Understanding No-Follow and Do-Follow Links: How to Use Them Wisely


While the majority of marketing professionals grasp the intricacies of constructing a robust backlink portfolio in conjunction with crafting top-tier content to boost organic traffic, there remains a degree of uncertainty regarding the significance of dofollow links and the differentiation between follow and nofollow links.

Adding to this perplexity is Google’s recent declarations that seem to obscure the distinctions between these two link types. Nevertheless, we’ll delve into the historical context of backlinks shortly. For now, let’s closely examine the nuances of nofollow links versus dofollow links and how to purposefully incorporate them into your broader SEO strategy.

Here’s the lowdown on each category of link and the manner in which they may or may not transmit authority to, within, and from the various pages on your website.

Backlinks: What They Are

Let’s begin with an introduction to the concept of backlinks and their vital role in your SEO strategy.

Backlinks are like the backbone of your website’s online presence. They are hyperlinks from external websites that point to your site. These links act as a vote of confidence in your content’s credibility. In simple terms, when another website links to your content, it’s a nod to your website’s quality and authority in your niche.

In the eyes of search engines, especially Google, backlinks are a measure of your website’s trustworthiness and expertise. The more relevant and authoritative websites that link to yours, the more Google trusts your site as a valuable source of information in your particular field. This trust is a crucial factor in determining where your website lands in search engine result pages (SERPs).

To put it plainly, backlinks can make or break your SEO efforts. Good quality, contextually relevant backlinks can catapult your website to the top of search results, while a slew of backlinks from shady or irrelevant sources can negatively impact your rankings.

DoFollow vs. NoFollow Links: What’s the Difference?

To effortlessly distinguish between follow and nofollow links when browsing web pages, consider utilizing the “Detect Nofollow” Chrome extension. After installing this handy extension, you’ll gain the ability to readily identify nofollow links on every website you explore.

The functionality of “Detect Nofollow” is quite straightforward. Once the extension is activated, it will mark all nofollow links with a distinctive red outline on the web page.

Now, let’s delve into the significance of these distinct link types for search engine crawlers.

What is a DoFollow Link?

In a strict sense, there isn’t a concept known as a “dofollow” link, although the term is commonly used to describe a link that lacks a “nofollow” attribute. By default, Google will track and consider backlinks that don’t carry a “nofollow” tag. While some website owners may employ the “rel=dofollow” attribute to signal to Google that a link should be followed, it’s worth noting that having no “rel” attribute at all achieves the same result.

A “dofollow” link communicates to Google that it should take into account this backlink when determining the authority of your content for search engine ranking. These links transfer link equity from the referring domain to yours, which can significantly impact your online presence.

The more credible the “dofollow” links directed to your pages, the higher Google values the content. Earning such links from reputable websites that share thematic relevance with your business can be especially beneficial. These high-quality links can boost your visibility in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), potentially leading to greater exposure for your primary keywords.

In essence, “dofollow” links have the potential to enhance your organic online footprint.

What is a NoFollow Link?

The “nofollow” link attribute serves as a virtual firewall, creating a divide between the hosting page and its linked destination. Within the intricate web of search engine optimization, nofollow links are akin to an insurmountable moat; they withhold the passage of authority in Google’s eyes. As there’s no equity flowing from the linking page to the linked one, these nofollow links stand as silent spectators in the grand arena of search rankings, wielding no direct influence.

What About NoFollow Links SEO?

While nofollow links may not directly influence your website’s ranking signals, they are far from being without merit in the realm of SEO. In fact, they offer distinct advantages:

  1. Nofollow Links Drive Traffic: Nofollow links can serve as conduits for directing traffic to your website. When you secure a nofollow link from a reputable and relevant source, the individuals who click on it still end up on your webpages, showing genuine interest in your content. This referral traffic has the potential to bring in highly qualified leads, regardless of whether the links are dofollow or nofollow.
  2. Potential for Residual Dofollow Links: Interestingly, the presence of a nofollow link can sometimes lead to an unexpected bonus – the chance of it being converted into a dofollow link. Content creators researching your niche might stumble upon a nofollow link to your site and decide to incorporate it as a dofollow link in their content, enhancing your SEO profile.
  3. Google’s Attention to Nofollow Links: It’s worth noting that Google may not completely ignore nofollow links. There is evidence suggesting that Google might pay some attention to them, although the exact extent remains a subject of debate among SEO experts. This means that even though nofollow links may not directly impact your rankings, they could still play a role in your overall SEO strategy.

