No-follow links 101 and what does the new Google update mean?
Sometime back in 2005 Google announced the concept of the no-follow tag to reduce the rankings of websites that appeared on the search results as a result of spammy comments on blog posts.
A decade and a half ago, spammy comments were stormy leading to high-quality and worthy websites take a back seat on search results. In order to bring this under control, all search engines followed by Google introduced the no-follow links.
An example of a spammy comment on the blog post:
You’re probably familiar with comments trying to backlink to their site like – You’ve just won $1M, lose 20 pounds in 10 days, visit my site for a 20% off on pharmaceuticals and more.
But, you don’t have to worry. Sites like WordPress have added the no-follow tag on comments by default that protects your precious articles from spammers. Also, if your site does not run on WordPress, I have a tip for you.
These are highly irrelevant and simply left by site owners in the comment section just to get a link back to their website based out of context. Instead of striking healthy conversations that lead to mutual learnings, spammers resort to this tactic which was a short-cut to ranking better.
A quick brief on what is no-follow tag
Rel = “no follow” means the search engines needn’t crawl them. The no-follow links do not pass search ranks while do follow does.
According to Backlinko,
Nofollow links are links with a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag applied to them. The nofollow tag tells search engines to ignore that link. Because nofollow links do not pass PageRank they likely don’t impact search engine rankings
Here’s a video on the difference between Do follow and no follow by Neil Patel where he breaks down the difference in simple and understandable language.
Here’s a quick tip to identify if a link is no follow (for all the non-coders): Add Strike out no-follow links to your chrome extension and it will strike through the no-follow links on a specific page.
If you’re a coding nerd, you may want to inspect the page and identify the no-follow tag on the code link 🙂
Paid Links and no-follow tags
In 2013, Google announced that all paid links should be no-follow.
Before you dive into this video on Matt Cutt’s (from Google) take you through Goggle’s 2013 update on no-follow attribute on paid links, I’d like to give you a quick brief on some default no=follow tag used by some websites on all their outbound links.
Google introduced this as they wanted to honor the earned links and not the paid links. Head over to the Webmaster Guidelines to deepen your understanding.
While do-follow links directly impact SEO rankings, no-follow links also have an impact on SEO and how?
Google says, In general, we don’t follow them.
No follow links can bring traffic
Let’s say you post a resourceful content on social media, say, Twitter. You may get a ton of traffic to your website if the tweet copy is compelling enough and your title is super-intriguing. Though these are no-follow links, be it your quora answers or helpful blog comments, if it is worthy enough it can bring you a good amount of targetted traffic.
The outbound links are no-follow and do not have a direct impact on SEO rankings. However, let’s say someone lands on your destination URL through a no-follow link and likes your content. Now, when they use this content in their article by linking to your article using a do-follow link, that’s when it can boost your rankings.
In a nutshell, no-follow links have a high possibility to drive a do-follow link.
Update 2019: Google’s no follow, sponsored, and UGC links impact on SEO
As of today, Google has announced a new update on UGC and sponsored which is, no-follow links are a hint and Google may choose to ignore it for ranking.
With effect from March 1, 2020, these link attributes will be treated as hints and can be used for crawling and indexing and could be used for ranking.
Here’s an infographic from MOZ summarizing the whole update: