Ever stumbled upon the term “nofollow” while tinkering with your website’s links? Maybe you heard whispers about how it affects SEO or saw it pop up in your website builder. It’s a little tag you can add to a link, and it’s caused quite a bit of confusion.

Let’s face it: most of us aren’t link-tagging experts. We’re business owners, bloggers, or marketers trying to get our websites seen. So, when we hear about “nofollow,” our minds might jump to questions like:

  • “Does this thing actually matter?”
  • “Will it hurt my website if I use it wrong?”
  • “Is this just another SEO trick I don’t have time for?”

If you’re nodding along, you’re not alone. But here’s the good news: we’re going to clear up the nofollow mystery and help you figure out if (and when) it has a place on your website. No jargon, no overcomplicated explanations – just practical advice you can actually use.

In simple terms, a nofollow link is like a little note you attach to a link on your website. This note tells search engines like Google, “Hey, don’t follow this link and pass along any of my website’s authority.”

Think of it like this:

  • Regular (or “dofollow”) links: These are like a vote of confidence. When you link to another website, you’re essentially saying, “This is a good resource, and I trust it enough to send my visitors there.” Search engines take notice of these votes and use them to help figure out which websites are most relevant and trustworthy.
  • Nofollow links: These are like saying, “I’m linking to this, but I’m not vouching for it.” It’s a way to tell search engines, “Don’t count this link as a recommendation from me.”

Why would you want to use a nofollow link? There are a few common reasons:

  • Paid links: If you’re getting paid to put a link on your website (like in an advertisement or sponsored content), you’ll want to use nofollow. This is important to avoid looking like you’re trying to manipulate search engine rankings.
  • Untrusted content: Maybe you’re linking to a comment on your blog, or a forum post, or something else you don’t fully endorse. Nofollow helps you avoid associating your website with content you’re not sure about.
  • Certain internal links: In some cases, you might want to use nofollow on links within your own website. We’ll dive into those situations a bit later.

So, there you have it! Nofollow links are just a way to add a little nuance to how search engines see the links on your website.

Now, here’s where things get a little tricky. While nofollow is pretty straightforward when it comes to external links, using it on internal links (the ones that point to other pages within your own website) has sparked some debate.

Some people argue that nofollow on internal links can be a useful tool for:

  • Sculpting PageRank: The idea here is that by using nofollow on certain internal links, you can control how much of your website’s “link juice” (a measure of authority) flows to different pages. This could potentially boost the rankings of the pages you want to prioritize.
  • De-indexing Low-Value Pages: You might have pages on your site that aren’t important for SEO, like thank-you pages or admin areas. Some folks suggest using nofollow to keep these pages out of search engine indexes.

However, there are also some strong arguments against using nofollow on internal links:

  • Google’s Shifting Stance: Google has changed its stance on nofollow over the years. While it used to be a strict directive, it’s now more of a hint. This means Google might still choose to crawl and index pages even if they have nofollow links pointing to them.
  • Potential for Harm: Some SEO experts believe that using nofollow on internal links can actually hurt your website’s overall SEO by disrupting the natural flow of link juice.
  • Overcomplicating Things: Let’s be honest, most of us don’t have the time or expertise to meticulously manage the flow of link juice on our websites. Adding nofollow to internal links can add unnecessary complexity without guaranteed benefits.
FeatureInternal Nofollow LinksExternal Nofollow Links
PurposeControversial, limited useCommon, clear guidelines
Impact on SEOPotentially harmful or neutralGenerally neutral or positive
Recommended Use CasesDuplicate content, trackingPaid links, untrusted content
Risk LevelHigherLower

So, what’s the verdict?

In most cases, it’s generally best to avoid using nofollow on internal links. Unless you have a specific reason and a solid understanding of the potential consequences, it’s usually better to let search engines crawl and index your entire website naturally.

Expert Opinion: Matt Cutts Weighs In

In a video Q&A, Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s webspam team, strongly advised against using nofollow on internal links. He explained that doing so disrupts the natural flow of PageRank and can actually harm your website’s overall SEO.

Cutts emphasized that nofollow should be reserved for very specific situations, like preventing search engine bots from crawling login pages. In the vast majority of cases, he recommends letting PageRank flow naturally throughout your site.

“I would not use nofollow on internal links. … The vast, vast, vast majority of the time I would say, ‘Don’t add nofollow on internal links.’ Let PageRank flow however you want.”

This expert opinion reinforces the idea that nofollow on internal links is rarely beneficial and should be avoided unless you have a very specific reason and a clear understanding of the potential consequences.

