Nofollow Links: Do They Matter?

Nofollow Links and Why They Exist

In the world of SEO, getting the most equity for your links is the best way to help your clients rank. As online authors, certain tenets have been pounded into our heads, such as:

  • whether the target site is trustworthy.

  • does the link make sense?

  • do they assign the nofollow attribute to published links?

For those who may not be aware, search engines like Google follow every link by default, which pass the most link equity. For sites that host user-generated content, this can quickly devolve into a quagmire of spam and irrelevance, sometimes even forcing Google to take manual action against the site.

One easy way siteowners can avoid penalization is to add the nofollow attribute (<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”) to links you’d like Google to leave out when indexing your site.

Examples of when to use the nofollow attribute include:

  1. Paid Links

  2. Product Links

  3. Affiliate Links

  4. Untrustworthy Links

  5. Links in Widgets and Images

  6. Guest Post Links

That last one is a particular sticky point that recently generated a lively debate in the SEO world. We already know what Matt Cutts’ opinion is on guest posting, but Google’s own John Mueller sparked the subject anew when he said that news publishers should trust what their authors write.

On the writer’s side, a siteowner adding the nofollow attribute to their links could reduce the equity, or link juice, they pass on. This could impact which sites they choose to work with, even though Rand Fishkin had previously tested and discovered that links on top-tier websites positively impact a site’s SERPs, whether they were nofollowed or not.

So, whether you’re a writer or siteowner, what should we believe in regards to nofollow links and guest posting? We’re glad you asked.

To Nofollow or Not to Nofollow

Unfortunately, there’s no concrete answer here. When considering whether to nofollow links, you need to figure out a few things about your site and what your overall goals are.

For example, does your site:

  • rely on 3rd party authors to generate content?

  • have a comment section?

  • pay its authors well and has a good working relationship with them?

I should mention at this time that the nofollow attribute is typically applied to areas that can quickly spiral out of control without constant modding. These include comment sections, and writers with author status.

As an author myself, I’ve been approached by 3rd parties to either write articles for various sites with their link included, or to add their link to an existing article. Links on a trusted site, whether their nofollow or not, can help a site rank better, and thus, a new market is created where authors may be able to profit off of selling links on trusted sites.

This can pose as a moral dilemma for authors who may not know exactly what’s expected of them, and/or not being paid enough.

What Siteowners Can Do

Siteowners can combat this behavior and reap the benefits of relevant links by paying their writers well, maintaining a good working relationship with all of them, explicitly stating expectations, and meeting deadlines.

If everyone’s on board with the stated objectives, trusting your writers would come naturally, and the odds of them doing something you’d otherwise object to are greatly reduced. Following links basically tells Google that you trust these links, and if they match up with your content, it will help Google establish what your content is about and rank it appropriately for relevant searches.

Nofollowing links tells Google that you don’t trust these links, greatly reducing their link equity when it actually could be to your benefit.

Bottom line: if your site is largely user-generated and churns out a large number of articles per day, setting the nofollow attribute as a whole may be the only way to retain your site’s relevance in its respective niche.

However, if the publication schedule is more relaxed or you have a smaller team of dedicated writers, following links could create a relevant, worthwhile link neighborhood, bolstering your site’s ranking in the process.

How Little Egg Solutions Can Help

Do you have any additional questions regarding the nofollow attribute? Perhaps you’d like some help with generating content or driving traffic to your website? Little Egg Solutions can help. Contact us today!