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Nofollow Links: Are they fucking bullshit?

Articles in Search Engine Optimization | By August R. Garcia

Published 1 week agoMon, 07 Jan 2019 16:48:23 -0800 | Last update 1 week agoMon, 07 Jan 2019 16:51:47 -0800

As they say in my home country, “nofollow links are useful in various contexts and also everyone has no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.”

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As they say in my home country, “nofollow links are useful in various contexts and also everyone has no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.”

Here’s some information about nofollow links that has actually been tested and substantiated.

For Marketers

Do Nofollow Links Impact SEO and SERP position?

Yes, it’s very possible. Not even that hard if you know what you’re doing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E13B4KXRkc

Particularly, the benefits from nofollow links seem to be more from passing semantic information to search engines (i.e., a nofollow link from a page about cars or with the anchor text “Cars are Great” seems to help search engines understand that the target page is related to cars). That is in contrast to, for example, raw increases in site quality evaluation from metrics comparable to Page Rank (or whatever Google is now calling their current internally-used algorithm).

Does anchor text for nofollow backlinks impact anything notable?

Yes. Here’s a basic case study that I, as well as at least one other competent internet marketer, have run and replicated multiple times:

  1. Get some test site
  2. Pick a fake name. Ideally something fairly distinct like “Ronaldo Zanderblit.” Make sure that name is not included anywhere on your test site.
  3. Find websites that allow comments with the classic “Name/Email/Website” setup and build 10-20 blog comment type backlinks to the homepage (or wherever) of the site.
  4. Wait a few weeks (or up to 1-2 months, if the site is brand new) and then check the SERP results for “Ronaldo Zanderblit” (or whatever).
  5. Congratulations: Your test site should rank somewhere on page 1-2, even though there is no mention of that term on your actual site.

It is unquestionably true that nofollow backlinks impact rankings in the SERPs, at least in terms of providing semantic/KW information via anchor text.

Do Wikipedia backlinks (which are nofollow) impact SERP position?

A: Probably/Plausibly. Here are the results of a case study that has been tracked since roughly March, 2018, which I previously posted a longer version of on a different website.

Original Update: May 21, 2018

Methodology: Grabbed some random webpage with no backlinks. Was ranking ~position 13 for an obscure term. Built three Wikipedia citations to it from random, not particularly notable pages.

Tracked the page for a while in SERPBook and it bounced around at position ~5 to ~10. That was about April, 2018. As of may 21, 2018, it seems to be sitting at position #3.

Update Dec 28, 2018

The article with the one Wikipedia link is now consistently sitting at position #2 (up from #13 initially) and has also picked up ~10-15 other (primarily or entirely) nofollow links (mainly from automated Wikipedia clones).

How can I tell whether a nofollow link will improve a site’s SERP rankings?

With nofollow links, links that would be weak if they were dofollow tend to become irrelevant links. i.e., nofollow links from these types of very-high-quality SEO services are generally largely irrelevant in terms of SEO:

Dear sir,

I can get you a good SEO ranking in your SERPs. We have best stratagies that Google Loves. With Niche Relevant Blog Commenting Manually we will kindly rank your site on the SEO pages with Contexual Forum Links that are from ONLY Authority and Active Forums!

This is a high PR service that will get you good quality and very cheap rankings on Page 1!

Whereas links that would be decent or great as dofollow links tend to have at least some positive impact on SERP position.

For Webmasters

Should links in user-generated content on my website be nofollowed?

Nofollowing backlinks can, in some scenarios, discourage spam. However, if you have a handle on spam through other methods, this can be irrelevant. Depending on the nature and implementation of your website, links in user-generated content are often relevant, high-quality pages.

If you are concerned about wanting to suck Google’s dick, note that Google’s recommendations make no explicit recommendations about whether or not to nofollow backlinks in user-generated content:

If you can't or don't want to vouch for the content of pages you link to from your site — for example, untrusted user comments or guestbook entries — you should nofollow those links.

[…]

If you want to recognize and reward trustworthy contributors, you could decide to automatically or manually remove the nofollow attribute on links posted by members or users who have consistently made high-quality contributions over time

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/96569?hl=en

Which is basically what was stated above.

Are there viable alternatives to nofollowing user-gernerated links?

There are a variety of ways to nofollow some links while dofollowing others. For example, you might nofollow links by default, but have your site make exceptions for cases such as:

  • Posts by users with over 100 posts
  • Posts with over 10 upvotes
  • Posts by users who have a certain role, such as “Administrator”
  • Links to whitelisted domains
  • Internal links to elsewhere on your site

This is similar to the approach similar that is done on Reddit. Links in posts and comments on Reddit are, by default, nofollow links. However, once they have hit a certain threshold for quality (based on upvote/downvote count), they become dofollow links.

Note that the exact score/threshold for flipping to dofollow seems to either vary based on the context of the link, or has changed at one or more points in time. While the exact criteria is unclear, the links seem to flip at a score somewhere between 3 and 10.

Should I nofollow any internal links?

Plausibly. Whether internal links are nofollow or dofollow can have implications for site structure. For example, if you want bots to avoid crawling your login page, one thing that you might do is nofollow the footer/header link to that page (although you would probably also want to handle this case via robots.txt and/or a noindex meta tag).

At a small scale, this can be mostly irrelevant. If you have thousands of pages, these considerations can become more relevant.

Overview and FAQ

What Is a Nofollow Link?

From the Google Webmaster documentation:

"Nofollow" provides a way for webmasters to tell search engines "Don't follow links on this page" or "Don't follow this specific link."

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/96569?hl=en

What do nofollow links actually do in practice?

While the exact implications of these links varies between different bots and search engines, the general implication is that, in general, these links will be considered less valuable (than identical dofollow links) by bots that are attempting to gauge the quality of websites and webpages by following backlinks.

Are links by default nofollow or dofollow?

Links with no rel=”nofollow” attribute are considered to be dofollow. There is no need to explicitly tag all links with a rel=”dofollow” attribute.

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Edit History

• [2019-01-07 16:48 PST] August R. Garcia (1 week ago)
• [2019-01-07 16:48 PST] August R. Garcia (1 week ago)
• [2019-01-07 16:48 PST] August R. Garcia (1 week ago)
🕓 Posted at 07 January, 2019 16:48 PM PST
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