Nofollow vs Dofollow Links – How to decide

Nofollow vs Dofollow HTML anchor links are important factors in SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It can put significant influence on SERP ranking of a particular website. When a search engine bot crawls a website, it can consider the anchor links on a page content to decide the backlinks (also known as incoming links and outbound links) from/to the page.

See what Matt Cutts says in Webmaster Tools Content Guidelines about nofollow vs dofollow links in website contents.

Well, the question is, do you have a website? If yes, then obviously it is intended for visitors to come into your website and get useful information. How will visitors know about your website? The most popular and faster way we choose to find some information is just to google it (bing is there as well)! So if you want some visitors to reach up to your website you should mind how your site is appearing in search engines. Now comes the topic of SEO. The more your site is optimized for search engines, the better it will appear in the search engine result pages (SERP). Ranking a site higher in the SERPs is not so easy nowadays. There are lots of factors taken into account. Like Domain Authority, PageRank, Backlinks, Social presence, content quality and many more things.

Having links to external sites in your contents is good to build Backlinks for your website, which is an important factor in SEO PageRank. But one should very wisely decide which links to make dofollow and which ones should be nofollow. Dofollow is a non-existing term. It represents the anchor links which doesn’t have rel=”nofollow” attribute. Nofollow is a value which can be assigned to “rel” attribute of HTML anchor link tags.
<a href="" rel="nofollow,external" target="_blank">anchor text<a>
Nofollow and Dofollow rel values decide how it passes the PageRank or link SEO juice to the linked website. One thing needs to be kept in mind that nofollow doesn’t mean noindex to search engines.

What are nofollow and dofollow?

Nofollow doesn’t instruct search engine bots to not to follow the link. Rather, nofollow tells major search engine bots that the link can be followed, crawled, and indexed but the PageRank will not be taken into account during that. Simple, wise, and logical, isn’t it?

Dofollow is just the opposite of nofollow, but again it’s not a real value for the rel attribute. If an anchor link doesn’t contain rel=”nofollow”, that means it’s a dofollow link. Search engine bots will follow, crawl, and index the link, plus PageRank will be taken into account.

How to check?

View Source: You can use view source of the HTML (all major browsers support this feature, Ctrl + U or Right Click -> View Page Source) to find out which anchor links have rel=”nofollow” and which are not.

Tool/Add-on: You can use any browser extension/add-on or any online tools available.

Advantages and disadvantages of having Nofollow

  1. Advantage: It helps to reduce comment spam. Comment spamming is a technique where spammers inject non-authoritative or low-quality external site links into your site comments and your overall PageRank SEO juice leaks to the external sites.
  2. Advantage: Reduces the risk of diluting your PageRank by linking out too many external sites.
  3. Advantage: Preserves overall PageRank of your website.
  4. Disadvantage: Less attracts visitors to comment on your website which leads to less traffic.
  5. Disadvantage: Prevents building quick backlinks which hold back you PageRank.
  6. Disadvantage: Less traffic means f clicks of the advertisements if you have any which further means less earnings.

Here is a good blog post in Moz on the benefits of having nofollow vs dofollow links.

Advantages and disadvantages of not having Nofollow, i.e. having Dofollow

  1. Advantage: More visitors comes to your site for comments which leads to more traffic and popularity.
  2. Advantage: Increased chances of getting more inbound links to your Website, that helps your PageRank to increase further.
  3. Advantage: More traffic means increase your revenue from affiliate programs and other advertisements.
  4. Disadvantage: Your site becomes more spam comment prone which need you to put more time and effort towards your site to clean those up.
  5. Disadvantage: Unwise choice of making links dofollow may lead to passing SEO juice to a site having lower Domain Authority or PageRank

Some more useful insights on nofollow vs dofollow links by Matt Cutts on his blog post PageRank Sculpting.

Now let’s talk about the rel=nofollow attribute. Nofollow is method (introduced in 2005 and supported by multiple search engines) to annotate a link to tell search engines “I can’t or don’t want to vouch for this link.” In Google, nofollow links don’t pass PageRank and don’t pass anchortext [*].

So what happens when you have a page with “ten PageRank points” and ten outgoing links, and five of those links are nofollowed? Let’s leave aside the decay factor to focus on the core part of the question. Originally, the five links without nofollow would have flowed two points of PageRank each (in essence, the nofollowed links didn’t count toward the denominator when dividing PageRank by the outdegree of the page). More than a year ago, Google changed how the PageRank flows so that the five links without nofollow would flow one point of PageRank each.

Nofollow vs Dofollow – Observation and Decision-Making Suggestions

Where to use rel=”nofollow”:

  • The thumb rule is, use nofollow for any links that is questionable to you or you don’t know the quality of the content of the site or you don’t trust the site or don’t want to vouch for it.
  • Use nofollow for any Social Networks, like Facebook, Adsense etc.
  • Should use nofollow for resource pages having contents congested with external links
  • Add nofollow for security/trust seals/badges such as VeriSign, TrustGuard, BBB (Better Business Bureau) etc.
  • Use nofollow for your site’s RSS feed. It’s a good idea to make the RSS feed links noindex as well.
  • Use nofollow for any paid advertising space that you sell on your Website.
  • Use nofollow for any affiliate links.

Where to use dofollow:

  • The thumb rule is, don’t use nofollow for any internal links for your website until and unless you deliberately want to exclude that page being taken into consideration.
  • Niche links, who shares same interest on the contents on your website, can be dofollow links.
  • Any type of blog posts within the site should be dofollow.

It’s true that better SEO practices like proper nofollow vs dofollow links help your site ranking. But ultimately, SEO practices are like garnishing a good food which represents itself better upon serving the food. If the food is not good enough, garnishing it well is not going to save you at all, ha ha :). Try to make your contents more authoritative and informative to visitors. That’s the main factor matters for Domain Authority and PageRank at the end of the day.

5 thoughts on “Nofollow vs Dofollow Links – How to decide

  1. Shalu V

    Good explanation.

    Are you sure nofollow will stop indexing also or just only passing link juice?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Supratim Roy Post author

      Nofollow will not stop indexing, however, it will surely stop passing the link juice. While the search engine bot is crawling a website, it will not start following an external link if nofollow is specified.

  2. Custom PC builder

    I prefer both Do-follow and No-follow links. Few high authority sites may give No-follow links, but its worth having it.

  3. Dinesh Mitra

    Supratim, is this something we must need to maintain? As a programmer, I need take take care of some SEO aspects as well, like tags and attributes etc. But I never thought something on anchor links. Deciding nofollow and dofollow is absolutely necessary or not? If you can let me know it will surely help with my work. Thanks in advance though. And not to mention, another great post!

    1. Supratim Roy Post author

      Hey Dinesh,

      Please accept my sincere apology for replying to your comment after this looooong time. I really missed this comment. The thumb rule is if you are linking to a site having higher domain authority, then you can have it without nofollow, but if you are linking to a site with lower or similar domain authority ranking, then you must need to have rel=”nofollow,external” to not to pass the SEO juice to that site.


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