Follow Links vs Nofollow Links: What You Need to Know

Understanding Follow and Nofollow links is important if you are a webmaster, blogger, writer, or business owner looking to maximize your digital performance.

Follow links and  NoFollow links are one of those tricky technical topics in SEO.

If you are starting out in search engine optimization and link building for your site, it is very important to learn the difference between Follow and NoFollow links.

Adding these links to your SEO toolbox can help raise your website's profile. Let's take a look at what they are, why they are used, and how they can help you better connect with your target audience.

Follow Links vs Nofollow Links: What You Need to Know

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What Are Follow Links?

Follow links are backlinks that tell search engine spiders to follow the hyperlink. This type of inbound link signals a relevant and useful link to the crawlers. Essentially, the author is vouching for the linked site and telling readers "Hey, I found this page useful. Maybe you'd like to check it out too".

These are also commonly called Dofollow links. They tell crawlers to follow the link, crawl the page and give credit to the linking page. With each follow link from other pages, a linked page receives "votes" for its credibility. The more votes a page has, the more likely it is to rank higher in the SERPs.

These are the cream of the crop in terms of inbound links. You want them because they bring readers to your page and crawlers to your content. They also give you a taste of the sweet link juice every site needs.

What Are Nofollow Links?

These are different types of inbound links. Unlike Do Follow links, they have a Nofollow attribute in the HTML tag that tells crawlers that they should not follow the link. Readers, on the other hand, see a Do Follow link the same way. It is a hyperlink that opens a new page when they click on it. The only way to tell the difference is by looking at the HTML tag.

Another notable difference with Dofollow links is that Nofollow links do not earn credibility points. For search engines, these types of links are not trusted. For some reason, the linking site is not willing to vouch for the site they love. Therefore, they simply don't follow the hyperlink.

Why use Nofollow links?

Follow Links vs Nofollow Links: What You Need to Know

If search engine spiders don't "count" Nofollow links in the same way as Do Follow links, why do they exist in the first place?

Initially, Nofollow links were created to combat spam and backlink abuse.

In the early 2000s, blogs began to emerge as a lucrative sector of the online world. Seeing this, spammers took the opportunity to comment on articles with links back to their own site. This tactic proved to be effective and spread like wildfire, wreaking havoc on the SERPs.

Users were no longer able to get the information they were looking for from distorted search results.

Comment spam disrupted search engine algorithms and allowed spammy sites to rank high. With quality sites taking a back seat, Google needed to find a way to prevent comment spam and maintain reliable search results. So in 2005, he helped develop a kind of superhero: the Nofollow HTML link tag.

When to use Nofollow links

So when should you use nofollow on a link? You need to analyze the site you are linking to and determine if you should use a setting, and if so, which one.

Spam sites. In general, you should avoid linking to these sites, but if you absolutely want to throw some of your own page's link juice into a black hole just to give your users a link, then nofollow.

Low-quality sites. Sites that aren't spam, but aren't very good, may be worth nofollowing. It mostly depends on whether you think the site will improve and is worth a little SEO boost, or if you don't want to risk linking to a site that will never be good.

Small sites. Relatively new and small sites often run into problems with search penalties. If you link to them, it may hurt your site a little, but not too much. It's also possible for a small, unknown site to disappear and be replaced, to be hacked and become malicious, or to become a spam site, so you should nofollow them out of an abundance of caution.

Internal links. Links to other pages on your site are almost always acceptable, and there's no reason not to follow them. In fact, keeping some PageRank circulating internally is generally a good idea. The only time you might want to nofollow an internal link is if it leads to a landing page or other page that is not indexed, so the value of the link doesn't matter anyway.

Promotional links. Links that are ads, are sponsored, or point to other products or services you sell that could be considered promotional links can be set to nofollow, but you can also use rel=sponsored for them. In fact, Google recommends using the sponsored tag, or both nofollow and sponsored tags, if you want to be absolutely sure.

Example links. These are links to a site that has absolutely nothing to do with yours, but that you use as an example. For example, I might link to a shoe store to discuss how their site is designed. I have no reason to give them link juice, and the content is unrelated, so I might as well nofollow it. But it doesn't really matter in either case.

