What Is a NoFollow Link, And Does It Matter to SEO?

“Nofollow” is a code attribute developed by Google’s webspam team to combat spam in blog comment fields. It looks like this:

<a rel=”nofollow” href=”http://www.yourgreatwebsite.com/”>great site</a>

Quite literally, nofollow means “I can’t or don’t want to vouch for this link.” Nofollow allowed site publishers to insert nofollow code on links to sites that they did not necessarily trust, such as those placed in the comments of blog sites. Presumably, a nofollow link would prevent Google from counting a link in its ranking algorithm, and would thus deter spammers from targeting blog comments.

Site publishers began using nofollow in order to “sculpt PageRank” on their sites. Once publishers discovered that they could preserve PageRank by carefully controlling its distribution from one page to another, they began using nofollow on many different types of sites. As a result, most directory and news sites use nofollow categorically, and social networking sites such as Twitter use nofollow on virtually all external links.

In 2009, Google announced that PageRank sculpting no longer works via nofollow tags. Although Google claims that nofollow links still do not pass PageRank, both Bing and Google acknowledge that links from social media sites (such as Twitter, which uses nofollow), do influence how sites appear in search engine results pages.

The bottom line is that links without nofollow attributes appear to be more valuable, but even nofollow links appear to be of some search value when coming from well-known social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

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About William Tyree

William Tyree is a marketing technologist and writer, and is currently Vice President of Marketing for DemandResults. He has worked as a marketing and technology strategist in a variety of industries, including B2B software, entertainment, healthcare, legal, large nonprofit, eGovernment and food & beverage. His writing has been published in Harvard Review, The Atlantic, Japan Inc and elsewhere.

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