A Criticism of NoFollow Links: Why You Should Not Use Them

OK, I admit it, I used to be the kind of guy who was tied up with using nofollow links to channel PageRank authority to my blogs self-serving links.  But I recently read a blog post over at Blue Jar, and subsequently found a great WordPress plugin for Nofollow Reciprocity, which opened my eyes to “dofollow” blog links.

For the uninitiated, nofollow tags are attributes which you can add to your href link tags to tell Google And Yahoo not to pass page trust or authority to the link target:

<a href=”http://www.google.com” rel=”nofollow”>Google</a>

Google has stated they won’t even follow or index the link, but a number of SEOs, myself included, don’t necessarily believe that claim.  But for the purposes of this discussion, all we really need to understand is that Google definitely doesn’t pass PageRank value through nofollow tags.  So how does that help you?  Arguably, you can channel more link authority to your own pages via your internal link structure.  So how does this hurt you?

Unfortunately, the use of nofollow tags has really impeded the original concept behind the open and free exchange of ideas on the Internet.  Since so much traffic is dependent on Google today (and one can argue that the Internet as a whole is way too overly dependent on Google) the excessive use of nofollow tags hurts everyone’s chances of ranking well in Google.  And by everyone, I mean the majority of website owners which own relatively small sites and blogs.  As a result, there is less traffic to all our sites, which means less exchange of ideas.

Google relies heavily on links to rank pages in their search engine index.  We know that the more relevant, quality links you have to your site, the better chances you have of being ranked for the keywords used in those links on Google.  But if all the links coming to your site are nofollow, Google is probably going to discount all of them and you won’t rank well at all.  It’s mostly small site and blog owners who are going to suffer from this cycle, hence the idea behind Nofollow Reciprocity.  The Nofollow Reciprocity plugin for WordPress automatically tags links to large websites which use nofollow as nofollow links, effectively treating them the same way they treat you.

Large site owners, such as Wikipedia, etc., all make use of nofollow tags. They don’t care if they don’t pass any PageRank or authority to your website, because they’ve got plenty and there’s nothing you can do about it.  But what we can do about it is start spreading link authority amongst ourselves.  By allowing “dofollow” links (there’s actually no such HTML tag for “dofollow”, it’s just a regular href link without the nofollow attribute) on your blog comments or on your website, small site owners can begin allowing link authority to spread, thus fostering the free exchange of information on the web once again.

Are you using nofollow links?  If you’ve got WordPress installed, you are, since WordPress (and some other blogging platforms) add nofollow tags to all comment links by default.  This was done primarily to discourage spam commenting.  The theory is that if your links are worthless to them, spammers won’t bother bombarding you with them.  The problem is this discourages commenting in general, since, well, your links are worthless.  You can use Semiologic’s Plugin to remove nofollow tags from your WordPress comments.

If you want to check out who’s using nofollow links on any web page, install Aaron Wall’s SEO plugin for Firefox.  When enabled, it turns all the nofollow links on a web page to red so you can easily spot them.

So it’s official – all comments on my blog are now “dofollow” links!

Tags: code, google, google pagerank, google results, nofollow, plugins, seo, software, yahoo

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Comments

37 Responses to “A Criticism of NoFollow Links: Why You Should Not Use Them”

  1. Lazar on August 21st, 2008 10:50 pm

    Hi,

    thanks for the post. Just wanted to ask you, did you have a ‘Cannot send session cache limiter – headers already sent’ bug during the login/logout in from the blog administration?

    I noticed the bug an hour ago (after about 80 downloads from WordPress page), and have fixed it now, so if you, or anyone else, notice that error, please download the plugin again.

    Take care.

    ps. i am refering to nofollow-reciprocity plugin

  2. Barry Wise on August 21st, 2008 10:59 pm

    Hi Lazar! Thanks for visiting my site. I did not notice any errors at all with the plugin; it’s been working fine and I’m using the latest version of WordPress, 2.6.1. I’ll go ahead and upgrade, though, if you’ve updated it.

  3. tata on August 23rd, 2008 11:24 am

    Nice article :)

    I was unawares of the nofollow attribute until I read an article over at BloggerBuster about removing them. I did some research and decided that the potential for spam was worth sharing the link love. Too bad no one really uses it, since I’m currently in blogger platform.

    Anyhow, feel free to visit my site! http://www.imnotbeautifullikeyou.com/

  4. Barry Wise on August 23rd, 2008 11:33 am

    @tata – hi and thanks for commenting! I think more and more bloggers are starting to remove nofollow links from their blogs, because they realize it helps us all out.

    I use Akismet to keep spam to a minimum; unfortunately it’s needed with a dofollow blog!

