Diversifying is an important part of creating a natural-looking backlink profile, so nofollow links are inevitably part of this even though they don’t directly impact SEO. The big question is, how can nofollow links positively contribute to your backlink profile if they don’t pass value?

Follow vs. Nofollow Links

The difference between the two is that follow links count as link points within Google’s algorithm so will pass value, whereas nofollow links do not. So, if not to pass link points, what’s the value of nofollow links (if there is any at all)?

The reason behind the creation of nofollow links comes back to Google’s mission for top page rankings to be earnt organically, and not to reward unnatural link building practices. 

The nofollow tag appeared in 2005 as a way to combat spam comments containing backlinks on blogs and news sites. As prior to this, all these links were crawled and assessed in the same way by Google, spam comments were functioning as value passing links on a huge scale. Consequently, all comment links were given the nofollow tag, so they wouldn’t affect page rankings through sheer volume. 

This also affects comments on social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Reddit) as all links on these platforms will be nofollow. This is again, to prevent the use of spam comments and accounts from driving PageRanks up via these channels.

Similarly, nofollow tags are applied to paid links (Ads, paid reviews, etc.) so that a website cannot reach the top page rankings purely by paying for backlinks. This, again, stems from Google’s desire to prioritise gained backlinks and is in place to prevent powerful websites from monetising the process of building backlinks.

When is comes to SEO

Google’s official stance on nofollow links is; “In general, we don’t follow them.”

There is a great deal of debate over the use of “in general” within this statement. It seems to be that in certain situations Google will crawl nofollow links, however, under no circumstances will Google use nofollow links to pass value to a page’s rankings.

It doesn’t necessarily follow that nofollow links are worthless though.

Firstly, Google assesses a multitude of different factors when looking at your website’s backlink profile. As the places in which organic users would link to your site would involve nofollow links, (social media, and blog/news comments,) a profile lacking nofollow links will seem suspicious as it lacks organic votes of trust.

Let’s say a website’s backlink profile is +70% follow links, Google could see this as a manipulated profile because it lacks diversity and penalise the website accordingly. So, a good mix of follow and nofollow links are needed to contribute to a natural link profile that Google will trust.

Secondly, directly passing value to PageRanks is not the only aim of backlinks. Google assesses content on a number of levels, so a nofollow link on a credible website (e.g. Forbes) will be taken into account when Google is assessing the value of your “brand mentions”. A credible network of nofollow links on sites with contextual relevance to your own website, will amplify your follow links and give Google further evidence to trust the authenticity of your site. Additionally, nofollow links on social channels show Google your website is being interacted with currently, and help to build a credible picture of your brand.

Lastly, traffic is always a good thing. Well-placed and relevant nofollow links can provide a great deal of traffic, just as follow links do.

Should I care about nofollow links?

In short, yes!

Nofollow links serve an important role in building a diverse and natural backlink profile. Whilst follow links are directly linked to Google’s PageRank, it’s vital that they are supported with nofollow links – or in other words, a balance between follow/nofollow. Nofollow links are also just as strong as follow links when it comes to driving referral traffic!





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