Nofollow links are not typically the primary focus of a link-building strategy, they do hold value. A nofollow link is certainly superior to having no link at all, especially considering their potential to drive traffic, lead to residual dofollow links, and the possibility that search engines like Google are taking notice of them.

Why Does the NoFollow Link Attribute Exist? 

In the ever-evolving landscape of the World Wide Web, Google made a significant stride in combating spam links within user-generated content back in 2005. This stride was the introduction of the “nofollow” link attribute. This clever invention allowed website owners to protect themselves from the dubious tactics of link builders who exploited forums and comments sections to sneakily link back to their own, often low-quality sites.

The “nofollow” attribute was like a digital shield, shielding domain authority from the potentially detrimental impact of links leading to undeserving destinations. But Google’s quest to maintain the integrity of its search results didn’t stop there. It later required site owners to discern and distinguish paid or sponsored links. If Google sniffed out a site that seemed to be selling backlink opportunities without the proper labeling of “nofollow,” it wasn’t afraid to wield its punitive Search Essentials, potentially penalizing the transgressors.

Fast forward to today, the internet has metamorphosed in countless ways since the inception of “nofollow” links in 2005. In a proactive response to this ongoing transformation, Google unveiled two new link attributes: “rel=’ugc'” for content generated by users and “rel=’sponsored'” for links associated with monetary compensation or sponsorships.

Notably, Google announced a subtle shift in perspective. All link relation attributes are now considered as mere “hints.” They offer guidance rather than rigid directives, giving Google more leeway to determine how to assess and rank links. This change reflects Google’s adaptability to the ever-shifting digital landscape while maintaining its commitment to providing users with accurate and relevant search results.

Acquiring DoFollow Links: Pros & Cons

Developing a well-thought-out strategy for acquiring high-quality follow links is a fundamental aspect of enhancing your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Expanding your endeavors to secure relevant links on reputable websites within your niche can significantly boost your content’s visibility in search engine results.

Let’s delve into the pros and cons of investing in a backlinking strategy to obtain dofollow links:


  • Enhancing your SEO ranking is greatly influenced by the expansion of your backlink collection with top-tier links.
  • A greater number of links, irrespective of their rel attribute, has the power to draw a larger audience to your website.
  • When it comes to bolstering your website’s topical authority and trustworthiness, there’s nothing quite like securing high-quality dofollow links from well-regarded online sources.


  • Gaining dofollow backlinks from high-traffic, authoritative websites within your niche can be fiercely competitive.
  • Building quality dofollow backlinks is a time and resource-intensive endeavor that requires careful execution.
  • Acquiring low-quality dofollow links can harm your website’s trustworthiness and potentially lead to ranking penalties or even a manual penalty from Google.

Acquiring NoFollow Links: Pros and Cons

As previously discussed, while a no-follow link may not have a direct impact on your SEO ranking, it still offers several benefits worth considering.


  • Obtaining nofollow links can be a simpler task when targeting high-authority websites.
  • Remarkably, even with the nofollow attribute, these links can still generate leads and boost brand recognition.
  • Nofollow links often serve as a stepping stone, encouraging content creators to convert them into dofollow links from other web sources.
  • Nofollow links naturally occur throughout the internet, making it essential to maintain a balance between nofollow and dofollow links in your portfolio to appear more organic to Google. An absence of nofollow links might trigger concerns about your backlinking strategies.
  • Google characterizes nofollow links as mere “hints,” yet their indirect impact on ranking signals, while not carrying the direct endorsement weight of first-party links, shouldn’t be underestimated.


  • A no-follow link doesn’t exert a direct influence on your SEO rankings.

Follow vs. No Follow: Which To Use For External Links?

Shifting our focus from the discussion of acquiring follow and no-follow backlinks from referring websites, let’s take a moment to explore the strategic use of these link types within your website content to direct visitors towards external resources.

