NoFollow tags in links

What are “nofollow” Links and are they important for your SEO Strategy?

Lets start with links and their importance.

“Backlinks” are incoming links to your website and they are an important component of achieving visibility of your website on the search engines.

Search engines have algorithms that measure the number of backlinks a website or web page has, and ranks those web pages with more and relevant backlinks in a higher position.

The more quality backlinks a page has, the more value it will have in the eyes of the search engines. Quality backlinks are one of the most important factors for SEO success. A spider will follow a link on one page to visit the next page, and will therefore pass on credibility and influence from one page to the next.

What is the Nofollow attribute?

Nofollow is an html attribute value that tells search engines not to pass on any credibility or influence to an outbound link. In other words, you are telling the search engines ‘don’t follow this link”

The nofollow tag looks like this:

<a href=”http://www.example.com/”rel=”nofollow”>your text here</a>

The nofollow tag was originally designed to prevent blog spam. If you have a blog you may know lots of people leave pointless messages with links to their own sites. They do that in the hope they get a benefit from their links on your blog.

Why would you use the no follow tag?

You would use the nofollow tag if for example, if you do not trust (or cannot vouch for) the content of an outbound link.

Or if you have a blog, the nofollow tag makes it less interesting to “spam” your site with comments and links.

Remember that a link ‘leaks” PageRank from the page the link is on. The nofollow attribute will prevent your site from passing valuable PageRank to bad neighborhoods on the web, and prevents “leakage” therefore holding on to your hard earned PageRank.

In turn, if your link is on a site with a nofollow tag on it, you will not benefit from the PageRank of the linking site. When you build links to your website you should keep in mind that the web page where your link has been placed should not have the “nofollow” attribute.

What is PageRank sculpting and does it make sense?

It is your homepage that normally has the highest PageRank and from there is gets distributed to your internal pages. But not all your pages need to have PageRank so a nofollow tag reserves the PageRank where it matters.

Many people have resorted to trying to influence how PageRank is distributed on their site. This is often referred as PageRank sculpting.

For example, you may have an RSS feed on your site so people can easily subscribe to your content. There is no reason for this feed to appear in search results and hence it does not need PageRank. To avoid sharing the link juice you could opt to put a nofollow tag on that link.

However, Google’s Matt Cutss explains in his own blog that nofollow links do NOT help sites rank higher in Google search results.

Should you use a Nofollow tag? Is it all worth it?

There are some instances where placing nofollow links make sense. If you have a blog you simply could not vouch for the links people place in their comments. Or if you had a page that did not have to appear in any search results ever, you could use the nofollow tag (in conjunction with the No Follow Meta Tag).

Nonetheless, I would recommend you focus on writing simply great content that people are keen to link to. That is what its all about.

Jen