

<meta name="robots" content="nofollow" />

Another way to tell search engines not to follow (crawl) pages was to include them in a robots.txt file. But it was more difficult to prevent robots from following individual links on a link by link basis. The rel=”nofollow” attribute allows webmasters to easily instruct the search engine robot to not crawl a link.

How to Spot Nofollow Links?

You can install browser plugins, or edits to Chrome to show a highlighted color over nofollow links. You can also install a plugin to your blogging software.

Nofollow Implications

Links are now either dofollow or nofollow. From the perspective of building links to your site or blog, dofollow links will always give you more link juice. While nofollow links won’t either harm or help your link building. With that said, how you decide to build links with respect to the nofollow attribute (whether you want to get ONLY dofollow links or both to create a more natural array of links) will be an individual choice. How to use nofollow in link building strategy is a discussion for my next post!

Nofollow FAQs

How Do I Remove Nofollow?

1.    Browser Plugins – highlights all links which are nofollow

–    Chrome extension – add text to ChromEdit and follow directions
-    FireFox has a version of the ChromEdit called ChromeEdit Plus
-    Firefox plugin – SEO for Firefox

2.    Blog Plugins

WordPress Nofollow Plugins:

- Lucia’s Linky Love – Rewards frequent commenters, you can set how many comments must have been made to be awarded a dofollow link.
- Nofollow Reciprocity – Detects nofollow links, if you link to a site and it is nofollow, your link to them also becomes nofollow.
- NoFollow Free – removes the nofollow attribute from blog comments and inserts an image band at the top of your pages with the phrase: “NoFollow Free” (optional).
- Dofollow – Simply install and activate, all nofollows are removed from comments and trackbacks.
- Dofollow (WP Plugin) – allows nofollows to be removed from comments, pingbacks and trackbacks but you can also set a comment age limit as well as have nofollow removed left by user type.

Andy Beard has a list of more nofollow plugins; including those for Blogger, TypePad and Moveable Type.

How Do I Add Nofollow?

For more control of your inbound and outbound links, you can add tag rel=”nofollow” within any html tag. Example:

<a href="your-url.com " rel="nofollow">Url Name</a>

Does a link with nofollow count as a backlink?

Opinions vary on whether the nofollow attribute is completely discounted, or just given less relevance to the search engines. Keep in mind that how the search engines view nofollow may also vary. However, according to Google, that answer is no.

Link Building

Why would I want to use nofollow on a link?

You might want to use nofollow on a link you don’t endorse, but has information you want to point to.   On blog sites, you may want to give a nofollow link to spam comments and give credit to comments that are well thought out or contribute to your post.

You May Also Like

35 Responses to “Nofollow 101 – Understanding the Nofollow Tag, for Beginners”

  1. This is the best explanation of "nofollow tag" I've ever seen! Thank you for this great post!

  2. Michael D says:

    I've been using an SEO plugin and seeing an increased use of nofollow as a result.

    I initially only had it on my comments but started adding the tag to internal links such as read more, register, login, home, and others.

    I wonder how much spam comenting increases when the dofollow plugins are used in WP. Time to research.

  3. Raghavan says:

    Excellent explanation on No-Follow attribute. I would also add that Yahoo and MSN also are in support of No-follow to defend against the comment spam

  4. kouji says:

    quite a good explanation of the attribute, especially for a beginner like me. i do wonder sometimes if no follow links are completely discounted. anyway, i look forward to the next post.

  5. VMOptions says:

    Great explanation of nofollow Shannon, and thank you for explaining this in detail.

    The use of nofollow has increased dramatically. I'm seeing sites nofollow all their natural links and dofollowing paid/advertiser links.

    Nofollow is a doubled edged sword. While it may help search engines determine which links to not count, it is also being abused. In the end, I believe nofollowed links do pass some SEO benefits. As the abuse of the nofollow tag continues to grow, I believe the importance of these links will as well.

  6. Nofollow tag can be well-used in focusing link juices on a site, either internally or externally. There are links such as contact us which appears twice on a page which in this case may be used to nofollow one of it. If done properly, nofollow can also benefit your internal link juices. Rif Chia

  7. Excellent explanation on No-Follow attribute.Thank you for explaining this in detail.

  8. One area of doubt and ignorance has been clearly tackled by this post. Thanks.

  9. seo guide says:

    In my experience, Removing no follow can increase the user involvement, as many people post comments for getting backlinks, but it also greatly increase the spam activity, if you can spare time to deal with spams, you can dofollow, otherwise keep it nofollow.

