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Nofollow Links: What They are and Why You Should Care

For the average web user, nofollow links are of little importance, and most users don’t even know they exist.  They certainly don’t impact user experience.  However, they’re extremely important to anyone practicing SEO.

If you don’t know the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, now is the time to learn, because both can have a major impact on what your links do for you in terms of search engine ranking and the impact of your online presence.  Here what you need to know about nofollow links.

What is a Nofollow Link?

In the most basic sense, a nofollow link is simply a link designation attached to HTML coding.  It’s a simple tag (invisible to web users) attached to the HTML code for your link.  It will not stop your link from working – if someone clicks on it, they will be taken to the link location.

So, what does it mean?  The nofollow designation means that search engines like Google will not use the link for the purposes of ranking your website.  They will pass over these links as if they don’t exist.

Typically, the more links you have pointing back to your website, the better chance you have to earn recognition that translates into rankings for relevant search traffic.  In other words, you’ll ostensibly get higher placement for searches than a competitor that has fewer backlinks, all things being equal.

Unfortunately, nofollow links don’t add to your overall recognition, since crawlers than index links ignore those tagged nofollow.  Your next question should be, why are my links designated as nofollow?

In most cases, it has to do with where you post links.  Not long ago, in the early days of the internet, people realized the value of a huge network of backlinks to boost page rank, so they started posting irrelevant links everywhere in an effort to artificially inflate rankings.

Google took exception to such black hat SEO practices, which compromised the relevance and usefulness of searches, and found a way to crack down with the nofollow designation for links.  It is most commonly applied to links that appear in blog comments, social media posts, forum posts, press releases, and spammy blogs that are known to generate link bait, just for example.  Certain platforms, like YouTube, Reddit, Quora, and others even add the nofollow tag to all outbound links.

Google has also stressed that all paid links should be nofollow.  The general idea is that valuable dofollow links must be earned, rather than bought, to ensure that search users are getting the most relevant and useful links with every search.

Nofollow Links and SEO

As you can guess, nofollow links do little to contribute to your SEO efforts, but that doesn’t make them completely useless.  While you don’t necessarily want to waste your SEO budget on such links when you could be getting a lot more value from your marketing spend, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing link-building opportunities with popular websites and blogs, if for no other reason than you’ll your name in front of a lot of eyeballs.

This could potentially increase brand awareness and even generate traffic from click-through.  The trick to making the most of nofollow links is formulating a strategy that involves securing such links with publications that have a massive following so you at least gain exposure, if not rankings with search engines.

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