What is a Nofollow link?
The nofollow attribute is applied to specific links to instruct search engines not to follow the link. In doing so, this prevents search engines like Google from passing any ranking benefits to the target of the link. This prevents Google from using the link to influence the ranking position of the target page.
Having links to your website is beneficial because high-quality links signal to Google you are producing content and information of value to other websites and users. These links act as votes of approval from other sites, and can help search engine rankings for particular pages and domains. Links from other sites pass what is often called ‘link juice’ from PageRank, a mathematical algorithm that helps identify the authority and importance of webpages.
The nofollow attribute can be added manually to prevent the link from influencing the ranking of the target site, but many sites are able to add this automatically in the right circumstances.
Yahoo, Google and Microsoft all tried to prevent spamming on blogs by using nofollow links in 2005. Google began to use them to block ranking benefits from paid links, and they are still used for this purpose today.
When should they be used?
Nofollow links can be used in many instances, but one of the most common is when paid links are used. Paying for links is against Google Webmaster Guidelines as it is seen as an intentional attempt to manipulate search engine rankings. The nofollow attribute should be added on any links in paid promotional content on your site.
Content added to your website through comments or contributors to your website must be monitored vigilantly. This is because unwanted links to other pages may give the linked website a boost and could also worsen a company’s reputation if the link is spam or malicious.
Why should you use nofollow links?
Nofollow links are important, as stopping bots from visiting certain pages from a link prevents websites from getting into trouble with Google for maliciously manipulating search engine results. If you are found in breach of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you could face a manual penalty, damaging your traffic and visibility, or be removed from the search engine index altogether. This could be detrimental for any business.
Linking to other sites is nonetheless important, and can improve brand awareness, authority and the future acquisition of links that do pass authority to your website. Links and referral traffic can also be an important means of generating traffic, enquiries and sales on your website. It is just important that links are placed correctly and in line with search engine guidelines.