  10. Utah SEO says:

    Great overview. I see many people having a lot of confusion with this nofollow attribute.

  11. Although Google says nofollow's don't get counted, I've heard many empirical accounts of nofollow links from high ranking domains that do indeed help rankings.

  12. Shannon Hutcheson says:

    Thank you all for the comments! I'm glad folks are finding this post useful. There will be a Part II (shameless plug and teaser).

    @Michael D, I rather like the Nofollow Reciprocity WP Plugin. Do unto others… though I may need to rethink it if time to monitor my blog comments gets short.

    @VMOptions, as with anything the nofollow attribute can be abused, for sure! I see a few major implications for abuse and overuse as well. Discussion for a future post.

    @Utah SEO, I too think there is a lot of confusion with nofollow. It's good to remind oneself that the nofollow attribute is a tool. How you use this tool will reveal its worth.

  13. Lenen says:

    Great introduction to the nofollow tag. I hope part II introduces pagerank sculpting and nofollow on internal links as this is quite interesting to write and read about.

  14. Eva White says:

    I used to have a lot of trouble in the early days of my blogging trying to figure out I follow and I do not follow. wish i had been able to read such a clear cut article way back then to solve my doubts.

  15. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the full explanation. I will think about adding dofollow for my blog.

  16. skyline says:

    Thanks for the detailed info about nofollow tag. As VMOptions said, this tag is also hardly abused. I wonder what will be Google's next move.

    Thanks!

  17. Metaspring says:

    Very lucid explanation. I am going to send this link to a friend who cant make any sense of this concept. Thanks on her behalf :)

  18. VMOptions says:

    Matt Cutts said that we should not worry about nofollowing internal links. But link juice is precious, so why waste it on pages that don't stand a chance of ranking?

    This is a great topic Shannon. I am sure your next post on nofollow will spark some more interest as well. :)

  19. Shannon Hutcheson says:

    @Lenen, Letting the cat out of the bag you are :D

    @VMOptions, I agree again VMOptions, will be talking more on this.

    Again, thank you all for your comments.

  20. PTC sites says:

    This is a great explanation on no follow. I have been looking for a post on it.

    I have two questions:
    1. Does it matter whether it's counted as a backlink since you won't get any PR juice anyway?

    2. Why would we want to comment on no follow blogs as part of our link building strategy? Isn't it a waste of time?

    Please help.

  21. David says:

    My tip: Have several pages of articles related to your website's topic. Use a different keyword search term for each article. For instance, one article might use frequently the term "safe car for girl", while another might use the term "girl safety".

  22. it doesnt matter for me to leave comment on nofollow blogs. there are other many ways to building links

  23. I also think that a nofollow link helps. I happen to have only one link to one of my blogs and Google indexed the blog, although that one link was nofollow.

  24. The Google Answer you referenced is all wrong. Per the Specification for Nofollow @ http://microformats.org/wiki/rel-nofollow:

    "RelNoFollow is an elemental microformat, one of several microformat open standards. By adding rel="nofollow" to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink SHOULD NOT be afforded any additional weight or ranking by user agents which perform link analysis upon web pages (e.g. search engines). Typical use cases include links created by 3rd party commenters on blogs, or links the author wishes to point to, but avoid endorsing."

    Nofollow is a misnomer. The SEs can and will actually follow the link to the other side. Yahoo Slurp follows the links and is documented on their Search site. Google says they do not follow the link, but I do not really believe that.

  25. [...] Media Marketing and reputation management, located in Toronto Canada. See the SEP Blog to view the Nofollow 101 post with [...]

  26. Draguer says:

    I knew a little about the no follow tag but this explanation was really good. It clarified everything.

  27. [...] debut post on SEO happened a month or so ago on Search Engine People, but here I am with my "official" blog. For testing purposes, yeah that's my [...]

  28. [...] more information, please see the entire Nofollow 101 post [...]

  29. [...] more information, please see the entire Nofollow 101 post [...]

  30. Kiarra says:

    I've been confused with this dofollow-nofollow controversies fr quite long or is it just me who can't tell between apples and oranges :(
    But now all is crystal-clear to me, thanks to you, Shanon.

  31. [...] Media Marketing and reputation management, located in Toronto Canada. See the SEP Blog to view the Nofollow 101 post with [...]

  32. [...] more information, please see the entire Nofollow 101 post [...]

  33. [...] Media Marketing and reputation management, located in Toronto Canada. See the SEP Blog to view the Nofollow 101 post with [...]