It’s interesting to see that more and more marketing and communication people are showing an interest in SEO. I notice it because of the sometimes quite advanced questions I get.
One of the more advanced questions I’m most often asked is; “Should I make all my outgoing links Nofollow?”
In this post I will try and clear up the sense and non-sense of Nofollow.
What is Nofollow?
Nofollow is an attribute (a piece of code) that you – as a blogger or web publisher – can add to an outgoing link on your website.
By adding this piece of code to the link you prevent link juice from being passed on to the webpage that is receiving the link. This link juice contains information such as anchortext and most importantly: PageRank.
Refresh me on PageRank
PageRank (PR) is an algorithm invented by Google. It analyses how important a web page is on the internet, compared to other pages. Every web page on the web gets a PageRank which is a number between 0 (lowest) and 10 (highest).
The more links you get, the higher your PR. A link from a high PR website, is more valuable then a link from a low PR website.
The way PageRank works is that, when you link to another website, you lose some of your PR. When another website links to yours, you gain some PR.
How does PageRank effect SEO?
You can compare PageRank to a voting system. The one website gives the other website the thumbs up. Depending on how popular this site is, that link can increase the PR of the receiving website.
But this is not the main issue with passing on PageRank to another website. The main issue is that you give a website your vote. Your approval. By giving a website a link, you tell Google that you value and Trust this website.
Why was Nofollow invented?
Some websites are not trusted by Google. These are often spammy websites, or websites that have in other ways violated Google’s rules (link farming, keyword stuffing, manipulative content, paid links, etc).
When you give a link to one of these website, you get penalised by Google. This negatively impacts your SEO. This is a nuisance because you don’t always know when to trust a link.
For instance, when people leave a comment on your blog, these comments often contain one or more links to other websites. Spammers of course quickly saw this as an opportunity to spam the comment sections of blog with links to their spammy websites.
By adding the Nofollow attribute to the outgoing link in the comment section, you prevent link juice from flowing through to the receiving website.
How Nofollow was misused
It was long thought that by not passing on the link juice to another web site, you could keep all the PageRank to yourself. So, website owners and bloggers quickly started using the Nofollow attribute on pretty much all outgoing links.
In addition, they started using Nofollow also in their internal links. This is called ‘PageRank sculpting’. This technique allowed web site owners to artificially make one web page more important then the other.
The Nofollow myth debunked
When you now add the Nofollow attribute to a link, that link juice (PageRank) does leak out of your website. It just doesn’t get passed on to the receiving website. It kind of vaporises.
Should you use Nofollow, and how?
As mentioned above, Nofollow is a useful tool to use in the comment section of a blog. This way you avoid the risk of linking to untrustworthy websites.
But on the other hand, the good guys suffer. When someone leaves a link to a web page that adds value to the conversation, that web page should get awarded with a bit of link juice.
Also, in the comment header, people can leave their email- and website address. By having a so called ‘Dofollow’ blog, you encourage other bloggers to comment on your blog because it gets them a valuable link to their website or blog.
So, you could consider not using Nofollow in the comment section of your blog. The only thing you then need to do, is actively analyse and access the comments on your blog. Hold comments with more than two links for moderation. And when someone leaves a stupid comment, just because he wants to get a link back; delete the comment.
Nofollow and PageRank in perspective
So, using the Nofollow attribute has everything to do with passing on PageRank from one web page to another. You win some, you lose some. It’s give and take.
When you are just starting out learning about SEO, you will think that losing PageRank is bad for SEO. To extend, that is true.
My advice is to not worry about it too much. It’s not where you should focus. In the last few years, the importance of PageRank as a direct ranking factor, has decreased.
Other factors are much more important: make sure Google trusts you!
- By creating quality content
- By taking good care of On-Page SEO
- By being in social media
- By not screwing up on the technical aspects of your website.
A final note
I don’t use Nofollow on the outgoing links in my own blog. In my blog posts I know who I link to. I trust these sites.
The reason I put in these links is because they serve as a reference and to give my readers more information. Because the information (content) on these sites is valuable they deserve to be acknowledged for that. So I give them a bit of PageRank.
It’s my personal view that these outgoing links actually help my SEO. It places me in a link environment (or cluster or whatever you want to call it) that helps Google understand what my blog is about. It tells Google that my content is referencing other quality content. I see it as good karma (hence the picture :-p).
At the moment, the comments in my blog are still Nofollow. But I intend to change that. When people leave good comments on my blog; they can get a link from me. Credit where credit is due.
I will write a post about it as soon as my blog goes 100% Dofollow.
My motto: no, no, no, no, no, no, there’s Nofollow!
I hope this posts helped to explain what Nofollow is, and what it means to you. If there is anything still unclear, by all means… drop me a comment!