SEO basics

NoFollow attribute: History, usage and impact

April 30, 2015 - 2  min reading time - by Emma Labrador
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What is the NoFollow attribute?

The NoFollow attribute appeared in January 2005 in order to prevent comment spamming. In September, Google was recommending to use it for paid links as well. Indeed, some commenters were trying to fool Google’ ranking algorithm by integrating links with a lot of over-optimized keywords. Certain websites were over ranked in the search engine results because of the high amount of artificial links pointing toward them.

In fact, NoFollow is a value that can be assigned to the rel attribute of the HTML code to tell search engines not to count a link in the search engine’s index and therefore not to distribute page rank to the page it is pointing to. It aims to avoid issues like influence selling or cheating SEO practices.

How and when to use NoFollow?

To transform a regular link into a NoFollow one, you just have to add a short code in the link area :

Example : a link like <a href=’’” >link to a page</a> will be  <a href=’’” rel=”nofollow”>link to a page</a>

It can be added manually but many CMS offer that option.

You might need to use it in different situations:

  • For paid links: if you do not want Google to penalize you for paid outbound links but you know these quality links will drive traffic to your website
  • Comments: if you are not doing any comments moderation, they could contain harmful links. Use NoFollow to prevent your website from commenters publishing bad links.
  • User generated content: as the previous one, if you let people contribute to your website without any moderation, nofollow can help you to protect you content from fake links.
  • Embeds: use nofollow if you are loading videos or infographics you do not want to promote.
  • Duplicate content: you might not want to see your PDF ranked by the search engines since they are duplicated with the same HTML.


What impact has NoFollow on your SEO?

Despite what Google says, it seems like those nofollow links are still followed. However, even if the link is followed, it does not get any page rank.

Even if a nofollow attribute is not as efficient as a dofollow, they are not totally useless. Some SEO experts tend to say that the nofollow attribute can bring authority or trust, but nothing has been proven.

If you are developing a netlinking strategy, it is not stupid to have some nofollow links pointing toward your website. It could be seen as strange for Google to have a website only receiving dofollow links. This would be considered as non-natural.

Emma Labrador See all their articles
Emma was the Head of Communication & Marketing at Oncrawl for over seven years. She contributed articles about SEO and search engine updates.
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