  5. Tony Cathey on August 23rd, 2008 2:25 pm

    I read your entry over at BC and wanted to visit. I recently made my blog a dofollow blog after reading the benefits. Thank you for clearing up the other issues.

    Tony Cathey
    http://www.imablogger.net
    Where false doctrine gets PWND

  6. Andrew on August 25th, 2008 1:43 pm

    I agree about nofollow hurting sites. If you have two blogs to choose from, one is dofollow and one is nofollow, you might as well post at the dofollow. Why not? Why miss out on the link love, when you are running a business. So long as your comment is useful and the moderator is happy with your comment, let the love be shared! At the end of the day, it’s up to the blog owner which comments get published. Fair play then. So this leaves nofollow blogs with less comments, less traffic unless they have an audience and webmaster that is exceptional and you truly want to comment. How many blogs fit that description? It’s not mercenary to focus more on dofollow, it’s just that the extra incentive to post on dofollow blogs is too great.

  7. Stephan on August 28th, 2008 7:44 am

    A do follow revolution is starting, and I’m ecstatic!
    This means that we will be able to share and exchange ideas and information as it was intended on the World Wide Web!

    Damn you No Follow!

  8. No Fax Payday Loans on September 2nd, 2008 12:05 pm

    No Fax Payday Loans by Personal Money Store.

    Our blog is dofollow also. We use the nofollow attribute in our basic site structure in order to channel link love. Anyone who thinks that google does not follow nofollow links has not paid attention to Youtube. No Fax Payday Loans

  9. Anthony on September 10th, 2008 6:22 pm

    Good point! I just started using no follow tags

  10. outsourcing on September 29th, 2008 8:58 am

    I work for an outsourcing company for years and i suggest all my clients to follow this very useful tool. I also use the same seo plugin for dofollow blogs, its the most authentic way of searching dofollow blogs.
    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  11. SEO on October 15th, 2008 6:39 am

    I’ve also added the follow tag to my blog. This means of course that all comments have to be moderated heavily! i agree with David that there is no harm in passing some juice along as long the comments add value to the post!

  12. Bike Saddle on October 19th, 2008 10:52 am

    I turned off the nofollow attribute also by installing the nofollow free plugin. Started googling for a way to add nofollow to sites like wikipedia, and immediately saw this page. Thanks Barry for a useful post.
    Though I just tested it, and it’s not working. I guess nofollow free removes the nofollow attribute that Reciprocity puts in the first place. Maybe I have to manually edit the WP core files… I wish Nofollow Free had some sort of URL filter, not only a text filter!
    If I find a solution, I’ll let you know. Please let me know if you know of any solution yourslef. :)
    Thanks,
    Tony.

  13. Maneet Puri on October 22nd, 2008 6:18 am

    People talk about W3C compliance, usability and accessibility issues in a webiste that hinders SEO. But the very same people fail to realize the negative effects of the nofollow attribute. I hope your article has enligtened some souls!

  14. seo web designer on November 3rd, 2008 9:35 pm

    Thanks for the enlightenment. I’m gathering intelligence for my Worporess blog now and my list is about 30 plugins, which brings across another issue – will this amound of plugins alone hurt me? One of them is the WP Super Cache (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-super-cache/), and hopefully that will help.

  15. Web Talk on November 8th, 2008 1:09 pm

    Everything about this nofollow issue is due to Google which dictates the rules the whole Internet has to follow. Of course this is not good because it is behaving in a totalitarian way. If I remember well, many years ago websites (blogs didnt exsist yet) were all dofollow…A aprt of this shame is also for big CMS as WordPress which could add amonng its features a nice one to disable the nofollow tag!

  16. Marketing on November 26th, 2008 3:21 pm

    Give and you will receive in life and on the Internet. Share the love with those that take the time to connect with your website.

    Not one of our sites have a nofollow as if we are going to link out somewhere then we must give the love.

  17. London Photocopier on December 5th, 2008 11:41 pm

    Just what I was looking for. Wish I’d found you sooner. Thank you for this information and for spreading the word. Firefox is such a great browser.

  18. Houston Lawyers on December 20th, 2008 9:18 pm

    This was a very refreshing post – nice to see someone practice what they preach. Great job!

  19. Impacted on January 2nd, 2009 10:21 pm

    I too have recently removed the NoFollow tags from my blog.

    I’ve also modified Randa Clay’s badge for a smaller format for those who want to promote that they are part of the DoFollow movement.

    You can get the code for the badge here: http://companiesactingbadly.blogspot.com/2009/01/you-comment-i-follow.html

  20. Matt Chatterley on January 31st, 2009 8:57 am

    An interesting argument – and good points raised.

