Are Quora links here to stay

Nofollow vs. Follow Links: Everything You Need To Know

The rel = “nofollow” tag is one of the simplest HTML tags and one that you should definitely understand if you are into SEO. Learn everything there is to know about nofollow links from this guide

Nofollow links are nothing new. They have been around for 14 years.

If you are concerned about your website's performance on search engines, knowing when and when to avoid nofollowing links is not only important - it is also crucial.

In this guide, I'll explain how nofollow links came about, how they help with search engine optimization (SEO), and how their correct use can protect your website from a dreaded Google penalty.

But first let's look at the basics.

Nofollow links are hyperlinks with a rel = “nofollow” tag.

These links have no influence on the search engine ranking of the target URL, as Google does not transmit PageRank or anchor text. In fact, Google doesn't even crawl the non-following links.

Recommended reading: Google PageRank is NOT dead: why it still matters

Nofollow vs. follow links

Follow and nofollow links look identical to an ordinary website visitor.

The blue text in this sentence is a follow-Link. The blue text in that sentence is a nofollow link. The difference between the two is only visible when you look into the HTML code.

Follow link:

<a href="https://ahrefs.com">blauer Text</a>

Nofollow link:

<a href="https://ahrefs.com" rel="nofollow">blauer Text</a>

The HTML code is identical with the exception of the rel = “nofollow” tag.

It is possible to nofollow all links on a website by adding a robots meta tag with the value “nofollow” in the header. However, the nofollow HTML tag is more commonly used as it allows one to nofollow some links on the page while leaving others to follow.

Not sure why this makes sense? Then it's time for a quick history lesson.

The story of rel = “nofollow”

Google originally introduced the nofollow tag in 2005 to combat comment spam.

If you are a blogger (or blog reader) then you are definitely familiar with people trying to improve the search engine rankings of their own websites by posting blog comments such as “Visit my Discount Pharma Website ”Left behind. This is known as comment spam; we don't like it either, and we've tested a new tag that blocks it. When Google sees the attribute (rel = “nofollow”) for hyperlinks, From now on, these links will no longer be rated when we place websites in our search results. This is not a negative rating for the website the comment was posted on. This is just one way to ensure that spammers don't take advantage of abusing public areas such as blog comments, trackbacks, and referral lists.

Soon after, Yahoo, Bing, and a few other search engines announced the adoption of the nofollow tag.

The interpretation of "nofollow" varies a little between search engines. Here is a table that shows the differences.

Nowadays, WordPress - like many other CMSs - adds the “nofollow” tag to links in the comments by default. Even if you've never heard of a nofollow link, rest assured that spam commenters on your blog are unlikely to get SEO benefit from their efforts.

 

However, if you are concerned that your comments are not nofollowed, check the following:

  1. Find a comment
  2. Right-click the link
  3. Click on "Investigate"
  4. Take a look at the highlighted HTML code.

If you see the “rel = nofollow” tag, the link is a nofollow link. Otherwise it is a follow link.

You don't want to rummage through the HTML code? Then install the extension “nofollow Chrome”, with which all nofollow links are visibly highlighted when you surf the Internet.

Done? Very good! Back to our history lesson.

2009: Google combats PageRank design

PageRank flows through a website via internal links (links from one page of the website to another).

For example, part of the PageRank of this article flows to the other pages of our website via hyperlinks like these. In general, a higher PageRank corresponds to a higher ranking. Gary Illyses confirmed this last year.

DYK that after 18 years we're still using PageRank (and 100s of other signals) in ranking?

Wanna know how it works? Https: //t.co/CfOlxGauGFpic.twitter.com/3YJeNbXLml

- Gary “鯨 理” Illyes (@method) February 9, 2017

(German:

Did you know that even after 18 years we are still using PageRank (and hundreds of other signals) for ranking?

Do you want to know how it works?)

However, the PageRank is only transmitted via follow links, not via nofollow links.

It has always been this way, but the way PageRank is split between the follow links on a page has changed over the years.

Before 2009 the division worked as follows:

If you three Had links on a page and one of them was a nofollow link, the entire PageRank was based on that both split follow links.

Unfortunately, some people used this technique to manipulate rankings by sculpting the flow of PageRank on their websites.

In other words, they nofollow links to their unimportant pages to allow the maximum transfer of PageRank to their "profit" pages.

