Blog Tips Tuesday 7: When to use ‘nofollow’ links
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This is an ‘expert’ blog tip – it’s not at all difficult, but it is aimed at people who already have their blog set up and have gained a basic knowledge of html, and are looking at fine-tuning their blog.
When to use ‘nofollow’ links on your blog
What is a ‘nofollow’ link?
Any time you place a link to another website on your blog, a connection is made between those two pages. The next time Google crawls your blog trying to figure out how it’s organised, it will follow that link. There is also a transfer of PageRank from your site to theirs (you can check your PageRank here) – linking to them will mean that they get a slight boost in PageRank, almost as if they’re leeching a little of your own ranking. How big of an impact you have on their ranking will depend on how ‘big’ of a site you are – the effect is likely to be absolutely tiny, but if enough people link to the same page, these small effects will add up!
Of course, this PageRank transferral can happen in the opposite direction as well – any time another site links to you, you’ll benefit. This is why it’s so great to get backlinks from big, successful websites!
Most of the time, this transferral of PageRank isn’t a problem. If I’m linking to another blog, chances are it’s because I’m sharing a post I really liked, or linking to a recipe that’s relevant to my own blog post – and that’s totally fine! You don’t need to use nofollow links if you’re sharing something because you enjoyed it. In fact, I’m actually pleased that I’m able to give a backlink to a blogger that I enjoy!
The problem started when people realised that since they were getting a PageRank boost every time they were given a backlink on someone else’s site, they could pay other people to insert these links for them. For example, if I was a spammy website, I might pay a thousand bloggers to insert a textlink to my site on their blogs. Without nofollow links, Google would assume that my site was really great, and that everyone really wanted to link to me – when in fact, they were only linking to me for the money. Google tries to avoid dishonesty like this, so this is where nofollow links come in.
When a link has the ‘nofollow’ attribute (more on that in a second), it tells Google not to follow the link next time it crawls your site. The link is still active and available for your readers to click on, but there will not be the same association between the two pages in the eyes of the almighty Google.
When should I use a ‘nofollow’ link?
You should use nofollow links for a few different reasons. Firstly, if you’re ever going to accept money to add a textlink to another page, make sure you make it clear to the person who’s paying you that your link will be nofollow (chances are they’ll change their mind once you tell them that!). If Google suspects that you’re adding links to spammy websites on your blog purely for money, you will be penalised. You’ll appear lower on Google search results, so you’ll get less traffic, and you’ll earn less money from your blog.
Even if your link isn’t technically a paid link, it might still need to be nofollow. For example, if I’m writing a sponsored post for a particular brand, I might link to that brand’s website in my post. While in this case it wasn’t quite as clear-cut as ‘I will add this link if you pay me this amount of money’, it is still technically a sponsored link, so it should be nofollow.
Another time that you might like to use a nofollow link is if you’re linking to a site that you’re not entirely sure you trust. If the site you’re linking to seems at all spammy, make your link nofollow – it’s not worth the risk to be associated with a spammy site. Or, if someone has commented on your blog and included a link back to their own site, you might decide to leave the link up, but to make it nofollow – after all, you didn’t actually choose to link back to this person’s site, they just added the link themselves. It might be perfectly innocent, or it might be a comment spammer, so it’s always best to make sure the link is nofollow just in case. Of course, if the person consistently posts useful comments on your blog and you realise that you can trust them after all, you might decide to reward them by removing the nofollow attribute from their links, and allowing them the small PageRank boost.
How do I use a ‘nofollow’ link?
Making a link nofollow is really easy, and just requires a very (very!) basic knowledge of html.
To begin, add your link in the usual way – this could be by typing out the html manually, or using the link builder in WordPress or Blogger. Then, go to the place where you can view your blog post’s html.
In WordPress: click the ‘text’ tab
In Blogger: click the ‘html’ tab
Locate the code for the link you want to make nofollow. It should look something like this:
<a href=”http://www.othersite.com/pagebeinglinked”>Linking text here</a>
Just like when we made links open in a new tab, we’re going to add a short piece of code. To make a link nofollow, you just need to add:
Put this inside the first set of triangular brackets, somewhere after the ‘a’. It doesn’t matter in which order you put each link attribute – it can come before or after the ‘href’ part, and you might also have other tags in there, like titles or target=”_blank”. As long as they’re all in there, the order doesn’t matter. So your link might end up looking something like this:
<a href=”http://www.othersite.com/pagebeinglinked” rel=”nofollow”>Linking text here</a>
or it might look a little more complicated, like this:
<a href=”http://www.othersite.com/pagebeinglinked rel=”nofollow” title=”Link title” target=”_blank”>Linking text here</a>
Both will work just fine, so it totally depends on how you’re using your link and which other attributes you’d like to include.
Summary of ‘nofollow’ links
So, to sum up.
You should always use nofollow links:
– when inserting a paid textlink
– when inserting a link on a sponsored post
– when linking to an untrusted site (e.g. links in comments or links to potentially spammy sites)
You don’t need to use nofollow links:
– when linking to another page on your own site that you’d like to be indexed by Google
– when linking to another blogger who you trust and who you’d like to get the PageRank benefit
I hope that clears up nofollow links at least a little! Even if you don’t understand 90% of this post, make sure you remember those few bullet points! Google change their algorithms pretty regularly so it’s hard to keep on top of the perfect way of doing things at any one moment, but as long as you make sure you add the nofollow attribute for any sponsored links or links to sites that you don’t want to be associated with, you should be fine!
As usual, feel free to ask questions in the comments or make suggestions for future Blog Tips Tuesday posts!
Other blogging tips:
How to reduce your bounce rate
How to find out how many times a blog post has been pinned
How to add titles and alt text to images
How to start a blog in 5 minutes
How to make a blogging media kit
How to set up a Facebook page for your blog