What are NoFollow links?
A NoFollow link has an attribute that allows webmasters to tell search engines “Don’t follow links on this page" or "Don’t follow this specific link." A link can have one or more rel attributes, where “rel” is short for “relationship”. These attributes help define the relationship a link has with a page that it links to.
A NoFollow link looks like this:
<a href="http://www.example.com/" rel="nofollow">Link Text</a>
Such links are often used in forums and blog comments in an attempt to take away the incentive for link spammers to place their links there.
Can NoFollow links help or hurt you?
Should you evaluate NoFollow links in your link audit?
NoFollow links cannot generally hurt you, but in certain circumstances they can hurt you.
While they cannot generally hurt you, with NoFollow 2.0 rules introduced by Google in September 2019 it is very possible that Google may count those links.
The impact on NoFollow links on search engine rankings and penalties is discussed controversially.
SEOs are divided into two ‘SEO schools’ regarding the evaluation of NoFollow links:
- NoFollow links are not “followed” and therefore don’t carry any risk or value at all
- NoFollow links might technically not pass page rank. However, other aspects can transfer, like trust or indicators for link spam. Therefore, Google may issue penalties if NoFollow links are overdone.
Google has stated that NoFollow links will be completely ignored. However, in September 2013 Matt Cutts said that a large number of NoFollow links could hurt and even result in a manual action:
We too have the opinion that NoFollow links can, under certain circumstances, be harmful to search engine rankings and result in manual penalties, because Google generally tries to identify spamming intents.
We regularly hear from clients that their penalty was only lifted after they investigated and removed large quantities of NoFollow links. From this we conclude that Google in certain cases tries to identify intents of spamming even if NoFollow links are used.
So we believe you should choose to evaluate NoFollow links, if you disagree, you can choose to ignore them in the LRT and Link Detox link audit functionalities.
With Link Detox (DTOX) and Competitive Link Detox (CDTOX) you can choose two different modes for NoFollow evaluation:
- Ignoring NoFollow links: This means that a zero DTOXRISK® score is assigned to all NoFollow links in our software.
- Activating the NoFollow evaluation: This means that a DTOXRISK® score is calculated for NoFollow links – although this will be a different value than the calculation for Follow links
The results of the NoFollow evaluation mode show alternative evaluations of DTOXRISK® for all links including NoFollow links, based on the assumption that NoFollow links should be evaluated as well, but with a different calculation of risk scores.
Depending on which option you choose the Average Domain-wide Link Detox Risk (Domain DTOXRISK®) score will change. The option to ignore NoFollow links will in general mean a lower risk.
How to switch NoFollow Evaluation On and Off
You can select the evaluation mode when you
- start a report in DTOX or CDTOX (in LRT Classic)
- setup a backlink profile in a project (in LRT Smart)
- reprocess the DTOXRISK
And you can even alternate.
The decision you make when starting a report is not final. If you run a report ignoring NoFollow links you may decide later that you would to see the results with the NoFollow links evaluated. You do not need to re-run the report to do this, but you can Reprocess the report to recalculate DTOXRISK and select the NoFollow evaluation mode you want to see.
Please note: such recalculation does not use any Link Crawl Budget and can be done as often as you wish, although the processing takes server resources and thus time.
- In September 2019 Google introduced NoFollow 2.0 a new specification for NoFollow with sub types UGC and SPONSORED. Part of that change was that Google would ignore the NoFollow attribute and count links regardless. While the NoFollow link attribute, based on our experience, has been ignored at times for many years now "inofficially" this changes the rules. We therefore recommend to always include NoFollow in the link audit.
- Risk of Nofollow Links confirmed by Google: Nofollow links can cause a penalty. This article shows hard facts using 4,649 spam link examples from 854 domains that were collected from Google between August 16, 2013 and July 2, 2014. Spam link examples include a press release from prnewswire.com with NoFollow links.