Follow vs Nofollow Links – What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

31 Jul, 2019 Branding Through SEO

Understanding the types of backlinks and how they function is essential to carrying out a successful link building project. One of the most common ways backlinks are categorized is as follow (also known as dofollow) or nofollow. Follow and nofollow links can be confusing unless you understand the underlying SEO fundamentals surrounding off page SEO.

The Value of Link Building

Link building is a huge part of increasing your online visibility and search result rankings. Backlinks serve two purposes:

First, to drive traffic to increase business and grow a website’s authority and reach. Having a link to your website listed on a popular page can lead to more people clicking through to your site, and also shows the search bot you have valuable authoritative content other people on the web are willing to endorse.

The second purpose of backlinks is to relay to Google that your content is credible and trustworthy. If other websites are willing to link to your content as a source they trust, Google will have more reason to believe you are a good answer to its searcher’s query. In this instance, backlinks can help increase your ranking and visibility on the search engine results page.

Link Juice

Link juice is a term often thrown around in the SEO industry. Link juice is simply the value gained from having your website linked to from another. When the Google bot crawls (reads) a link to your site, Google attributes trust factors and “link juice” to your site.

A common misconception is that a link is only valuable when someone clicks it and actually visits your website. This is untrue. Whether or not someone clicks through, the link is still present and crawled by Google as a signal that an outside source trusts your website enough to link to it. Link juice is acquired with or without the click.

Here’s the caveat: the amount of link juice is determined by the type of link. This includes how topical the link is, how relevant it is, and where the source is being linked to and from.

Follow (Dofollow) vs. Nofollow Links

Whether a link is follow or nofollow is completely up to the developer of a website. A website’s coding tells the Google bot how the link to your page should be read. A link coded as follow (dofollow) will have link juice passed along to the receiving website. A link coded as nofollow does not carry link juice, but can still be valuable.

Before the abuse of backlinking practices became widespread, most links were follow links. This led to small businesses buying links and other black hat link building projects such as spammy, directories, comments, profiles, or anchor text. Today, companies are more cautious with allowing follow links from their websites. Some sites have switched to a completely nofollow policy for all links, for example, Huffington Post.

If nofollow links don’t provide link juice, why bother with them? There are a couple of reasons why nofollow links are still valuable.

As Google becomes more sophisticated and we eventually move into a world of linkless mentions, follow vs. nofollow will not be as relevant. The fact that your brand name or website is listed at all and is crawled on authoritative places is all that will matter. It will still be important to get your brand out on the web in as many authoritative places as possible.

Link building can be time-consuming and confusing at times, but a basic understanding of the fundamentals can help you grow your online presence. It is important to remember that having a few good links is much better than having many weak links. However, every link that you acquire can be useful to your audience and website ranking.