One of the critical elements of creating a natural-looking backlink profile is diversification. Therefore, nofollow links are likely to form part of your strategy, even though they’re unlikely to influence your SEO directly. Therefore, it’s important to question, if they don’t pass value, how can nofollow links contribute positively to your backlink profile?
Understanding follow & unfollow links
The key distinction between follow and nofollow links is that the former pass value, as they earn link points within Google’s algorithm. This is why many people question the point of nofollow links, as they don’t pass value on Google.
However, nofollow links are valid because they adhere to Google’s mission for top page rankings to be organically earned. The process doesn’t want to simply reward unnatural link building practices, which is why nofollow links play an important role in SEO strategies.
Since 2005, nofollow tags have served as a viable way to counteract spam comments that appeared on news sites and blogs. Before the nofollow tag appeared, all of these backlinks were crawled in the same way by Google, which meant that spammers were able to pass their backlinks off as valuable at a huge scale. As a result, Google decided to give all comment links the nofollow tag, which meant that they weren’t able to affect page rankings in the same way as follow links.
Likewise, all social media communications on sites like Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter are now considered as nofollow. This is a direct attempt to prevent the prevalence of spam comments from driving PageRanks via specific channels.
Google also applies nofollow tags to paid links, which means that a website is unable to rank at the top of a search engine merely by paying for a backlinks campaign. This further comes from Google’s desire to offer priority to organically gained backlinks and prevent the most powerful websites from monetising the backlink building process to serve their own priorities.
Nofollow and SEO
Google is firm in its stance on nofollow links, stating: “In general, we don’t follow them.” The use of “in general” here is hotly debated, as it implies that Google will crawl nofollow links in certain situations. However, it is clear that Google will not adopt nofollow links to pass value to a page’s rankings.
But this doesn’t mean you should discard nofollow links as worthless.
This is because Google analyses a broad spectrum of factors when assessing the backlink profile of your website. For instance, a site that doesn’t contain any nofollow links is regarded as suspicious, as users would typically share content from your site organically on social media. This then becomes a trust issue if your site is completely devoid of nofollow links.
So, if a website has more than 70% follow links, Google might interpret this as a manipulated backlink profile and may penalise the site as a result. Therefore, it’s imperative to combine follow and nofollow links when you’re building a profile that Google is likely to trust.
Another thing to remember is that there’s more to backlinks than just passing value to PageRanks. Google analyses content on multiple levels, so a nofollow link to a credible website (e.g. Investopedia) will be considered favourably by Google when looking at the value of your brand mentions. What’s more, Google will further trust the authenticity of your site if there’s evidence of a credible network of nofollow links on your site. Equally, nofollow links on social media indicate to Google that your site has multiple regular interactions, which helps to build the credibility of your brand from an SEO standpoint.
You should also consider the impact that nofollow links have on traffic, as they can boost the number of visitors to your site, which is always a positive.
So, are nofollow links important?
The short answer is yes; nofollow links are important. They play an integral role in building a natural and diverse backlink profile for your website. Although Google’s PageRank directly considers follow links, they should be supported by nofollow links on your site. Therefore, you should pay close attention to the existence of nofollow sites when putting together your SEO strategy.
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