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What’s the Difference Between DoFollow and NoFollow Links?
SEO / 05 Jul 2022
Have you invested endless hours into creating fabulous content for your website but still aren’t getting the web traffic you’d expect? You’ve done your keyword research, you’ve optimised your copy, so what’s going on? One possibility is that your backlinking is letting you down.
If the mere mention of backlinking is already bringing on a headache, you’ll be pleased to know that any decent agency offering SEO content writing will know all about this and can factor it into your website content writing.
What is backlinking?
Backlinking refers to links created from a webpage on one website to a webpage on another website. So, why should you care about it?
Because Google takes note of who is linking to your website and who you’re linking to.
If websites that Google deems trustworthy and authoritative link to your website, Google will think that you’re the bee’s knees too and it will push your website further up its results page when someone is searching for a product or service you offer. This, ultimately, boosts your web traffic.
Sounds like nothing could go wrong, right?
Well, back in the day when Strictly Come Dancing was just a new kid on the block, less than scrupulous marketers were rampantly taking advantage of this SEO trick. They added their company URLs as comments to blogs all over the web and saw their webpages rise up Google’s search page results.
Google got wise and in 2005 introduced DoFollow and NoFollow links.
Today, linking to other websites (external linking) is still important for your ranking on Google’s search result pages. Google’s nebulous algorithm continues to think that high-quality websites will usually link to other high-quality websites.
But you need to be smarter about your backlinking. You need to strike the perfect balance of NoFollow vs DoFollow links.
So for starters, what’s the difference between DoFollow and NoFollow links?
DoFollow vs. NoFollow links
DoFollow lets you signpost the important links for Google’s algorithm, while NoFollow tells Google’s algorithm to ignore the links that would hurt your SEO.
Google then does the maths and if your website has struck the right balance of NoFollow vs DoFollow links, it will give you a good PageRank score.
A PageRank score is quite literally maths. It’s a calculation made by Google that determines the importance and authority of your website based on the number and quality of the links to it. (It’s some pretty judgmental maths).
Google takes into account DoFollow links, but ignores NoFollow links.
The common misconception is that this renders NoFollow links useless, but that’s not the case.
NoFollow links can still boost your web traffic and get more leads and customers to your website. While, DoFollow links are focused on ticking Google’s SEO boxes, NoFollow links are focused on human beings clicking on them.
So in the NoFollow vs DoFollow links face off, it’s a draw.
When are DoFollow links important?
Links inserted directly into your website copy, with no modification, will automatically be DoFollow links.
Some of your website’s authority – technically, this is called link juice – will pass through each DoFollow link to the web pages at the other end. Equally, if another website links to yours, you’ll benefit from some of their link juice too.
That’s why gaining DoFollow links from websites with high PageRank scores is an effective way of improving your search engine rankings.
How do I get DoFollow links?
In short, by creating valuable content that people will want to read and share.
This is where SEO content writing comes in handy by simultaneously addressing readers’ pain points and getting Google to pop your web page in the prime real estate at the top of a search result’s page.
There are a host of additional tactics you can use once you’ve created your compelling content, including:
- Finding links to your site from reputable websites elsewhere online, checking the link type, and asking for NoFollow links to be changed to DoFollow
- Encouraging other sites to link to your comprehensive, super useful content, instead of your competitor’s clearly inferior content (an SEO content writing service can make sure that this really is the case)
- Only including DoFollow links in your content when linking to a site with a higher PageRank score than yours
- Trying one of these suggested formulae from the link-building experts at Ahrefs
When are NoFollow links important?
DoFollow backlinks can be a double-edged sword. The SEO value of DoFollow links sounds great on the surface, but it also leaves you vulnerable to accidental PageRank damage. Just consider these three scenarios:
- You link to a website with a lower score than yours, making your content appear less valuable
- A website with low PageRank score links to you, causing your score to drop
- You exclusively include DoFollow links on your website at a high frequency and consequently, Google views your content as unnatural and spammy
You can solve all three of these concerns with one simple principle: a balance between DoFollow and NoFollow.
Google knows that natural, organic content will not be jam-packed with DoFollow links to high-profile websites.
NoFollow links, on the other hand, make your content appear more natural. This is because, when creating your content, it will often be useful to link to niche content on lower-ranking websites. NoFollow links allow you to do so without passing on any of your link juice.
This principle also works in reverse: higher-ranking pages may build NoFollow links to your content if they deem it valuable. This may seem counterproductive since Google doesn’t track NoFollow links, but it becomes relevant when you consider why NoFollow links might exist.
If Google can see that there are plenty of NoFollow links leading to your website – even if it can’t see where they’ve come from – it can jump to some obvious conclusions using the principles we’ve just discussed:
- Your content is being shared by people who enjoy it and/or find it useful
- Websites with higher PageRank scores value your content
- Your backlinks have not come from spamming your own links on popular blogs
The lesson here: do not underestimate the lowly NoFollow backlink.
How do you check if a link is NoFollow?
Most website management systems (e.g. WordPress) will have a means of viewing the number of backlinks to each webpage, so you can track your DoFollow links. Tools provided by companies such as Ahrefs and Semrush are also useful. But finding NoFollow links requires a different approach.
Identifying NoFollow links on another website manually is easy. If you stumble upon a link to your website, follow these four steps to check its status:
- Right-click the page and select ‘View page source’
- Find the link within the HTML
- Perform a Ctrl+F search of ‘nofollow’
- Check whether “rel=nofollow” is included in the code for the link to your content
Finding NoFollow links on other websites is only half of the story. Inserting them into your own SEO content writing is equally important:
- Add the link to your page
- Switch to HTML view
- Find the link
- Add “rel=nofollow” before the anchor text
The resulting NoFollow link should look something like this:
<a href=”https://linkedwebsite.com” rel=”nofollow”>Link Anchor Text</a>
Whereas a DoFollow link would look like this:
<a href=”https://linkedwebsite.com”>Link Anchor Text</a>
Do Follow Google’s SEO recommendations
We can’t resist a good SEO pun.
But on a serious note, Google continues to update its policy on backlinks regularly. The value of DoFollow links has led to a thriving market of link buying and selling – a way of monetising link juice and helping spammers climb the PageRank ladder.
As a result, Google has introduced Sponsored and UGC (User Generated Content) links to decrease the value of monetised and unnatural links.
But don’t forget that while you’re busy pleasing Google, you should continue to keep your readers front of mind.
When you’re linking to other websites, is their content recent and relevant? Linking to outdated websites or old data isn’t any use to your readers who are living in the now.
Our SEO content writing services can ensure your content hits the mark with readers and Google. And remember, the quality of your content is crucial for getting more, and better, backlinks in general. To get started, book your discovery call today.
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