To stop this practice, Google announced changes in 2009:

So what if you have a page with ten PageRank points and ten outbound links, and five of those links are nofollowed? […] Originally, two PageRank points each flowed into the five links without nofollow. [...] More than a year ago, Google changed the PageRank flow so that one PageRank point now flows into each of the five nofollow links

The following illustration shows the difference between before and after the change:

PageRank is a complex beast. It's been ten years since Google made this change. While Google has not publicly announced any further changes to how PageRank works in recent years, it is likely that some changes have taken place, at least behind the scenes.

While PageRank sculpting is no longer an issue, setting some internal links to nofollow can help with crawl prioritization, since Google doesn't crawl nofollow links.

Search engine robots cannot log in or register as a member of your forum, so there is no need to ask Googlebot to follow "register" or "log in" links. Using nofollow on these links enables Googlebot to crawl other pages that you would rather see in Google's index.

However, this is a bit of an advanced topic so I won't go into it any further here.

Recommended reading: Crawl budget for SEO: the ultimate reference guide

From 2013: Google combats paid links

Google classifies paying or selling links that inherit PageRank as a violation of their webmaster guidelines.

Therefore should all paid links are nofollowed.

This has been the case for many years, including well before 2013.

However, around this time, from what I can see, Google became increasingly concerned about the impact of undisclosed "paid" links on their algorithm ... and has been ever since.

Matt Cutts delves deeper into Google's case for disclosing paid links in this 2013 video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SmlsfSqmOw

To sum it up: Google wants "earned"Reward links, not"paid" Left.

People treat links as editorial votes. They link something because it arouses passion in them. It's something that is interesting. You want to share it with friends. There's a reason they want to highlight this particular link.

The problem is, some paid links look no different than earned links. Think about the difference between a link in a paid review and a link in an unpaid review.

At first glance, both links look identical. Therefore, there must be a way to disclose the paid link to Google.

Think of it this way: There are two ways to get an Oscar:

Option # 1:Burn for acting, continuously improve your skills and work hard for years.
Option # 2:Buy 6 for $ 8.97 on Amazon ...

The nofollow tag (on paid links) is to Google what the $ 8.97 sticker on the bottom of your fake Oscar is to your friends: a tell-tale sign that you do not legitimately deserve it and thus no recognition for your a̶l̶b̶e̶r̶n̶en̶ manipulative̶ Deserved efforts.

Do nofollow links help with SEO?

Let's quickly recap what Google says about the way they deal with nofollow links:

Google does not transmit PageRank or anchor text via these links.

It all seems clear enough until you read the sentence that precedes this:

 Generally we don't follow them. This means that Google does not transmit PageRank or anchor text about these links.

"In general". I think this statement is more vague than it needs to be, and that it implies that Google is following nofollow links in some cases.

Nobody knows what kind of cases these might be.

Some believe that all nofollow links still carry some PageRank. Some think that Google transfers PageRank over a few, but not all, of the nofollow links. Others believe that people are interpreting too much in language that has not changed in seven years.

Earlier this year we examined 44,589 SERPs to see if there was a relationship between Google rankings and various backlink attributes. One of these attributes was the number of backlinks followed.

Here's what we found out:

The correlation for the number of “dofollow” backlinks is slightly weaker than that for the total number of backlinks.

Here's what Tim said about it:

It could Be an indication that Google will rate some nofollow links from strong sites higher than links from weak sites. #who knows 

View this find with a little skepticism. The main aim of this study was not to analyze the effects of nofollow vs. follow links. So we did not try to look at this factor in isolation.

But even if we assume that there are no nofollow links direct They can still have an impact on SEO indirect Have influence. Because:

1. They help diversify your link profile

A natural backlink profile is characterized by diversity.

Some links are follow links and some are not. This fact is inevitable as some people will inevitably link to you through nofollow links ... no matter how much you wish they didn't.

Also, most of the backlinks you get from the following places are nofollow links:

  • Social networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)
  • Forums (Reddit, Quora, etc.)
  • Press releases
  • Guest books (hello, 1998!)
  • Wikipedia (note: anyone can edit a Wikipedia page)
  • Pingbacks
  • Directories

Long story short, if a website only has backlinks, or a strikingly high percentage of backlinks that are follow links, then that's a tell-tale sign that something is wrong.

To check the ratio of follow to nofollow links for a website or webpage, use the overview report in Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Site Explorer> enter any domain, url or any subfolder> overview

It looks like 85% of the referring domains to the Ahrefs blog are dofollow links.

Is that good or bad? To be honest, as long as there is some diversity here, that's a good sign.

