The Definitive Guide to DO-Follow & No-Follow Links & Why You Need Both
I’ve been in the SEO industry for some time now, and people have always had a hard-on for do-follow links. But, in recent time it has gotten even more out of control. My agency sells a lot of links, direct to the end buyer and also to a lot of agencies around the world that count on us each month to deliver their clients work them.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a small business owner buying links or someone that supposedly has years of experience in the SEO world. They all ask if links are do-follow and I am now convinced that the majority of the people asking this have no idea what the difference is between do-follow and no-follow, their benefits and why this great debate needs to finally come to an end.
My goals with this article is to help you understand what each link variation is, what it means for your SEO and also why you need to stop discrediting no-follow links. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you know that all of the major sites are now adding the “no-follow” tag to all outbound links. Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, etc. All of the big players are now no-follow with many more following right behind, and guess what? Sales of these links haven’t slowed a single bit. In fact, they have increased.
Why? Because it’s the site a link sits on, not whether it’s no/do-follow that contributes to branding, exposure and sales. So, let’s get this debate cleared up once and for all. Some people need a reality check..
I’m going to help you understand both Do-Follow and No-Follow as clear as day!
No-Follow Link Definition
This is what a no-follow link looks like in HTML if you inspect the page source using a variety of web inspectors:
<a href=”http://www.url.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor Text</a>
When a link is assigned this tag, it basically tells Google not to pass PageRank, which is still a thing, even though Google stopped allowing the public to access it years ago. It is still used internally. The common misconception, though, is that since PageRank isn’t passed the link can’t help move a page up in the SERPs. This is false. Wikipedia links are my favorite example to use. No-followed links, but they can shoot a page to the top almost instantly.
So many SEO amateurs say that a no-follow link tells Google not to count it. It tells Google not to pass PageRank, or juice as the top SEO gurus like to call it. That is just one little component of the SERP algorithm. While it doesn’t pass juice, it does give Google a sense of authority. You are going to hear me use Wikipedia links as an example several times throughout this post, and for good reason.
They are some of the highest authority links available, yet they are no-follow. If you score a Wiki link you might not get PageRank passed through, but you get a whole lot of trust and authority.
Do-Follow Link Definition
This is what a do-follow link looks like in HTML if you inspect the page source using a variety of web inspectors:
<a href=”http://www.url.com/”>Anchor Text</a>
These links are always preferred because they pull in one thing that no-follow links don’t, and that is PageRank. Basically, when a site links out, a bit of that page’s “juice” is passed via the link. Did it suck when sites like Entrepreneur, Forbes and Huffington Post went no-follow? Of course, because that meant no more passing PageRank, so we can’t completely discredit it.
Imagine if every link that a page received was given a score, from 0 – 10. Sites that are high authority, would earn higher points. Lower authority sites or websites that anyone could score links from would be valued much lower.
It’s part of the algorithm, and this is the reason many websites were after high authority editorial links in the past. They wanted the juice. They had zero interest in any other benefit. My agency was receiving inquiries from crappy landing pages and low quality affiliate sites. We obviously couldn’t get them the links, but they craved that juice bad.
In short, a do-follow link passes PageRank. No, PR isn’t dead. It’s just not made public any longer.
So, Why Do No-Follow Links Exist?
Want to know who is to blame for websites converting to no-follow links? Us. Yes, us.
Marketers ruin everything. We are all guilty of it. We figure out ways to game the system for short term gains, and that eventually gets patched and it’s ruined forever. The recent surge in authority link wants (because of the PageRank they passed) eventually led all the big sites to take action.
Listen, they know that people want links to help their SEO. That is why they get swamped with pitches and that is why people want to submit guest posts. It was all about the link value, and that has dried up a bit. Now the bigger sites are desired for branding and referral traffic.
Wikipedia was spammed to death and then boom, everything went no-follow way back in the day. They cleaned up, and now it’s much less spammy. The same happened regarding blog comments. SEOs were trying to game the system, so they loaded up software to spread millions of blog comments containing links. Now, most comment plugins automatically assign links the no-follow tag.
It’s no secret that the no-follow tag keeps away spammers and uneducated SEOs. Sites have a lot less shit to deal with, so expect many more to go this route, and fast. I see new ones converting to no-follow all the time.
Why No-Follow Has Become Necessary & Will Only Increase in Use
The lucrative world of link selling has led to the top sites slapping everything, past and present, with the no-follow tag. They do this in hopes that it will reduce the number of paid links that slip through the cracks. While it may have reduced the number of shitty affiliate sites and thin sites that wanted fat juicy links, it hasn’t slowed the demand from real businesses.
Have you ever seen blogs that are littered with spam or general directories that are super spammy? If so, I can promise you that the links are do-follow. The spammers seek out do-follow opportunities and spam the living hell out of them until the site disables comments and submissions or flips the no-follow switch on.
