“follow” vs “nofollow” links

One important factor in SEO is backlinks. What are backlinks you may ask: Well, backlinks are basically just other websites linking to your website. Why is this important? Link building is very important, but not every link has the same value. If a big website like “Forbes” would link to your website, that has a lot of value, because Google already trusts Forbes and they are a known authority. Now if you get a link from a new site that Google doesn’t know yet, of course, that link doesn’t have as much value.

What is domain authority?

The DA (Domain Authority) is a metric, a search engine ranking score, that was developed by Moz. The DA can go from 0 to 100 and the higher your value the easier you will rank. Domain authority is calculated from multiple factors, but mainly the links that come to your website. Google does not use this metric, but it is a great metric for us SEOs.

Now, why did I mention domain authority? Well, if you get a backlink from a website with high DA, that’s a lot more valuable than getting a link from a low DA website.

Domain Authority by Moz

What is link juice or link equity?

So, we explained domain authority and that links are important. One question you might have is: How can I increase my domain authority? Link juice or link equity is the concept that certain links pass authority value to the linked website.

If you want to know more about link equity, check out Moz’s article: What is link equity?

Link juice or link equity

What are “dofollow” links?

We explained domain authority and link juice. Now comes the interesting part: Before we said only certain links pass authority value, can you guess which one? Exactly, dofollow backlinks pass authority. Therefore you want to get “dofollow” links from big sites.

What are “nofollow” links?

Nofollow links basically tell the search engine crawlers not to follow this link, so nofollow links don’t pass authority and therefore don’t increase link equity.

Now a little test. Here are 2 links and I want to know which one is the “dofollow” and which one the “nofollow” link:

Exactly, you can’t tell the difference just by looking at the so-called anchor text.

How to create dofollow or nofollow links

A link in HTML looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.myWebsite.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor Text</a>

As you can see in this case it’s a nofollow link. You can use the attribute rel=”nofollow” to set that. In WordPress you can just click on a link and then set the “nofollow” property.

set nofollow link in wordpress

When you should use nofollow links

From a user’s point of view, it makes no difference, but it makes a big difference for search engines in which type of link we use. So, there are a few scenarios where it is beneficial for your site to use nofollow links.

nofollow vs dofollow backlinks

Blog Comments

If someone posts a comment on your site, make sure that the links are nofollow. WordPress should do this by default. If your site gets bigger and an authority, people will start abusing this. I already get a lot of spam comments on SiriousThoughts.com and I mark them as spam. A comment should bring value to the conversation and not just be a place to spam your link. Many “gurus” teach this method, stay away from it.

Sites you don’t want to be related to

Let’s say you write an article and you link to a site that you don’t know that well. You don’t know if they can be trusted… use a nofollow link. Another scenario would be: you link to a site that is not really related to your niche, use a nofollow link. Use nofollow links when you don’t want to pass on authority or you don’t know much about the site. It’s like telling someone “hey this restaurant is awesome, all their food is great”, but only have been there one time eating Pizza. Instead of saying “I was at this new restaurant and I ate a pizza, it was great… thinking of going there again”.

Paid links

Okay, so let’s be honest here. If you pay for a link you want it to be dofollow since you want to get some of that link juice, but Google says paid links should be marked as “nofollow”. This means if someone pays you to put a link on your website, then you should tag it as nofollow.

Link building is an entirely separate chapter of SEO and let’s all be honest here, a lot of us use paid links. There are of course other strategies that can be used for building authority and links and the best one is to create shareworthy content and to reach out to others and collaborate.

Are nofollow links good for SEO?

Links are links in the end. Even if it is a nofollow link, people will click on it and come to your website. Plus, this is actually something that is analyzed when creating a link building strategy: what is the ratio of follow to nofollow links.

Can nofollow links hurt you?

No, nofollow links don’t hurt at all, unless you are spamming in a huge way! Don’t do that, no one likes spam and it doesn’t help anyone. Stay away from that and you are fine.

Are Facebook links nofollow?

Yeah, Facebook doesn’t give you free link juice. All the links are nofollow. Nonetheless, for SEO purpose it is good to be present in Social Media and driving engagement. A healthy site also has social media profiles where they are active. So don’t neglect that just because the links are nofollow.

How to recognize what type of link it is

If you are on a certain website and you would like to find out what type of link was used, you can just right-click on the link and click on “examine”. Then a new tab should pop out with the HTML code:

how to find out what kind of link it is

As you can see, there is no rel=”nofollow” tag, which means it is a dofollow link.


Follow vs nofollow links: Do you know the difference now?



So, this should also clarify a bit the dilemma of “Can links hurt your site?”. In general only if it is spam in huge amounts. If they are nofollow links, it will have even less effect.

Make sure to use the “nofollow” tag in the future when appropriate.