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The Blogger’s Guide To Nofollow Links
Do nofollow links make you cringe? You're not alone. But columnist Pratik Dholakiya explains why they're not so bad and how they can actually boost your site.
A nofollow link is the stuff of nightmares for SEOs.
It’s like a big slap in the face with the oiliest, wettest fish you’ve ever seen. Why?
Because when a link is put into nofollow tags, it basically says to a search engine, “Hey, don’t count this link!”
That means you miss out on that little boost of link juice you’d normally get, and there is no change in your SEO. But if they’re such a nightmare, why do they exist?
Google brought these tags in to prevent spam, meaning that a black-hat SEO couldn’t spam the heck out of a link across comments and social and anywhere else a link can possibly show up.
If you’ve ever left your blog alone for longer than a week, you know about the kind of spam I’m talking about:
On the whole, SEOs hate getting their links nofollowed, because it goes against their idea of what a link should be.
However, that view is slowly but surely starting to change.
While nobody is going out of their way to obtain nofollow links, it’s not the end of the world. And they can still be really beneficial for blog sites.
Because, for you, a link isn’t just about getting that boost in SEO rankings. It’s much, much more.
In the rest of this article, I’ll show you the five ways nofollow links can be great for you.
#1: It’s Not Just A Link, It’s An Endorsement
Let’s say you head to one of your favorite blogs, and you see a link in their content, like this one below:
You have no idea if the author has nofollowed that link. In fact, the only things you know about that link are:
- It’s relevant to the content you’re reading.
- Your favorite author has felt it worthwhile to put this link on his or her site.
Which means that, in the eyes of the actual people you want to read your blog, this link is worth clicking.
It’s an open endorsement to that site’s fan base, no matter how large or small, that they should really care about the content on the other side of that link — and the person who wrote it, of course.
If your favorite writer in your niche mentions your content, you’re not going to be able to contain those fangirl screams, regardless of the type of link it is, are you?
#2: Referral Traffic Is The Best Kind Of Traffic
It’s no secret: Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most important forms of marketing there is.
And the majority of word-of-mouth marketing on the internet is done through nofollow links.
When your link shows up on social media:
In a forum:
These links are all nofollow links. They don’t add any SEO link value to your site whatsoever.
But people are still talking about your content — reading it, sharing it and spreading your value. And the more trust that person has in that niche, the more referral traffic is going to come your way.
If you’ve suddenly got hundreds (or thousands) more visitors coming to your blog each month, search engine crawlers can’t help but take notice, regardless of what type of link it’s passing through.
#3: It Makes You Improve Your Sales Funnel
Links are only as good as the sites they link to.
What do I mean by that?
I mean that it doesn’t matter how good the site you got a link on is, if the site they come through to is terrible, you’re not going to hold onto people.
And if you know that the link is a nofollow link, and it’s not going to get you any extra SEO points, you also know that you need to improve your site to make sure you hold onto these people.
It’s extra incentive to improve your:
- Site layout and mapping
… so that you can keep as many of these top-of-the-funnel people who come through on your site as you can, and keep them engaged with you.
By doing this, you also improve the site so the people who do come through on followed links and search engines have a better user experience, as well.
And when your bounce rates — the number of people leaving after a couple of seconds — improves, your SEO results can improve, too.
More money and better SEO in the long run? Hard to sniff at that.
#4: Links Beget More Links
Links have a domino effect.
When a link is featured somewhere, it eventually starts to get featured in other places, too. Let me give you an example…
How often have you been researching for your next blog post and stumbled across a really good post on the topic you’ve been writing about?
But instead of just linking to that post, you find the posts they’ve linked to and link to them too?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably done it hundreds of times over the last few months without even thinking about it. Because it’s a good quality way to add valuable research to your articles.
And when someone links to your content, you’re going to become that content they link to.
Whether they find it through a nofollow link or not is irrelevant. It’s about the endorsement, the quality of your content and the fact that someone went out of their way to link to you in the first place.
#5: They Could Actually Improve Your Rankings
Here’s the thing about Google…
In my experience, folks at Google don’t always tell the whole truth. Or, at least, they’re really particular about how they word their statements.
The official word from Google is that you can’t be found through these nofollow links. The crawlers just carry on past them like they’re walking past a stranger in the street.
However, there is evidence to suggest that they can actually have a positive impact on your rankings.
Basically, the jury is still out on just how beneficial a nofollow link can be for you and the reasons why.
For example, one theory is: Having nofollow links can indicate to Google that you’re building links naturally, because there isn’t suddenly a surge in sites that all want to link back to you. Which can improve your trust flow. Which can improve your rankings.
But there’s nothing concrete to say this is definitely what’s happening behind the scenes.
Either way, it’s certainly not going to hurt your rankings to have these nofollow links. And it could even turn out to be quite beneficial for you in the long run.
By now you should see that having your link nofollowed isn’t really that bad. And despite what all your SEO buddies might say, it can still be a huge boost for your site.
- Endorsements: Having your link on someone’s site is important for how people see your site and for getting exposure, regardless of the style of link.
- Referral Traffic: People finding your link being mentioned by people they trust, on lots of different platforms, can drive more targeted traffic that converts than any amount of SEO could.
- Forced Improvements: When you know a link isn’t boosting your SEO, you’re pushed to improve your site and catch more people. And improving this funnel can improve your bounce rates, which can create better SEO rankings for you, too.
- Links Lead To Links: If one person wants to link to your content, so will others. And the more exposure it gets, the more natural links you’ll start to get — which is exactly the purpose of link building in the first place, right?
- It Could Actually Boost Your Rankings: While it’s better to assume that they won’t, there’s still evidence to suggest that they will — meaning you could get a little SEO boost after all.
So the next time you get a nofollow link, don’t throw your arms in the air and complain. Accept it, move on, and make the most of it.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.