The Difference Between Do-Follow and No-Follow Links

November 24, 2015


Should you be using do-follow and no-follow links? Are they that important and do you really need to know the difference? The answer is a big “Yes!” to (almost) all of the above.

These links are part of the search engine optimization (SEO) family, and even if you rely on a professional to manage your SEO (as you should), it’s still wise to have a basic understanding of SEO.

Let’s start with an overview of links in general. An inbound link is when a hyperlink (on someone else's website) points to one of your website’s pages. Every inbound link gives you a little SEO bolstering. Inbound links from quality authority sites count for more SEO gold, and Google is watching everyone’s points/inbound links to determine the quality of sites. If hordes of people are linking to one of your website’s pages, it must be a winner. It gets preference, as does your website, so you slowly move up in the SEO rankings.

Follow the Leader

A do-follow link is a link that the Google robots will follow to the site linked to. They tell the search engines that you are happy to be associated with this website.

No-follow links don’t contribute favorably to your website. They don’t help you rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), but they are not necessarily bad links. All they do is tell Google and other search engines “Don’t count on me — but don’t count against me either.”

Why all the hate for no-follow links? Some people, including seedy SEO agencies, used to use black hat tricks to bolster SEO rankings with illegal tactics. Before no-follow links existed, link building was an easy target for black hat strategists.

PageRank initially contributed to this chaos, and black hat tricksters leaned heavily on links to falsify SEO results. The more links you had, the better your PageRank, no matter what those links were. Spam was sent out by the boatloads in a desperate attempt to gobble up link after link. Even Wikipedia fell victim to the spammers.

Blogs communities were destroyed, publishers comments sections were pirated, and Google put a stop to it. Thanks to Matt Cutts and his Google team, the no-follow attribute was born and links were no longer a free-for-all.

Stop Following Me!

No-follow links were necessary to get rid of some spam, but the change has unintentionally dragged some genuine links down with it. However, most SEO experts will tell you the good outweighs the bad. It’s easier to go with a no-follow than a follow link at times (for example, WordPress automatically puts all links submitted by users as no-follow). If you’re in charge of determining which links should be no-follow, safe bets include any forum or blog comments, whatever Google considers untrusted, and paid links.

However, no-follow links shouldn’t be dismissed entirely. They might be worthless for SEO value, but they’re not all worthless to your traffic and visitors. You can get a massive amount of traffic from a no-follow link. Plus, today’s search engines are considering much more than links for SEO.

So, how can you get follow links? The old fashioned way: With high-quality, engaging content. Call Be Locally SEO to find out where you stand in the follow-versus-no-follow link conundrum, and for help getting quality links — thanks to quality content.


Want to know more about linking? Our expert recommends:

Using Competitive Links in Your SEO Strategy
Linkbuilding Tactics That Will Lead the Pack in 2015

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