SEO is a heated topic at the best of times and is in no way helped by the constantly changing algorithms Google utilise to optimise their search results.
However, one reoccurring area of confusion surrounds backlinks - specifically which links should be 'dofollow' and which should be 'nofollow'.
We've put together this short article to help teach you when to use dofollow links and when to use nofollow links.
What are links?
To best explain the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, we should first explain what a link is.
A link, or hyperlink, connects one webpage with another, similar to links in a watch or chain. They're intended to direct readers to supporting information or other articles of interest and look like this:
Links can either be internal (linking to content within your own website) or external (linking to content on another website) and can be marked as dofollow or nofollow (links can actually be a whole lot more, but that's for another article).
The whole purpose of links are to bring added value to your reader. Historically, links have been a strong SEO factor due to this nature of endorsement. Typically a high authority website linking to a lower authority site would boost the lower site's ranking. This led to the creation of the buzz-phrase 'Link juice' and where the majority of the confusion stems. Things have since changed and this is where it gets a bit complicated.
But more on that later, first we need to know what 'dofollow' and 'nofollow' links actually are.
What are dofollow links?
'Dofollow' links are links that your site publicly endorses. When you're using a 'dofollow' link you're telling search engines you support the linked site and you want their crawlers to go to it and check it out.
By default all of your links are 'dofollow' unless you state otherwise, so going back to our previous example here is a 'dofollow' link:
As you can see nothing has changed. If you're linking like this you're endorsing the content and supposedly sharing your sacred 'link juice'.
This type of backlink can be benificial to the SEO of the linked to website, but not to the extent as it once was due to the rise of bots and spammers. Thanks to dirty black hat SEO techniques, Google have since updated their algorithms and reduced the weighting of backlinks when it comes to calculating search engine result page (SERP) ranking.
What are nofollow links?
Conversely, 'nofollow' links are links that your site is not endorsing. When you're using a 'nofollow' link you're telling search you don't want their crawlers to go and check it out. This could be for a number of reasons as we will see later.
You need to explictly state that a link isn't to be followed as shown in this example:
<a href="https://www.google.com" rel="nofollow">Google</a>
Here we are telling search engines we don't want them to go to Google. We are being greedy with our supposed 'link juice' and are keeping it all to ourselves. This is of little to no SEO benefit to the linked site.
So where should each type of link be used?
When to use dofollow links
Anytime you're endorsing another site positively in an article be it in a review, interview, guide, mention, etc. you should be using 'dofollow' links.
The nature of 'dofollow' links are to help search engines find the quality content. If you like what you're linking to, show it by using 'dofollow'.
When to use nofollow links
Equally, 'nofollow' links should be used whenever you don't want to endorse a site. Perhaps you are writing a piece of content talking about spammers or other malicious sites. In this instance you obviously don't want to tell search engines you endorse that sort of content.
Most importantly however, you don't want to be endorsing your own content from other sites. Google have on numerous occassions outlined that you shouldn't endorse your own content from within content you've written on another site i.e. guest content. Check out this tweet by Google's John Mueller:
The part that's problematic is the links -- if you're providing the content/the links, then those links shouldn't be passing signals & should have the rel-sponsored / rel-nofollow attached. It's fine to see it as a way of reaching a broader audience.— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) June 11, 2020
Google have a pretty clear cut policy here. If you're providing the content and linking to your own site, then it should be a 'nofollow' link. They take this thing pretty seriously too and have been known to penalise sites in the past for 'abusing' guest posting.
Essentially if the link is within the guest post, it should be nofollow, even if it's a "natural" link you're adding there.— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) June 13, 2020
FWIW none of this is new, and I'm not aware of any plans to ramp up manual reviews of this. We catch most of these algorithmically anyway.
However, this doesn't make guest posting any less impactful when it comes to building a successful blog. You should just be careful when writing your guest content and avoid 'dofollow' links where possible.
In short, make sure to use guest posting for its intended purpose - building an audience. If you're just looking to strengthen your SEO you'll eventually get caught out and likely penalised. We'd hate for that to happen to any of our directory members and we hope this article helps clear things up.
What's your backlink approach? Reach out to us on Twitter and let us know!