Back in the day, forums were spam paradise, but now all forum software comes with the no-follow link tag automatically set.
Process for Checking Whether a Link is No-Follow or Do-Follow
There are a few simple was to see whether or not a link is no-follow or do-follow.
Here are a couple browser specific short-cuts:
- Chrome: View>Developer>View Source (or right click the page and select Inspect Element)
- Firefox: Right Click>View Page Source. Then, Edit>Find and search “nofollow” in the search box. All no-follow tags will then be highlighted.
- Safari: Develop>Show Page Source. Then, search “nofollow” in the search box. All no-follow tags will then be highlighted.
If you are a little more advanced, there are several browser extensions available for Firefox and Chrome that can be installed to help you. If you use Chrome, give NoFollow Simple a try. For Firefox users, you have three options: SearchStatus, NoDoFollow and SEO Quake.
You NEED No-Follows in Your Link Profile
Google will find it highly suspect if they see a site that ONLY has do-follow links. Guess what? No-follow links are part of the real world, so any real website is going to have them. You need them, no doubt about it.
But aside from PageRank, let’s look at some added benefits.
A no-follow link on Inc. might drive 1,000 visitors to your site and several conversions. Is that worth something? Of course it is! A forum link might be no-follow but it can introduce your business to a whole new audience, and also attract traffic and sales. The same can be said for blog comment links. Look, if you are buying links to game the system (everyone does) then you also need to add in no-follow links to your profile, so build ones that are going to give you all the added value.
Top Reasons No-Follow Links Provide Huge Value
As mentioned before, some of my agency’s largest clients are still ordering massive amounts of links from the top sites, even those that have switched over to the no-follow attribute. I want to quickly go over the reasons that successful SEO and link building strategies have never changed direction because of a no-follow link. There are three main reasons why they give value, regardless of what any self-proclaimed SEO expert is saying.
They Send Targeted Referral Traffic
When someone is reading an article on Forbes or Inc. and see something of interest linked within the article they aren’t going, “Hmmm, I wonder if this is a do-follow link or a no-follow link. I only want to click on this link if it’s do-follow.”
Look how ridiculous that sounds. When you build links on authority websites you are benefiting from the huge traffic numbers these sites pull. There are going to be constant eyes on your link, which can then attract referral traffic. If it’s done right, then the people reading the content will have a likely interest in what you are offering. This is just a small benefit of link building, and all links are equal in this sense.
There was a huge uproar when all the top authority sites went no-follow, but guess what. The noise was being made by SEO gurus that make their money by selling bullshit products, and not by actually doing SEO. Imagine a doctor giving advice that has never performed an operation or diagnosed a patient? It’s the same crazy logic that exists in the SEO world.
They Give You Legitimacy Which Helps Secure Do-Follow Links
Outside of the top authority sites (Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, etc.), you can typically secure no-follow links easier. I will give you a perfect example: Business2Community is a website that is no-follow but still receives some decent traffic. The metrics are nice and it’s a great stepping stone link acquisition.
You see, a site like Forbes isn’t going to link to a new website. They are considered to be the utmost authority, so they make sure their reference points (outbound links) are from credible sources. You have to crawl before you walk, in everything, including building links.
By securing some of the lower hanging fruit that are no-follow links you are able to secure them fairly easy and at a lower cost that lower level do-follow links. Take full advantage and get featured by as many media sources as possible. This allows you to use the logos on your site and even link to the mentions and features from a media or news page on your website. This will make it much easier to secure links for the top sites moving forward.
Google Does Weigh No-Follow Links in Their Algorithm!!
Every time I hear “No-follow links don’t give any SEO value” I have a one word reply: Wikipedia. A Wiki link is one of the strongest and most sought after links available. Their editorial process is iron clad and they do a great job at removing any link that isn’t relevant or is spammy in any way. I have personally seen keywords jump from the bottom of page three to the top 5 simply by adding one Wikipedia link. Still think they are useless because they are no-follow?
Yahoo Finance links were once one of the most popular links, and guess what? They were no-follow as well. There are several examples like this, so for someone to say that Google doesn’t count them it just pure ignorance. They most certainly come into play when it comes to the algorithm Google uses to rank websites.
It’s also no secret that Google might shift focus away from links, and focus more on brand mentions, as evident from this patent. Rather than waiting for it to happen, get your brand mentioned on as many different websites as possible, with zero regard to whether it’s no-follow or do-follow. This will help your SEO now and in the future.
I recently saw an SEO guru claiming no-follow links were useless. Guess what? His own personal website had 5 links pointing to it. Sadly, a lot of people listen to people talk about SEO that have absolutely zero experience with SEO. Anyone that is really involved in SEO and practices what he or she preaches knows that no-follow links are part of the game and provide value.
If you have any questions related to links or link building in general make sure to leave a comment below and I will reply to you as quickly as possible. What are your feelings about do-follow vs. no-follow links?
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