Dofollow vs. Nofollow Links: How Links Affect Your Search Rankings

Understanding the role of dofollow and nofollow links is crucial for optimizing a website for search engines. These links guide both search engines and users through the content web. However, search algorithms view these links differently. This section explores the distinctions between dofollow and nofollow links, their origins, and their impact on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Dofollow links are the standard on the web, passing authority—or "link juice"—from one site to another. They enhance the receiving site's authority, which can improve its ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). In contrast, nofollow links, identified by the HTML code rel="nofollow", include a rel="nofollow" attribute. This instructs search engines, enhancing crawlability, not to pass ranking authority or link juice to the target site.

Google, through its google nofollow directive, introduced nofollow links in 2005 to combat content spam. Lukas Rasmussen notes, "Nofollow not pass authority from the origin website to the destination website." They were initially to deter spammy links from affecting search rankings.

The use of nofollow links has evolved since their introduction. While they were first to fight spam, they now help site owners manage how search engines consider links without affecting rankings. Google now sees nofollow attributes as "hints." They may follow these links, impacting crawling and indexing, if they deem it appropriate.

"Nofollow links were introduced in 2005 by Google to combat content spam." - Lukas Rasmussen

It's also important to look at how these links affect user behavior, especially click-through rates (CTRs). Research shows differences in CTRs for nofollow and dofollow links:

Link Type

Average Click-Through Rate






This data suggests that while nofollow links don't pass on benefits, they tend to have lower user engagement than dofollow links.

Dofollow and nofollow tags tell search engines how to interpret links. Dofollow links boost a webpage's authority. Nofollow links affect a site's traffic and visibility differently, without directly impacting search ranking. Understanding and using these links strategically is vital for those aiming to optimize their online presence.

Pathways of SEO: The Journey of Dofollow and Nofollow Links

Dofollow links are essential for improving a website's search ranking. These links transfer some of the originating site's authority, or "link juice," to the target website. This transfer boosts the target site's domain authority and search engine rankings. Websites with high-quality dofollow backlinks see a noticeable improvement in rankings and traffic.

Lukas Rasmussen explains, "Dofollow backlinks signal search engines to pass a share of the origin website’s authority to the destination website." Gaining dofollow backlinks from reputable sources can signal your site as credible, potentially increasing your domain authority.

Ricky Weiss adds, "A dofollow link passes the authority of the origin site to the destination site in terms of SEO." Known as link juice, this enhances a webpage's visibility and rank on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Google describes dofollow links as "a vote of confidence for the linked webpage." A website rich in quality dofollow backlinks is perceived as reputable, attracting more traffic and further backlinks, fostering a cycle of growth.

Nofollow links are important for a website's backlink profile and search engine interactions. These links are defined by adding rel="nofollow" to their HTML code. This tells search engines like Google not to pass link equity, or "link juice", to the linked page. While they are different from dofollow links, which pass on site authority and can improve search rankings, nofollow links play a crucial role in site discovery and the understanding of content by search engines, albeit in a way that does not involve direct ranking influence.

Vlado Pavlik explains that nofollow links, marked by the rel='nofollow' attribute, instruct search engines such as Google in a way that controls the flow of linking power and manages which pages should be prioritized. While they do not contribute directly to a website's rank, nofollow links may influence how content is discovered and digested by search engines.

Contrary to some beliefs, nofollow links do not directly impact a site's search engine ranking. Industry analysis and Google's own communications have shown that nofollow links are not considered in ranking algorithms. However, they can still play a vital role in a site's interaction with search engines by influencing how content is located and interpreted. "Nofollow links do not act as a Google ranking factor. They serve to guide search engines in not attributing additional weight or link equity or rank to linked pages," as noted by Search Engine Journal.

Nofollow backlinks are useful in specific situations, serving as a tool when linking to a site without implying endorsement or passing on any ranking power. This applies in contexts such as linking to uncertain content, managing user-generated content, encompassing comments and forums with user-posted links, or handling paid or sponsored links, ensuring adherence to search engine guidelines. Ricky Weiss summarizes, "Use a nofollow backlink, depicting what is a nofollow link, when endorsing the linked website or passing on link equity is not your intention."

