October 11, 2023
October 11, 2023
Backlinks have always been among Google’s top ranking factors. Despite their importance reducing with each consecutive algorithm update, they’re still the 3rd most important factor for ranking success in 2023. As such, our in-house SEO experts have put together this guide that goes through the different types of backlinks and how to implement follow and nofollow tags properly. But first, what’s the difference between follow and nofollow links?
The main difference between the two is that ‘follow’ links pass link equity (also known as ‘link juice’) to a website, which enhances its authority. On the other hand, ‘nofollow’ links don’t pass authority. Follow links are more beneficial for SEO, although nofollow links can still bring value to your website.
Let’s look into how exactly you apply those links and best practices for making use of both follow and nofollow links as part of your link building strategy.
You might already know that backlinks are key for building your website’s visibility online. They help improve your website’s authority in the eyes of search engines and can also bring more traffic.
But did you know that not all links are created equal?
Whenever you add a link (internal or external), you can select the type of link: follow or nofollow. But what’s the difference?
Follow links (sometimes also called ‘dofollow links’) pass link equity. They’re usually the default setting on most CMS, so whenever you add a link, it would be a follow link unless you manually change the setting to otherwise.
To check whether a link is a follow or otherwise, open the page code and find the link attribute. Then, look for the ‘rel’ attribute. If there isn’t one, then it’s a follow link.
Example: in our recent ‘How Many Backlinks Do I Need to Rank?’ blog, we’ve added a link to our ‘You Asked, We Answer’ section and this is what the link attribute in the code looks like. It has no rel attribute, so it’s a follow link.
Wildcat tip: there are handy Chrome extensions, such as SEOquake that can show you whether a link is a follow or nofollow directly on the page; perfect if you want to save time and avoid opening the page code!
Backlinks are a direct ranking factor. In particular, you should aim to build follow links from relevant, quality websites as these are the links that will have the highest positive impact on your website.
Websites with quality follow backlinks benefit from:
Unlike follow links, nofollow links don’t pass authority. They have a rel attribute that indicates that search engines should pay less attention, almost ignore, that specific link. This is what the attribute looks like:
Example: our website was recently featured on Top Design Firm’s 100 Search Engine Marketing Companies In The United Kingdom. The link we received was a nofollow link, which you can see in the code.
Bonus: You can see on the left that the ‘Visit site’ and ‘Wildcat Digital Ltd.’ text is crossed out; this is how the SEOquake extension indicates those are nofollow links.
You might be wondering why nofollow links exist. Well, they were initially introduced to tackle spam. Up until a few years ago, websites engaged in black hat SEO tactics, which involved link manipulation and buying backlinks with the aim of boosting website ranks.
For example, one of those tactics involved adding comments on other websites with your website’s URL as a way to build backlinks to your own website. With the nofollow attribute, you can simply mark any links like those as nofollow, putting you more in control of which websites you want to give authority to.
There’s often the misconception that just because nofollow links don’t pass authority, they’re not beneficial for SEO, but that’s not really the case.
Nofollow links are in fact beneficial for SEO as they:
The bottom line? Even though nofollow links might not have the same weight as follow links, they are still better than no links.
As a rule of thumb, stick to follow links and avoid using nofollow links unless you’re linking to untrusted or low-quality external websites to which you don’t want to pass link equity. Here are some best practices:
The way to add a nofollow link would depend on your CMS.
When you add a link to text on WordPress, there is usually an Advanced section, in which you can select the type of link you want it to be. By default, the link would be follow, unless you mark it as nofollow.
The easiest way to add a nofollow attribute to a link on Shopify is to go to the HTML code of the text field where the link is; there should normally be a </> button that leads you to it. There, find the a href attribute and add the rel nofollow attribute as shown in the example below.
Tip: if you want all external links to be nofollow, there’s a way to set that up on Shopify; simply follow this tutorial.
Here at Wildcat Digital, we have a wealth of experience working with a range of websites and ensuring links are set up properly is just a small part of what we do. If you need any advice or help with building backlinks and monitoring performance, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. We take a holistic approach to everything we do, so we’d be more than happy to speak with you and provide advice on other areas of SEO.