Comments and other UGC links. This link is pretty obvious; if a link is generated on your site and you didn't place it manually, it should be reported as a nofollow link at least. Google also likes it if you report them as UGC links, but this is a relatively new preference and not a requirement, so you won't be penalized for simply using nofollow.

Household names. There's nothing wrong with linking to a site like Forbes, Time, NPR, or another household name. It doesn't matter if you give them a little value, nor does it matter if you don't. Google knows they are trustworthy and you will never be penalized, even if the content is not relevant to your blog.

When should rel="ugc" and rel="sponsored" be used?

Nofollow links have evolved since their creation. Now there are many ways to specify outbound links with the HTML attributes rel=" UGC" and rel=" sponsored".

Rel="UGC" is for user-generated content. Comments and forums are two types of user-generated content.

Rel="sponsored" is for sponsored content. Use this option for advertisements, affiliate links, or any other links that are exchanged for money or goods.

Crawling, indexing and ranking

Follow Links vs Nofollow Links: What You Need to Know

Search engines perform three basic functions: crawling, indexing, and ranking.


This is when Google deploys bots to crawl the Internet. These robots are often called "crawlers" or "spiders". They analyze the content and HTML codes of all the URLs they encounter.

It is important to note that crawlers discover the URLs of websites via links. They start by inspecting a few pages and follow the backlinks of these pages to find new ones.

They can also find pages via a sitemap file that must be regularly updated by the webmaster.


Once the content is discovered, it is then indexed. This means that it is stored to be referenced when a user launches a search.

Not all content needs to be indexed. This is the case, for example, for an administrative page of a website, such as the privacy policy or the shipping page.

Through the use of the HTML code "Noindex", the webmaster can stop the indexing of irrelevant pages.


The ranking is the process by which a search engine organizes indexed content from most relevant to least relevant each time a user submits a search.

A digital marketing agency that works on SEO focuses on ranking businesses well on a SERP. A business wants to reach its potential customers via the web. A search engine's goal, on the other hand, is to provide the most relevant and useful content to the user.

When all three work in harmony, ranking becomes natural and logical.

Why Are Backlinks Important for SEO?

Follow Links vs Nofollow Links: What You Need to Know

Simply because they let crawlers know that a site has been vouched for and is considered a reliable source.

The more websites that link to your content, the more users and the Internet as a whole trust you. Search engines consider backlinks as "votes". The more you have, the more trustworthy your site is - and therefore, the higher your website ranking is likely to be. Higher rankings mean more traffic, more visitors, more sales, and more success.

How to Create Backlinks

We know they are an important part of building a successful website, but how do you get backlinks?

Create Quality Content

This is the best way to get backlinks organically. If you publish great content, others will want to link to it.

If you can create eye-catching, thought-provoking, link-worthy content, others will notice. Better yet, others will link to that content.

Speak Up

Leave comments on blog posts. Make sure they are thoughtful ideas that move the discussion forward.

Respond to forums. As with comments, responses should provide reliable information.

Give testimonials about someone else's product or service. If you praise someone, they may want to share it on their site and possibly provide a link to your endorsement.

Reach Out

Ask other website owners to link to your site! For this to work, you will need to be able to justify the added value of your site to their content.

What Is Link Juice in SEO?

The sought-after nectar of the SEO gods, "link juice" is the slang word for link equality. It is utilized to describe the flow of power from a linking site to a linked site.

The more inbound links a page gets, the more juice it receives. The more inbound links, the more credibility the content has with users and search engines.

However, not all links are credited in the same way. Do Follow links generate more juice than Nofollow links. Several other decisive factors also affect the value of a link:

Follow Links vs Nofollow Links: What You Need to Know

Difference Between Follow and Nofollow Links?

At first glance, there is no difference between Follow and Nofollow links. When you click on them, they both point to a linked website.

To tell the difference between the two, you have to dive into the source code of the website. The coding of a website is the version that a crawler sees.

To accomplish this, right-click on the web page and select "View page source".