Website owners most commonly employ nofollow links for purposes like:

  • Enforcing Google's quality guidelines regarding sponsored links
  • Protecting against penalties from Google updates linked to link schemes
  • Indicating non-endorsement of a linked content

(Source: Backlinko)

These links are not solely for blocking spam or managing paid promotions. They significantly contribute to a site’s backlink strategy and its interaction with search engines, supporting web integrity and guiding responsible search engine behavior, which aids in content discovery and comprehension.

The Market of SEO: Navigating Dofollow and Nofollow Links

Dofollow vs. Nofollow: SEO Implications

Each type of link has its impact on a website's search engine rankings and authority.

Dofollow links, marked without a specific attribute, allow search engines to follow them and count towards page ranking. A dofollow link from a reputable site can significantly boost the receiving site's domain authority and credibility.

Nofollow links, marked with a rel="nofollow" attribute, tell search engines not to follow the link for ranking purposes. Initially introduced to combat comment spam on blogs and forums, nofollow links are used for sponsored or user-generated content, ensuring that these links do not affect the search engine ranking. According to Ricky Weiss, "Although you do not get the full SEO benefits of a dofollow link, nofollow links can generate traffic to your website, as well as diversify your backlink portfolio." (Dofollow Backlinks vs. Nofollow Backlinks - Socium Media).

A strategic mix of dofollow and nofollow links is recommended to maintain a natural and diverse link profile, which search engines like Google favor. Vlado Pavlik reinforces this by noting, "Search engines value a natural and diverse backlink profile, including a mix of both nofollow and follow links." (Nofollow Links vs. Follow Links: All You Need to Know).

Key considerations include:

  • An overly skewed ratio of dofollow to nofollow links may result in search engine penalties.
  • Commercial links should be nofollow to comply with search engine guidelines.
  • An ideal link profile strategically includes both dofollow and nofollow backlinks, illustrating the dofollow vs nofollow difference, without specifying an exact mix.

    Lukas Rasmussen emphasizes the importance of balance: "While dofollow backlinks hold more SEO value, it is crucial to strike a balance between both types of links in a website’s backlink profile." (What are Dofollow & Nofollow backlinks, and how do they differ?).

    In conclusion, a balanced approach to dofollow and nofollow links is vital for a sustainable SEO strategy, enhancing a website's ranking and authority without risking penalties from search engines.

    Balancing the SEO Scale: Dofollow and Nofollow Links

    Google introduced nofollow links in 2005, enabling webmasters to inform search engines like Google not to transfer authority to a linked site, primarily to combat spam and endorse links judiciously. This initial guidance marked nofollow links as a tool for webmasters to control the flow of authority and manage the quality of links associated with their websites.

    The stance on nofollow links underwent a significant shift in 2019 when Google updated its approach. The company announced that nofollow links would be treated as "hints" for crawling and indexing. This pivotal change signaled that Google's algorithms might decide to follow a nofollow link, considering its potential value in understanding web content better.

    "For crawling and indexing purposes, Nofollow will become a hint as of March 1, 2020." (Are Nofollow Links A Google Ranking Factor?)

    This marked a departure from viewing nofollow links strictly as directives that block search engine actions, introducing nuance into their handling and acknowledging their possible contribution to a site's visibility and understanding in search results. This update reflects Google's flexible approach towards the interpretation of nofollow links, although their direct impact on rankings remains minimal.

    Observations post-2019 indicate that treating nofollow links as hints has not dramatically changed website rankings. Search engines may crawl and potentially factor these links into ranking calculations, but their impact on rankings remains minimal. This adjustment, reflecting on ranking factors and indexing, suggests that while Google's algorithm can now more flexibly interpret nofollow links, the fundamental principles of SEO and link-building strategies continue to evolve, requiring webmasters to adapt to these nuanced changes.

