Dofollow & Nofollow

By default, every link is considered a recommendation by Google – unless the link is set to Nofollow. This measure prevents website operators from influencing the link popularity of a third-party website. Nofollow links can also be used to optimize your own link structure.

In HTML programming, “dofollow” and “nofollow” are values of the rel attribute in the a tag.
In HTML source code, a link looks like this, for example (spaces added here for better display):

Dofollow: <a href = “http://seo-content.org”>

Nofollow: <a href = “http://seo-content.org” rel=”nofollow”>

So the default setting for links is Dofollow. If neither the attribute value “nofollow” nor “dofollow” is found in the HTML code of a link, Google assumes that the reference is considered a recommendation and uses the link to evaluate the linked website. The addition rel=”dofollow” is therefore superfluous. However, it also doesn’t hurt to explicitly write this value into the code.

Change default settings

If you want to make it easy for yourself and prevent every link from being evaluated by Google, set this statement in the head of the HTML source code:

<meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow”>.

However, this procedure is not recommended. This is because a website whose link building contains only references that cannot be followed can be devalued by search engines for this very reason. On the other hand, Google also considers it unnatural for websites to have only dofollow links. A certain number of nofollow links therefore also belongs to every website that is interested in good backlink building.

WordPress users can use plugins to optimize the functionality of their CMS in terms of tagging links. By default, links can only be set to open in a new window. With a corresponding plugin it is possible to set the flag “nofollow”, if this is desired.

Why nofollow links?

The history of nofollow links is still relatively young. Originally, the evaluation and placement of web pages was done according to their link popularity: the more links, the higher the quality of the page. This system was the basis for Google’s success as a search engine. However, link popularity as the most important ranking factor naturally also called spammers onto the scene.

To prevent falsification of the results, the attribute value “nofollow” was introduced in 2005. The initial aim was to prevent spam. But the new attribute was also intended to give website operators the opportunity to prevent extraneous position improvements that they had not intended by linking.

An example of this: The new DSGVO places high demands on website operators. That is why online generators are popular, which create an individual, DSGVO-compliant privacy policy without much effort. The source code for the privacy policy usually contains a link to the website with the generator. If you as a webmaster do not want to pass on your link popularity without being asked, simply set this link to “nofollow”.

Nofollow and SEO

Nofollow links from other websites do not pass on pagerank, linkjuice or trust. Nevertheless, this is not necessarily an argument to refrain from posting a comment on someone else’s website, because a link contained therein will not be registered anyway. Because nofollow links to one’s own site are neutral from the search engines’ point of view, but not worthless. After all, they generate traffic when a user clicks on the link. And traffic is also registered positively by Google. A comment with a link to your own website does not directly help your own link popularity, but it can make a noticeable contribution to your Google ranking.

The use of nofollow links is also beneficial for the link structure of one’s own website. A natural-looking backlink structure has about 5 to 20 percent of nofollow links. However, this is only a guideline. In search engine optimization in online marketing, the link structure should be based on the average values in your own industry.

By the way: search engines usually don’t like to be shown their cards. Therefore it is rumored in the SEO scene again and again that Google & Co. Nofollow links are ultimately used in the evaluation. This refers especially to links from popular social media portals.

Pro and contra Nofollow

Critics of Nofollow links argue that it is not the task of webmasters to anticipate the evaluation of search engines such as Google. Conversely, proponents point out that otherwise many webmasters would refrain from linking if every link always meant an improvement in the position of competing websites.

Regardless of this, Nofollow links can actually be used very effectively. Which links should be marked with Nofollow? Some examples:

  • Increasing link popularity is not in the referring site’s best interest.
  • Bought or sponsored links
  • Links that users can leave in a comment
  • Links to pages that are not 100 percent trustworthy

Influencers in particular thrive on the trust that users place in their independence. For this reason, it is advisable for them in particular to set sponsored links to Nofollow so that the link structure on their own website or in a blog article does not violate Google’s guidelines.

To prevent the “feedback effect” of an untrusted page, a Nofollow link is ideal. The method is also great for referring to websites without benefiting from search engine optimization through linking. Therefore, it is recommended to use nofollow links sparingly, but consciously – also to improve a backlink build-up, which is considered natural and therefore positive by Google.

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