Nofollow vs. Dofollow Links: Everything You Need to Know

Nofollow vs. dofollow links — is there a difference?

Links are the backbone of the internet. They are what makes the internet, well, the internet.

However, not all links are the same. There are many different types of links, each with its benefits and use cases. That’s why, as you build links on your site, you must know two important link categories: dofollow links and nofollow links. You also need to understand how they affect your SEO strategy.

The Value of Links on Your Website

Before we delve into the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, let’s backtrack a bit and look at how links affect your site.

As said, the internet is made up of links, some pointing to your website (backlinks), others from your website to other websites (external links), and yet others within your website (internal links).

Every link sends a signal to Google about the value of the page being linked to. These are considered votes of confidence, showing that a page has valuable content. Ultimately, the more links a page has pointing to it, the higher search engines rank it.

This is where the issue with dofollow links and nofollow links comes into play.

As you build backlinks to your site and link out to other sites, it makes a huge difference whether the links are dofollow or nofollow.

Nofollow vs. Dofollow: The Difference in a Nutshell

Nofollow vs. dofollow — what’s the difference?

We must define the two to best understand the difference.

Let’s quickly do that, shall we?

What is a Dofollow Link?

Technically speaking, there’s no such thing as a dofollow link. The reason for that is all links, by default, are dofollow unless otherwise changed. Here’s what a dofollow link looks like:

<a href="">anchor text here</a>

Search engines will follow every link on your site unless you add a rel=”nofollow” tag. For example, if you link to another website in your content, that link is a dofollow link by default. Search engines will consider your link a vote of confidence for the site you are linking to. Also, if a website links to your site, by default, they’re signaling to search engines that your website is a valuable resource.

This is why you must strive to build dofollow backlinks.  A few strategies to help you do that include:

  • Publish valuable content that readers find helpful.
  • Create a useful tool and give it away for free. Other publications will link to it in their content.
  • Guest post on sites that offer dofollow links.

But what happens if you want to link to a web page without endorsing it to search engines?

This is where the rel=”nofollow” attribute comes in.    

What is a Nofollow Link?

Linking to another website is a way of establishing a relationship between you and the website you’re pointing to. Sometimes, however, you want to link to a resource and not build that relationship.

Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to a link severs that relationship.

 Therefore, a nofollow link is a link from your site to another (or vice versa) that doesn’t pass link equity to the site it’s pointing to. As a result, search engines won’t follow that link as they crawl the website. Also, they won’t assign any value to that link.

Here’s what a nofollow link looks like:

<a href="" rel="nofollow">anchor text here</a>

The History of the Nofollow Link

To better understand the nofollow attribute, we need to take a short trip down memory lane. We need to understand why Google introduced the nofollow attribute.

One of the main reasons Google introduced the nofollow attribute was to combat spam links. These are usually a result of user-generated content (UGC) and unscrupulous marketers trying to game the system. Google realized this and made a way for website owners and admins to protect themselves from such bad practices by introducing nofollow links.

Another element that moved search engines to introduce and implement nofollow links is a bid to combat paid links. These go against webmaster guidelines. As such, all sponsored links must be assigned a nofollow link. This resulted in the introduction of two other link attributes:

  • rel=”ugc”: used for user-generated content like comments and forum posts.
  • rel=”sponsored”:  used for paid or sponsored links, including ads and other agreements involving compensation.

Both evolved out of the need to differentiate links that shouldn’t be given the same weight as first-party endorsements. Don’t worry. Adding these link attributes is super easy with AIOSEO.

How to Add Nofollow Links in WordPress

How do you add nofollow links to your content?

If you’re a WordPress user, it’s easier than saying AIOSEO.

If you haven’t downloaded AIOSEO yet, there’s no better time than now.

After installing and activating the plugin, open the page you want to edit, and highlight your anchor text. A menu bar will appear above the highlighted text. On the menu bar, click the link icon:

Once you know the difference between nofollow vs. dofollow links, the next step is knowing how to add nofollow links in WordPress.

Next, add your external link in the window that pops up. You’ll be provided with setting options for your link.

Adding nofollow links is easy with AIOSEO. Simply highlight the anchor text and you'll be given options of the attribute you want to add.

Select the Add “nofollow” to link option and hit Enter. That’s it — you’ve added a nofollow attribute to your external link. You’ll also notice that you also have the option of adding sponsored and UGC attributes to your link.

The Impact of Nofollow Links on SEO

Does this mean nofollow links have no SEO benefit?

Not at all.

While these links were strictly nofollow and carried little weight, Google announced they’d start treating them like hints. This way, they can still follow the links to understand the page’s content better. While they may still just be hints to search engines, nofollow links also have the benefits of:

  • Driving relevant traffic to your site. This can happen when people decide to follow the link.
  • Resulting in residual dofollow links from other publications that discover that link and wish to link to it as a dofollow link.
  • Helping boost brand awareness.
  • Being useful in building a natural link portfolio.

As you can see, nofollow links aren’t completely worthless. On the contrary, they positively impact your SEO, even though it’s mostly indirectly. 

Nofollow vs. Dofollow: Which Should You Use for External Links?

Now that you know the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, you’re probably wondering which you should use for your external links.

Don’t worry. We have you covered. 

Use Nofollow Links When:

  • You don’t want to endorse a site
  • Placing a sponsored link on your site
  • Adding affiliate links to your site (as Google views them as a form of monetization)
  • Users are allowed to insert links on your site via UGC 
  • You want to protect yourself from Google penalties

Use a Dofollow Link When:

Now that you know when to use nofollow links for external links, you’re probably wondering when to use the dofollow attribute to a link. Use the dofollow attribute when:

  • Linking to an authoritative website
  • Endorsing a valuable resource your readers will find helpful

Remember, using the dofollow tag signals to search engines that you endorse the website you’re pointing to. If the website is dodgy, search engines will associate you with that dodgy website. So be careful when linking out to other websites in your content. Only use the dofollow attribute when you’re absolutely sure the website is reputable.

Dofollow vs. Nofollow Links: Manage Your Links Strategically

Every link you build on your website has an impact on your SEO. That’s why you must manage them all strategically. 

Thankfully, this is easy to do with a powerful tool like AIOSEO. For one, assigning different link attributes is a no-code process. Also, you can use the new Link Assistant feature to pull up all the external links on your site automatically. This allows for the quick deletion of irrelevant links. But, more importantly, you can easily edit each link and add a nofollow attribute — and that without opening each page individually.

If you don’t want to mess with HTML tags as you add links, AIOSEO is the tool that can help you do that. 

Thinking of conducting a link audit and changing some of the links to rel=”nofollow,” rel=”sponsored,” or rel=”ugc”?

You can speed up that process with AIOSEO.

So, go ahead and download AIOSEO now!

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author avatar
Kato Nkhoma Content Writer
Kato is one of those rare unicorns born with a pen in his hand—so the legend says. He’s authored 2 books and produced content for hundreds of brands. When he’s not creating content for AIOSEO, you’ll find him either watching tech videos on YouTube or playing with his kids. And if you can’t find him, he’s probably gone camping.

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8 comments on “Nofollow vs. Dofollow Links: Everything You Need to Know

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