What you don't want to see is 100% or almost 100% “dofollow” because that is a clear sign of manipulation. From experience I would say that somewhere between 60-90% is normal - but this range is not mandatory. If you suspect a wrong game, go deeper

2. They bring traffic (visitors), and Taffic (visitors) drive follow links

Links aren't just useful for SEO purposes. They also drive referral traffic.

That's why we're so active at Quora.

In case you've never heard of Quora, it's a question and answer website where anyone can answer the questions other people ask. Within these answers, Quora allows links to relevant resources.

Here is a current answer from our Marketing Manager Rebekah Bek, in which she links to the Ahrefs blog:

Since all outbound links on Quora are nofollow links, this link unfortunately has no direct SEO effect.

But here's the interesting part:

If we do the Backlinks report Check in the Ahrefs Site Explorer on ahrefs.com and filter only for “dofollow” links, here we see one of the many backlinks:

Now let's take a closer look at the referring page (the page the follow link comes from):

The only reason we got this link is because the author of this article came across Rebekah's Quora answer. In other words, the nofollow link indirectly led to a follow link.

So remember: in order for someone to link to you, three things must happen in this order:

  1. you see your content
  2. you are liked on the content
  3. you recommend him to others (via links on their website)

Since nofollow links can help with this first step, they are often a catalyst for follow links.

3. They can protect you against Google penalties

Sometimes there are valid reasons to pay for links.

When a website is getting a lot of traffic, buying a sponsored post on that website can make total sense. And if you're paying good money for a post, then you'll likely want to add a backlink so that readers can easily find your site.

The problem? Google says paid follow links are against webmaster guidelines.

For that matter, the SEO community is generally divided into two camps:

  1. Firstly, those who believe that Google uses an algorithm to precisely identify paid links can.
  2. On the other hand, those who believe that Google uses algorithms for paid links Not identify exactly can.

Which camp is right is a debate for another day.

For now, let's assume Camp # 2 is right and that Google is having a hard time identifying all of the paid links. This means that you can buy and sell links to content carefree and to your heart's content. Correct? Not so fast!

Google has a tool that allows anyone to report a website that is buying or selling links.

Google's tool to report paid links.

Translated, this means: It may not be Google that you should fear - but your competitors.

Think about it: When a competitor sees that you are well placed for their target keyword and uses a tool like Ahrefs ’Site Explorer to look at your backlinks and sees follow-up links like this:

Example of a paid link.

Then why shouldn't he report you?

If this then leads Google's webspam team to take a look at your website, discover the paid links, and apply a manual penalty, that's one less competitor to compete with in search results.

That cleverly brings us to:

How to check your website for nofollow-related issues

Having follow backlinks that violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines is risky.

The same goes for outbound links on your site that should be nofollow.

But it's not just about Google's wrath (i.e. penalties). It is also possible that certain internal links that are nofollowed are affecting your SEO performance.

Below we will conduct a quick audit to identify and fix such issues.

1. Search for dofollow backlinks with keyword rich anchor texts (link texts)

In most cases, people will not use an exact anchor text when linking to your website. Therefore, follow links with exactly matching anchor texts can be a sign of the manipulation of backlinks.

To find them, use the anchor report in Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Site Explorer> enter your domain> anchors> dofollow filter

Here we see that most of the anchor texts on this website are branded or generic (hidden for privacy reasons), but there are nineteen websites (referring domains) that link with the term “payday loans” as anchor text .

If we click on "Details" and then select "Referring Domains", we can see which websites these are.

If we then click on the triangle next to the backlink number, we can see the context of all the links for each domain.

Here are some rough guidelines for dealing with the different types of links you'll find here:

  • Bought links from low quality websites. Request that the link be removed (preferably) or nofollowed. Disavow the link at the site or domain level if the site operator does not.
  • Biography links in guest posts. Have you ever used keyword-rich anchor texts in your author bio in guest posts? Ask the person responsible for this website to replace the keyword-rich link with a branded link. Or, if you prefer to keep the link text, ask that it be nofollowed.
  • Widget links. Change the HTML of your widget so that the link has a nofollow attribute. And ask those who have already embedded your widget to nofollow the link.
  • Page wide links. Request that the link be set to nofollow or that the link text be changed to a marker anchor text.

Note that exactly matching follow links are not always an indication of poor quality or paid links. Such links can appear naturally and under legitimate circumstances.

Therefore, you should always make sure to thoroughly research links before disavowing them or asking for them to be changed to nofollow.