While nofollow on internal links isn’t generally recommended, there are a couple of specific situations where it might be worth considering:

  1. Duplicate Content: If you have multiple pages on your website with very similar content (like product variations or slightly different versions of an article), you could use nofollow on some of the internal links to consolidate those pages’ authority. However, be cautious with this, as it can be tricky to get right. It’s often better to address duplicate content issues with canonical tags or by consolidating the content itself.
  2. Tracking Purposes: If you’re using a tool to track clicks on specific internal links, you might add nofollow to those links to prevent them from influencing your analytics data. This is a more technical use case and usually only applies in specific scenarios.

It’s important to note that even in these situations, nofollow might not always be the best solution. It’s crucial to weigh the potential benefits against the risks and to consider alternative strategies.

What Should You Do?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry – that’s totally normal! Nofollow can be a confusing topic. Here’s a simplified approach to help you make a decision:

  1. Focus on the Basics: If you’re new to SEO or just trying to build a simple website, don’t stress about nofollow on internal links. Focus on creating high-quality content, building natural backlinks, and optimizing your website for users. These are the fundamental elements that will have the biggest impact on your SEO.
  2. Proceed with Caution: If you’re considering using nofollow on internal links, do your research and understand the potential risks. It’s a good idea to consult with an SEO expert before implementing any changes.
  3. Test and Monitor: If you do decide to experiment with nofollow, carefully track your website’s performance. Keep an eye on your search engine rankings and organic traffic to see if there are any positive or negative effects.

Remember, nofollow is just one small piece of the SEO puzzle. It’s not a magic bullet, and it’s certainly not something you need to obsess over. By focusing on the core principles of good SEO, you can create a successful website without getting bogged down in the complexities of nofollow.

Examples of When to Use NoFollow or Other Solution

Let’s bring this all to life with a couple of real-world scenarios:

Scenario 1: The Affiliate Marketer

You run a blog where you review and recommend products, earning a commission through affiliate links. You want to make sure you’re following best practices and not getting penalized by search engines.

The Solution: In this case, using nofollow on your affiliate links is a must. It clearly signals to search engines that these are not organic endorsements but rather commercial relationships.

Scenario 2: The Forum Moderator

You manage an online forum where users can post comments and links. You’re concerned about spammy or low-quality links harming your website’s reputation.

The Solution: Consider adding nofollow to the links in your forum’s comments section. This helps protect your site from being associated with questionable content.

Scenario 3: The E-commerce Store Owner

You have an online store with multiple versions of the same product (e.g., different sizes or colors). You’re worried about duplicate content issues.

The Solution: While you could use nofollow to try and consolidate link equity, it’s generally a better idea to address this with canonical tags. These tags tell search engines which version of the page is the “master” copy, helping to avoid confusion and potential penalties.

Additional Tips & Considerations

  • Focus on user experience: Remember, the primary goal of your website should be to provide value to your visitors. Don’t get so caught up in the technicalities of nofollow that you forget to prioritize user-friendly navigation and relevant content.
  • Keep up with the latest guidelines: Search engine algorithms and best practices are constantly evolving. Stay informed about any changes to how nofollow is interpreted and used.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment (carefully): If you’re experienced with SEO and have a specific reason to try nofollow on internal links, test it out on a small scale. Monitor the results closely and be prepared to revert the changes if you don’t see the desired outcomes.

Start: Should I use nofollow on internal links?

Question 1: Are you new to SEO or building a simple website?

  • Yes:
    • Stop here! You likely don’t need to worry about nofollow. Focus on quality content and user experience.
  • No:
    • Proceed to Question 2.

Question 2: Do you have a specific reason to use nofollow (e.g., duplicate content, tracking)?

  • Yes:
    • Proceed to Question 3.
  • No:
    • Stop here! It’s generally best to avoid nofollow on internal links.

Question 3: Have you consulted with an SEO expert?

  • Yes:
    • Proceed with caution. Test on a small scale and closely monitor results.
  • No:
    • Stop here! Consult an SEO expert before implementing nofollow on internal links. It’s crucial to understand the potential risks and ensure it aligns with your overall SEO strategy.

Keep It Simple, Focus on Value

The bottom line is this: nofollow on internal links is a tool that requires a nuanced understanding and careful consideration. In most cases, it’s not necessary and could potentially do more harm than good.

If you’re a beginner, focus on the fundamentals of SEO:

  • Create high-quality, engaging content that people actually want to read and share.
  • Build natural backlinks from reputable websites.
  • Optimize your website for both search engines and users.

If you’re more experienced and considering using nofollow on internal links, proceed with caution:

  • Thoroughly research the potential benefits and risks.
  • Consult with an SEO professional to get expert advice.
  • Test any changes on a small scale and monitor the results closely.

Remember, SEO isn’t about tricks or shortcuts. It’s about creating a valuable website that serves your audience’s needs. By prioritizing quality content and user experience, you’ll be well on your way to achieving long-term success in search engine rankings.