    Ricky Weiss from Socium Media highlights this evolution:

    "Dofollow backlinks and nofollow backlinks are two ways of identifying a link and telling Google how to associate the website you are linking to your website." (Dofollow Backlinks vs. Nofollow Backlinks - Socium Media)

    (Source: Evolving “nofollow” – new ways to identify the nature of links)

    The evolution of Google's stance on nofollow links underscores the dynamic nature of search engine algorithms and the importance of staying abreast with these changes.

    The Evolution of Google's Stance on Nofollow Links

    The SEO Ecosystem: Nurturing with Dofollow and Nofollow Links

    Dofollow links transfer site authority and aid in improving search rankings. They act as “votes of trust.” While nofollow links were initially introduced to combat spam, their role has evolved, and they should not be viewed solely in this context. Relying only on dofollow links may appear manipulative to search engines. This highlights the importance of combining both dofollow and nofollow links for an organic link profile (

    Use dofollow links for linking to trustworthy sources or internal content to share link equity. Nofollow links, or follow nofollow links, are suitable in cases where you prefer not to pass on site authority. This includes:

    • Comments and forums with user-posted links
    • Sponsored content to make the relationship clear
    • External sites with unverified credibility

      It's advisable not to use the nofollow attribute on all outbound links. Doing so might not benefit and could potentially harm your site (SEMrush).

      Avoiding Overuse of Nofollow: Practical Tips

      Indiscriminate use of nofollow links for all external content can make your website appear unreliable to search engines. Vlado Pavlik from SEMrush points out the importance of mentions on popular websites for brand awareness. Such mentions can lead to more dofollow backlinks from other sites (SEMrush). A strategic use of nofollow attributes can protect your site while maintaining good relationships with reputable domains.

      Practical tips include:

      • Audit your link profile regularly for a healthy mix of dofollow and nofollow links.
      • Use nofollow for untrusted content, advertisements, and user-generated content. This protects your site's integrity without severing ties to credible sources.
      • A natural link profile with both dofollow and nofollow links is crucial for SEO success.
        • A balanced mix of dofollow and nofollow links supports an authentic strategy.
        • It can increase traffic, improve brand exposure, and potentially lead to higher search rankings.
        • Google views a diverse link profile positively, indicating organic linking.
        • While dofollow links directly affect rankings, nofollow links can also drive traffic and enhance brand visibility.

          A strategic approach to dofollow and nofollow links boosts SEO performance and promotes a trustworthy internet ecosystem.

          To achieve success use both dofollow and nofollow links strategically. This balance maintains a natural backlink profile valued by search engines for authenticity, potentially enhancing site audit aspects and web visibility.

          Here’s how:

          First, regularly monitor and analyze your backlink profile. A healthy profile, beneficial for search engine optimization (SEO), features a mix of both dofollow and nofollow links. Dofollow links pass on site authority and showcase your site's credibility ( On the other hand, nofollow links, contributing to nofollow though initially introduced to combat spam, now act as hints to search engines, potentially offering value without directly passing on link equity.

          The focus should be on the quality of external links and internal linking rather than aiming for a specific ratio of dofollow to nofollow links of dofollow to nofollow links. While dofollow links are vital for improving search ranking, nofollow links can still drive referral traffic and enhance brand visibility, making both types integral to a well-rounded strategy (

          Utilize tools such as Semrush's Backlink Analytics and Site Audit for comprehensive insights into your site’s backlink profile and the usage of nofollow tags. This helps in identifying the current composition of your backlinks and spots areas for improvement.

          Key strategies include:

          • Using a mixed approach to linking, combining dofollow and nofollow links to signal a diversified backlink profile to search engines.
          • Leveraging analytical tools for backlink profile assessments to identify strategic opportunities and deficits.

          Continuously monitoring and adapting your use of dofollow and nofollow links is needed for maintaining a reputable backlink profile. This proactively supports maximizing your site's visibility and ranking potential, with dofollow links directly impacting search rankings, and nofollow links playing a significant role in driving referral traffic and enhancing brand presence.

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