    We tend to encourage our customers to give ‘dofollow’ links to people they choose to exchange links with – if you aren’t prepared to do so, why are you visibly endorsing each others sites to human readers?

  21. Jessica on February 12th, 2009 1:06 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post… well thought out and written. Thank you!

  22. Ramsey SEO on February 15th, 2009 12:19 am

    One good do follow from a PR4 can keep you stoked for 6 months. But don’t forget Google is looking for a natural progression. WordPress and Blogger default to nofollow and so it’s only natural to have a mix of dofollow and nofollow inbound links.

  23. Top Webmaster Forums on March 9th, 2009 1:07 pm

    Great article! I think bidvertiser uses nofollow links on publisher’s ads code.

  24. Don Margolis on April 1st, 2009 12:45 am

    Very good argument. I have been ambivalent on this subject for a long time and this sort of tilts me in your direction. Thanks- Don

  25. PlainGuy Productions on April 16th, 2009 7:41 am

    Thanks for this article I could not agree more. I always felt that the most appropriate use for no follow tags is it prevent pages of my own site from taking to much link juice, such as my contact page.

  26. SEO Optimizer on April 25th, 2009 3:55 pm

    It was great to go through the stuff posted on your blog. Look forward to more useful posts in future.

  27. Gabby on June 11th, 2009 1:02 pm

    I’d like a widget which showed who was reading my blog at any time–like a more public version of the Sitemeter “who’s on” function, which allows me, as blog owner to know who is reading my blog at any time.

  28. Hot Springs on June 25th, 2009 11:46 am

    I have to agree with you on believing the bots actually follow the nofollows. Thanks for your articles. I’ve been reading all morning different SEO things you’ve written about and learned a lot.

  29. Mike - Sibelius 6 on July 8th, 2009 3:03 pm

    I can’t understand why Google would implement a nofollow attribute. They should have thought of other creative ways to pick up on comment spam. The nofollow tag eliminates incentive to share content, and the whole idea of the internet is to benefit from each other, and share ideas and information. It is a shame most blogs these days, and wikis, by default come prepackaged with the nofollow attribute. I wonder how many people actually understand the effects of a nofollow tag, or are aware of its existence.

  30. SEO Nottingham on July 28th, 2009 9:55 am

    We need to be very warey of how google looks at NoFollow links. It was recently announced that using NoFollow links for PR Sculpting was a method that had carried no weight whatsoever for the last 18 months. Nobody noticed, so they didn’t tell us!!

  31. Inmate Locator on August 20th, 2009 2:11 am

    I have several websites and i support “do follow”. Thanks for the great article and I hope this movement contiues. :)

  32. Silk Flowers for Weddings on August 23rd, 2009 1:14 pm

    adding the dofollow plugin to my blog increased the number of comments.. and that is a welcome change :)

    some of them are spam but that is what akismet is for

  33. Dennis Bellows on August 24th, 2009 1:53 pm

    I agree with Scott above. The sites that horde link juice are doing an injustice to the quality sites that they use as references. If you get a good comment on your blog or site then you need to follow that comment.

    Dennis B.

  34. Lawrence Walsh Group on August 25th, 2009 10:50 am

    Great article! I complete agree with the fact that nofollow really closes down on many opportunity to have your information shared with others.

  35. business communication on September 18th, 2009 6:44 pm

    I think that including nofollow links defeats the whole purpose of people taking the time to post a comment. I mean, it’s a trade-off.

  36. Kevin Kane on December 11th, 2010 4:49 pm

    Right on, Barry.

    I haven’t been able to get my blog’s comment links to follow. I’ve tried the following plugins: Do Follow, NoFollow Free, and Follow My Links.

    I can only get comment text links to follow — but not comment author links.

    For example: http://www.kevinkane.com/2010/11/how-to-make-sure-that-your-toastmasters-experience-doesnt-suck/#comments

    Any suggestions from anyone are appreciated!

  37. Zak on October 2nd, 2011 6:32 am

    Interesting article.

    I was just reading on SEOMoz about the potential death of no follow links due to the rise of things like twitter.

    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/nofollow-is-dying-the-impact-of-microblogging-and-nofollow-on-seo

    Its obvious that nofollow works a like a bandaid for a problem that doesn’t always apply to everyone, much less every situation.

    Personally, no follow probably just flags a link to be analyzed in some other fashion then your typical link, just slowing down its worth, maybe being weighed less important etc… but its also true they help anyways, in the long run, and when you think about it, even though quick is good, if a person is serious about a blog, site etc, then its the long run that matters.