No-follow vs. Do-follow Links - What's the Difference?
Hello! I'm Charlotte, and I'm the founder of Blog and Beyond. I'm a slightly sarcastic 23-year-old grandma from Glasgow who loves The Sims, Hugh Laurie and programmes about airports. I've been blogging at Colours and Carousels for over eight years and work freelance in digital marketing.
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Not all links were created equal. When it comes to search engine optimisation (or SEO for short!), there are some little differences in the way that you link to other pages that can actually make a big difference in terms of the bots that crawl your site for search engines. You might have seen discussions regarding "follow" links in the past, and today we're going to take a look at what this actually means.
What's the difference?
When someone links to a website, Google sees this as an endorsement of that site's content. Google's PageRank algorithm takes a lot of things into consideration when ranking search results, and quality backlinks are just one of these. These links transfer "link juice", and the more link juice a site has, the higher it will appear in relevant searches. Sites that are seen to be of a higher quality, such as big, reputable news sites, will give a higher boost of link juice.
A "do-follow" link will signpost to Google that their bots should count this link as an endorsement, therefore passing on the link juice to that page. On the other hand, a link that's marked as "no-follow" tells the bots to ignore that link, therefore not passing on an endorsement to the site. That's not to say that these links have no SEO value - because they do - it's just that they won't contribute directly to the PageRank.
When should you use them?
Essentially, you should only be using follow links when you are making positive recommendations to sites that you trust and want to pass on your "link juice" to. These links should not be paid for or incentivised in any way - be that gifted products, affiliate links or actual monetary value - or you risk being penalised by Google. Not everyone agrees on this point, and some people are happy to offer paid for follow links, but be aware that you do run the risk of Google sanctions. If you get a lot of traffic through search, this is probably something you want to avoid.
Why does it matter, anyway?
For exactly that reason - search engine penalties. Dodgy link building schemes are rife these days, and this is Google's attempt at keeping the spammers at bay. If this system wasn't in place, poor quality websites could easily game the system and increase their search rankings.
How do you use them?
It depends on your platform!
Blogger - when adding your link, checking the box in the bottom left corner that says "rel=nofollow attribute" will mark your link as no-follow.
Wordpress - check out this guide from Wordpress.
Using the HTML - websites like Squarespace require you to tweak the HTML of your links to define the correct attributes. A standard link will look like <a href="https://blogandbeyond.com">, and this is a follow link. To make it no-follow, add rel="nofollow", so that your code looks like <a href="https://blogandbeyond.com" rel="nofollow">.
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