Incorporating backlinks into your site is not a black-and-white matter. It’s all about finding the right balance between dofollow and nofollow links in your content, depending on the specific context and goals you have in mind.

Now, let’s delve into the various scenarios where you might prefer to employ each type of link.

Linking Off Your Site With NoFollow Links

1. When You Don’t Want to Endorse a Site

Consider that a hyperlink serves as a digital endorsement, and there could be instances where you are cautious about extending your support to a specific website.

In situations where you link to an external site that doesn’t inspire complete confidence, employing a “no-follow” link is a strategic choice. This way, you ensure that Google does not establish a direct association between your website and the one you are referencing.

2. Sponsored Links

While Google disapproves of the buying and selling of backlinks, it does recognize the significance of sponsored links.

When incorporating sponsored links into your website, it is recommended to employ either the “rel=nofollow” or “rel=sponsored” attribute for best practices.

3. Affiliate Linking

Affiliate links, being a means of link monetization, are subject to a treatment akin to sponsored links.

Though Google’s guidelines do not explicitly mandate the use of the “nofollow” attribute for affiliate links, it is widely regarded as an industry best practice to implement this attribute.

Alternatively, website owners can opt to employ the “sponsored” link attribute for better transparency and adherence to SEO conventions.

4. User-Generated Content

When allowing users to include links on your website, like in a forum or within the comments section of a blog, it’s a prudent practice to automatically mark these as “nofollow” links. This specific HTML attribute signals to search engines, notably Google, that the content has been contributed by a third-party user.

By implementing “UGC” (User-Generated Content) or employing “nofollow” links within the comments of your site, you establish a formidable deterrent against spammers who might seek to exploit your blog for nefarious black hat SEO endeavors. This protective measure not only preserves the integrity of your site but also safeguards it against potential misuse by malicious actors.

External Linking With DoFollow

When you’re establishing connections from your website to external sources, you’ll encounter various situations where the use of a “do-follow” link becomes a strategic consideration.

1. The link adds value for readers.

When you provide your audience with a link to an external website as a reliable and valuable resource, it’s considered good online etiquette to offer a “dofollow” link as a vote of confidence in the trustworthiness of that site.

2. The website is authoritative.

When creating an article that relies on data sources to support its arguments, incorporating dofollow links to these sources serves as a clear indication to search engines like Google that your content is well-researched and of high quality. In essence, you are leveraging the credibility and authority of your referenced sources to enhance the trustworthiness of your content.

It is essential to ensure that links leading to scientific papers and government websites remain dofollow. This is because you aim to be associated with these authoritative and reliable experts in the field, thereby reinforcing the integrity of your own content.

3. The link destination offers accurate information.

Similar to employing “follow links” when directing readers to valuable websites, it’s equally essential to utilize the same attribute when linking to sources of accurate and reputable information.

This practice revolves around communicating to Google the quality and credibility of the websites you connect your domain with.

Backlinking: Quality Over Quantity

Prior to Google’s 2005 introduction of the “nofollow” attribute, the quantity of backlinks to a website held more significance than their quality. This situation gave rise to widespread abuse within the realm of SEO, where unscrupulous practitioners employed automated bots and spam engines to manipulate the system, artificially propelling their content to the pinnacle of search rankings.

As is characteristic of many of Google’s pioneering advancements, the implementation of the “nofollow” link attribute was aimed at thwarting dubious link-building practices. Consequently, dofollow links originating from reputable and high-quality websites assumed greater value due to the fact that they had been genuinely earned through merit and authenticity, as opposed to being artificially generated. This transformation underscored the importance of organic and credible link-building strategies in the modern landscape of search engine optimization.

What Does It All Mean?

Achieving top-tier backlinks necessitates the creation of exceptional, search engine-optimized content that not only captivates readers but also entices other websites to link to it. Your content must be easily discoverable, and it should naturally attract the attention of reputable websites eager to be affiliated with it.

To delve deeper into the symbiotic relationship between outstanding content and premium backlinks and how an SEO agency can elevate your organic online presence, don’t hesitate to contact us for a complimentary SEO consultation.

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