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Dofollow and nofollow links

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Check dofollow/nofollow in

Information updated on January 29, 2023

Dofollow and nofollow are

  1. a common way to classify backlinks in the SEO environment based on the presence of an attribute in the code;
  2. "conditional" link attributes that tell Googlebot whether to follow the given link to the acceptor page. The reason I used the adjective "conditional" is because the dofollow attribute doesn't actually exist: Dofollow is a link that doesn't have a nofollow value. Compare the two examples below - on the first of them the link will be considered dofollow, on the second - nofollow:
   <a href="">  
   <a rel="nofollow" href="">  

So, in this article I will analyze the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, based on official Google sources, personal experience, as well as an analysis of the opinions that exist among SEO specialists and link builders.

Article content:

  1. Occurrence and purpose of attributes in links
  2. How Google treats nofollow links
  3. How to check a dofollow or nofollow link
  4. When to use nofollow on your site
  5. Do I need nofollow backlinks

Occurrence and purpose of attributes in links

Nofollow attribute was introduced in 2005 as a means of combating link spam in comments, as well as spam on other types of links that users might create themselves. Technically, the nofollow attribute on a link means that Googlebot doesn't need to go to the given address and take this link into account in its acceptor domain ranking algorithmic calculations.

In 2019, in addition to nofollow, the ugc (User Generate Content) and Sponsored attributes appeared. These attributes should mark outgoing links created by users of the site, as well as paid links, respectively. After this expansion of the list of attributes, Google began recommending the use of nofollow "in cases where you want to link to a page, but don't want to imply any kind of endorsement, including passing the rating to another page."

View screenshot from Google Blog, to better understand the difference between these attributes:

screenshot from google blog page

How Google treats nofollow links

Google official position

I'll emphasize once again what is written in the subheading: these are the statements of the search engine, not my opinion.

However, in another part of the official documentation (link here) we come across the following phrase: Links marked with these attributes (they are talking about Nofollow, UGT and Sponsored attributes) [bot] will not be followed.

The way I understand these statements is that it seems to me that nofollow links are usually not a signal or a ranking factor, but they can tell the search engine about the content of the acceptor page or even about the existence of such a page.

Seo experts' opinion

The authorityhacker website polled 755 link builders about the current off-page situation. The full article can be read here. When it comes to nofollow links, SEO experts generally agreed: 673 of the 755 link builders we surveyed said that nofollow links have some impact on search rankings.

In principle, this statement does not contradict the official position of Google, the only question is the strength of the influence of nofollow.

How to check link: dofollow or nofollow

Method 1: if you need to spot check 1-2 links, do the check in code. Video instruction below.

Short video tutorial on attribute validation in links.

Method 2: If you need to crawl all outgoing page links for the nofollow attribute or another attribute, you can use a plugin like SEO Quake.

Method 3: a list of pages with outgoing links can be thrown into ScreaminFrog (mass check mode - list). After that, go to the Outlinks section, enter your acceptor domain in the search bar. The program will show all outgoing links to this domain, and when scrolling to the right, you can see the attribute type (if any).

Bulk check backlinks for nofollow (or other) attributes.

Method 3: You can check all incoming dofollow or nofollow links using Arefs in the Backlinks section.

Check dofollow or nofollow in Ahrefs

Method 4: If you need to keep track of the link type (dofollow/nofollow) all the time, you can use the service LinkboxPro.

When to use nofollow on your site

You can use nofollow for outbound and internal links on your site.

For outbound links, the recommendation is: "Use this attribute in cases where you want to link to a page but don't want to imply any endorsement, including passing the rating to another page." UGC should be flagged those links that are generated by readers / users of the site, and Sponsored is for sponsored outbound links (I will say this, Sponsored is almost never used, because those who pay for advertising on your site indicate in their TK that the link should be dofollow).

For internal links, use nofollow if you don't want the bot to go to that internal page, crawl and index it. However, in addition to nofollow, in this case, you must use the no-crawling directive in the robots.txt file, as well as noindex on the acceptor page.

Do I need nofollow backlinks (as well as backlinks from UGT/sponsored)

Most SEO experts answer yes to this question. It is believed that:

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