In the new window, perform a search by pressing Ctrl F and then typing Nofollow. This will highlight the term in the coding and make it easier to find links with that specific attribute.

Here is an example:

Follow Links vs Nofollow Links: What You Need to Know

Note: when it concerns Dofollow links, there is no attribute. Every link without Nofollow in the HTML coding is, by default, a Do Follow / Follow link.

You can also use tools that display all links on a page using the URL.

Follow Links vs Nofollow Links Importance

Check out this YouTube video clip in which Google's John Mueller talks about links, their importance, and how to make the most of them and earn more.

How Google uses backlinks

Links, in general, are essential to the proper functioning of Google - and its competitors. They help crawlers discover new pages and understand how they relate to other content on the Internet.

Their importance to your SEO

When another page links to yours, it tells crawlers that your website has content worth linking to.

A Follow link means that a website owner or author has vouched for your content. The more links you have, the more search engines trust your page and rank it accordingly. If you have enough links - or votes - to your page, you will see an improvement in your SERPs. Modern internet users trust a link that appears on the first pages of results.

What are Natural and Unnatural Links?

To provide the most reliable results to search engines, Google requires a strict, all-natural, spam-free regime. This means that to avoid being penalized, links must be natural.

Here's the difference:

Natural links are organic inbound links that the linked website had no part in creating. The linking page just included the link because it has relevant content.

Unnatural links are a type of link scheme used to manipulate a website's ranking. Not only do these links leave a bad taste in Google's mouth, but they also violate its guidelines and negatively impact a page's ranking.

"In this case, the placement of links that have not been editorially placed or guaranteed by the website owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, may be regarded as a violation of our guidelines." - Google Search Central

Google lists these popular examples:

- Pay for links
- Exchanging goods or services for links
- Excessive cross-linking ("Link to me and I'll link to you")
- Poor quality links to directory sites
- Comment spamming

Difference Between Nofollow and Noindex

While Nofollow indicates to the crawlers not to follow a link, Noindex indicates to them not to index a web page.

Using the Noindex code means that the website owner or webmaster does not want a page to appear in the search engine results pages.

The goal is usually to be indexed on one of the first pages of search results and to be seen by potential users.

However, there are some occasions when a site's page has no reason to appear in the SERPs.

When to use Noindex

- Thank you pages
- Administration / login pages
- Policy pages
- Pages whose content can be duplicated. If you have multiple versions of the same element, using the Noindex attribute will prevent duplicate content from being indexed. The printable version of a page is a good example of the content for which you should use the Noindex HTML code.

Does Nofollow Links Help SEO?

This has always been a bit of a gray zone in the sphere of digital marketing. In the past, Nofollow links were seen as less worthy than link-juicy Do Follow links. 2019, however, marked the start of a new era. An era where Google officially notices Nofollows as indices.

Benefits of Nofollow links

While they still don't have the same power as Dofollows, Nofollow links do have their SEO benefits.

Increased traffic to your website

If another website links to your page with a Nofollow attribute, readers see it. They have the opportunity to click on it and easily find your page. This additional exposure is an effective way to increase your brand awareness.

Natural link profiles

Natural link profiles are significant for your website SEO. Too many follow links can be a bad thing if they make your profile look unnatural. Nofollow links are beneficial for a well-balanced natural profile.

Follow Links vs Nofollow Links Summary

Follow links are a type of backlink that tells users and search engine spiders that your content is relevant and trustworthy. They are essentially a recommendation for your website. With each link, you get an increase in link juice. If there are enough of them, you can get an increase in your page ranking.

Nofollow links are also backlinks, but they do not increase the number of link juice. Although less useful, they are not completely worthless. They can generate traffic to your site, especially if a well-known site links to yours. Although they don't "count" in the eyes of crawlers, they do count in natural link profiles.

It is recommended to maintain a good balance between the two types of links in your backlink profile.

In general, you need to think about the relevance, relationship, and value of a link. Is the destination for your link a page that would benefit from your link juice? Is it a page you want to benefit from? If so, follow the link. If not, Nofollow. It's also a good idea to do a link audit once a year or so, to make sure old links haven't gone bad.

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