If you don't, you could end up doing more harm than good

For large websites, there can be hundreds or thousands of different anchor texts in the Anchors report. Searching through all of these items can be time consuming.

So here's a quick trick you can use:

First export the complete list of followable anchors (dofollow links).

Site Explorer> enter your domain> anchor> add the filter “dofollow”> export> CSV

Copy all of them and paste them in the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer in groups of up to 10,000 pieces.

Click Search to generate a report, then sort from high to low in the CPC column.

Since high CPC anchors are often more likely to be spammy anchors, this should cause the spammy anchors to move up the list.

Finally, look for anyone looking like spam Anchor in the Anchors report in Site Explorer and investigate them further.

2. Find sponsored follow backlinks

Backlinks from sponsored posts should always be set to nofollow.

That's because you are paying for the link, so it shouldn't pass the PageRank on.

To find such links, search for the word "sponsored" in the backlinks report for your website in the Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Site Explorer> Backlinks> Search for “sponsored”> Filter for “dofollow”.

Contact the site operator and ask that these links be set to nofollow.

3. Look for keyword rich outbound follow links on your website

Did you know Forbes nofollowed all of its outbound links in 2017?

That move came after they noticed that some of their writers were selling follow links from their articles. Because they have a huge number of authors, they decided it was impossible to check all the links on the site. So they opted for the convenient option of nofollowing all links.

Why is that relevant?

If you ever accept guest posts on your website or have user generated content, you could face the same problem.

To find out if this is the case, take a look at your outbound anchors in Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Site Explorer> enter your domain> outbound links> anchors> add the filter “dofollow”

Be on the lookout for suspicious words and phrases that you wouldn't expect to see on your website. Remove or nofollow those that appear manipulative (e.g. keyword-rich anchor texts in guest post biographies, etc.).

Google itself best explains why this is important:

If you cannot or do not want to vouch for the content of pages to which you link from your website - e.g. untrustworthy user comments or guest book entries - you should set these links to nofollow. This can deter spammers from accessing your website and will help prevent your website from inadvertently giving PageRank to bad neighborhoods on the internet. 
Do you see a lot of anchors?

Use the pro tip from step # 1.

4. Look for sponsored follow links on your website

Have you ever accepted a sponsored post on your website? Did you make sure to set the link to nofollow?

If you are unsure, it might be worth checking.

To do that, search Google

Open all results one by one and find the sponsored link.

If you've installed the nofollow Chrome extension, all nofollow links on the page will be highlighted - so the sponsored link should be highlighted. If not, it's a follow link.

Take a look at the HTML code to confirm this.

Right click on the link; click on “Investigate” and look for the rel = “nofollow” tag.

If the tag doesn't exist then it's a follow link and you should add a nofollow tag.

5. Look for internal nofollow links

Internal links should not be set to nofollow unless they refer to unimportant pages or pages that you want to exclude from the search engine index.

To find internal nofollow links, use the report Best by links in Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Site Explorer> enter your domain> best by links> switch to internal> sort by the column “nofollow”.

If you see pages with internal nofollow links, click the number to see where those links are coming from and examine them further. It may be that these are quite useful (e.g. internal nofollow links to a login page).

However, if there is no obvious reason the links are nofollowed, remove the nofollow tag.

That’s the case here. For some reason we have a nofollow link from one blog post to another.

For a more detailed breakdown of the internal issues with nofollow links on your website, do an up-to-date crawl on the Ahrefs Site Audit.

This not only gives you 100% up-to-date data, but also gives you an indication of a number of specific aspects related to internal and external nofollow links

.

Example of issues related to internal nofollow links in Ahrefs Site Audit.

Learn how to set up your first crawl in Site Audit in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjinWqfGyVE

Closing word

Nofollow links play an important role when it comes to SEO.

Hopefully this guide has successfully provided you with the knowledge you need to make good use of nofollow links and make them work for you ... not against you.

Before I close this post, I have one last - probably very obvious - point: If you are actively creating links to your website, then it makes sense to prioritize the creation of follow links. These are the ones that pass the PageRank and have a direct impact on SEO.

In the Site Explorer, all of our backlink-related reports have the filters “dofollow” and “nofollow”.

This makes it easy to prioritize when analyzing competitors' backlink profiles for replicable links or when creating a list of “skyscraper” candidates. Or whatever the case may be.

Do you still have questions? Write to me in the comments below or via Twitter.

Translated by sehrausch.de: Search engine & conversion optimization, online marketing & paid advertising. A perfect fit from a single source.