Dofollow and Nofollow Links

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Dofollow and Nofollow Links

It is often stated that high-quality content is the most important factor of naturally high visibility on the Internet. The importance of content quality is not to be underestimated, however, your quality content can still easily drown in an ocean of quality content produced by others. That is why various SEO instruments, such as backlinks, are used to accelerate your content delivery to wider audiences and help raise your content visibility quicker. 

Back when SEO was a fledgling field of expertise, Google started using citation quantity as means to validate a web resource’s position in its search result page. Since then search engine ranking strategy has greatly evolved and diversified, and is far less straightforward now, but a balanced backlink profile still makes a lot of impact on where your resource appears in the search engine result page. 

In this article, let’s take a closer look at dofollow and nofollow links, the two types of backlinks, a healthy combination of which helps you climb up the search engine page ranks. 

What is a Dofollow Link?

In short, a dofollow backlink is a regular link, in its original form. It’s a default state of an HTML link as it was intended to be used on the Internet: a reference to another web page, external to the resource where the link is placed. In fact, it is called a dofollow link only in relation to nofollow links. 

The picture below shows a stereotypical dofollow link code snippet. Classical link attributes for SEO, such as title and target are used. 

As you can see, from the HTML point of view, there are no attributes or other elements that would define a dofollow link. 

How Do Search Engines Treat Dofollow Links? Why are they important?

When a search engine indexes a page, a complex ranking algorithm is applied to match it against various possible search queries. Dofollow links are a bit like trust building currency for a website. The more reliable, high-ranking sites have dofollow links to your site, the more link equity or so called link juice they pass. Big amounts of link juice translates to a much higher credibility and trust value placed on your resource by search engines and ultimately, it affects your website placement in SERP.

For example, if you try googling for a term, concept or subject, a related wikipedia article, if there is one,  is highly likely to be on the first result page. This is because wikipedia is one of most highly quoted resources on the internet and there would be millions of quotes from all sorts of sites that carry weight and meaning, to that particular article. This, of course, is a marginally positive case, but it does illustrate the concept well.

This is why it is vital to opt for organic link building in your  SEO strategy. The time when this algorithm could be exploited by generating gazillions of fake reference sites and blog comments to feed multiple backlinks to search engines is long gone. Your backlinks have to pass authority to your site, which means, they have to originate from valid sources.   

What is a Nofollow link?

Technically speaking, nofollow backlinks differ from dofollow backlinks in a single attribute of their HTML link tag: rel=”nofollow”. Contrary to what  their name suggests, users can click and follow these links. From the user experience point of view, dofollows and nofollows are no different. But for search engines there’s a world of difference. Search engines interpret nofollow links as those that don’t count against site citation and ranking. 

Here’s a generic code snippet for a nofollow backlink:

Originally, nofollow links were introduced by Google, MSN and Yahoo as means to counter the exploit mentioned above, when website owners would spam in social media, blog comments and forums with links to their websites. Making such links nofollow prevented search engines from counting them as passing authority. 

How Do Search Engines Treat Nofollow Links? Why should they be used?

Nofollow value of the rel attribute in the link structure does not necessarily brand a link as zero trust. In fact, in 2019 Google started treating nofollow links not as an obligation, but as a suggestion. Sure, sources can still mark links they provide as nofollow if they don’t want to endorse certain content for search engines, and even then, it doesn’t mean anything bad. 

Nofollow links can still generate traffic and increase your content exposure. Before, nofollow links were often used for sponsored content to exclude it from search engine citation and ranking mechanisms, when websites wanted to be very transparent in their SEO strategies. 

As of now, several other values for the rel attribute values are used by Google aside from nofollow. They are rel=”ugc” for user generated content, such as social media or blog posts and comments, and rel=”sponsored” for paid ads, rel=”noopener” to prevent malicious websites from accessing certain information in the linked page. Today, search engines ranking mechanisms are finely tuned enough to interpret all these backlinks in their specific way and include them in ranking processes. 

This means that for a robust backlink profile, SEO managers need to acquire a healthy, balanced backlink portfolio which would include dofollow, nofollow and possibly other types of links.

4 Tips for acquiring high-quality backlinks

The process of link-building or off-page-SEO can be very trying, especially in densely competitive spheres. Here are some key points that you might want to consider if you want to get high-quality backlinks:

  • A comprehensive backlink strategy

If you want to get to the top SERP on Google and other search engines, you will need a strategy that may include influencer integrations, well-thought-out PR campaigns, self-submissions and a whole arsenal of other techniques and tools that each are worthy of their own article. 

  • Aim for organic links

Organic links, or links where users and websites cite your content just because they like you, find you useful or enjoyable, are the type that is most coveted by SEOs. However, working on attracting this type of links means working on providing high-quality content that users will find engaging and useful, and doing it on a regular basis. This means, content strategy really comes first. 

  • Relevant self-promotion

Another tip for acquiring solid-weight backlinks is not to be shy about promoting your content where it is relevant. No matter what kind of content you create, there are probably review aggregators for it where you can make a submission, there are blogs who accept guest entries, there are places on the internet where a self-inserted link to your site will look wholesome and appropriate. 

  • Quality over quantity

It’s not a secret that a single casual, positive mention by an opinion maker that doesn’t look paid for could bring you more use than thousands of spammed mentions made apropos of nothing, which could actually prove quite detrimental. Don’t try to raise the numbers, instead aim for links from places with good reputation and a lot of authority.

How to Build an Effective Backlink Strategy with Dofollow and Nofollow Links?

We have already established that both dofollow and nofollow links are essential for a solid backlink strategy and portfolio. Balancing both types of links will help you build a good backlink strategy.  

  • Diversify your link profile

Both types of links have their benefits. It is generally considered a good tone to mark obviously sponsored links with a sponsored or nofollow rel attribute value. It will give you props with search engines and will also increase your transparency and trustworthiness as a content source. 

  • Build relationships

Backlinking is often a two-way process. You can establish partner relationships with other content creators and cross-link to your mutual benefit using both types of links for a more integral approach. 

  • Monitor your backlink profile

Include the balance of nofollow and dofollow links in your monitored metrics, along with spammy and toxic links. Analyze which links bring you traffic and increase your visibility and lift you up the SERP ladder and do not be afraid to experiment working out the perfect combination.

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  • Nick Kasey

    Product Manager at Serpzilla.сom. Nick is Serpzilla ambassador, traveling all across the world, speaking about the tool and establishing connections with the largest Indian companies. He helps SEO specialists to optimize their business-processes and to save up to 90% time on manual tasks.
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