Nofollow links signal search engines due to a rel=”no-follow” HTML tag applied to their code. This tag essentially tells search engines to ignore that link. And as these links don’t pass PageRank, they’re not likely to have any impact on SEO.
See, there are two types of outbound links: the no-follow link and the do-follow link.
The do-follow link is a normal link that will take anyone who clicks on it to its landing page. You don’t need to add to the code or change anything to generate such a link; it automatically acts as a do-follow link.
It will lead your readers to another web page and help increase someone else’s traffic and ranking as a result.
Now, on the other hand, a no-follow link blocks off the Google PageRank flow. The main difference that sets this link apart from the first is the rel=”no-follow.” This tag signals the Google ranking system not to follow the link.
Nofollow vs. follow Links — What’s the Difference?
The difference between these two links is that while follow links help your search engine rankings, the no-follow ones make no difference whatsoever.
Because here’s the thing.
A no-follow link is a link that doesn’t benefit a page, doesn’t increase PageRank, and doesn’t help a site’s position in the SERPs.
And as Google and other search engines use links as a key ranking signal, links are crucial to boosting your site performance.
However, these search engines only count do-follow links in their algorithm. Google won’t transfer PageRank or anchor text across no-follow links - which is why you should try to get as many do-follow (rather than no-follow) links as possible.
How to Check Whether a Link is No-Follow
Here’s how to check if a link is no-follow:
Right-click on your browser and click “View page source”.
Next, look for the link in the HTML of the page.
If you see a rel=”nofollow” tag, it shows that the link isn’t followed by search engines. In any other case where this tag isn’t displayed, the link is do-follow.
You can also use the “Strike Out Nofollow Links” Chrome extension to find out which links are no-follow.
Why Do No-Follow Links Exist?
The no-follow tag was initially created by Google as a measure against comment spam.
Here’s what happened.
As the popularity of blogs grew, so did comment spam - for example, people would leave links in the comments promoting their content or products. Not only was this annoying for the readers of the original content but it also led to a serious issue:
These sites began to falsely rank very well in Google, which pushed the real high-quality and deserving sites out of the search results. Due to the links and comments, the search engine would treat the former as popular when it was just spam.
And as this tactic worked so well, blog comment spam quickly turned out of hand.
So, in 2005, Google developed the no-follow tag and made it a part of its algorithm to help block these sites.
Then, the tag was also later adopted by other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo.
Types of No-Follow Links
Any link that has the no-follow tag is technically a no-follow link.
But generally, the following sources are most likely to lead to no-follow links:
Social media (such as links in Facebook posts)
Links in forum posts or other forms of user-generated content
Certain blogs and news sites (such as the Huffington Post)
Links from “widgets”
Links in press releases
Here are some of the most popular sites that use the rel=”nofollow” tag on almost all their outbound links:
No-follow links don’t usually have any effect on SEO or page rank. However, it’s more preferable for site owners and marketers that other web pages refer to their content with do-follow links.