Dofollow Vs. Nofollow Links… What’s Better For Your SEO?

In the world of SEO, one thing is certain: link building matters. Yet even with the most aggressive strategy, not all links are created equal. As you explore the value of guest blogging, offering professional quotes to writers, or hunting for link sharing opportunities, you need to understand the basics of follow vs nofollow links to understand how these efforts can help your website.

To begin, if you’re new to SEO, feel reassured that all links are clickable. The follow and nofollow properties are more about how different links can affect your website.

A dofollow link is a link that can have more of an impact on your SEO. Why? Because in addition to the link itself, the link also passes reputation or authority from the origin site to your own.  Think of this like a kid’s reputation on the playground. If you are new to a school and you befriend the cool kid, your reputation goes up. But, in a similar way, if you befriend a not-so-cool kid, your reputation can go down.

Dofollow links pass reputation both to and fro, which has an impact for the site linking and the site being linked to. If your site is hacked, you pass negative authority to the sites you have dofollow links with. This is one of the main reasons many high-authority websites do not give follow links – they simply can’t afford the risk to their reputation.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to acquire dofollow links. It just means it isn’t always possible. In an ideal world, acquiring dofollow links is an important goal because they help to boost the page/site being linked to. All of which helps amplify a page/site higher in the SERPs.

The experience of dofollow and follow links is the same across the web and is one of the many benefits to consider if you explore link building strategies for SEO.

A nofollow link is exactly as it sounds:  a clickable link that doesn’t pass reputation or authority. This is the safest link you can have with the least risk to your site. Of course there are other risky details with links that slow down growth or progress on Google, but that’s for another article.

Nofollow links are the most common and do still have a meaningful impact on your website. Aside from driving traffic, all links support building reputation for your website. If growing higher in search is a goal, regularly adding new inbound links to your website should be on your list.

This is easiest to show in a picture.

Nofollow code
Code for a dofollow link

You can find this answer out in a few ways:

  1. Search the source code. On a PC, right click your mouse/keypad and look for “view page source”. On a Mac, press Command + Option + U keyboard combination at the same time to view the page source.
  2. Once you’re in the source code, search/find the word “follow”. Scroll through whatever results show until you find code that either reads with the word “nofollow”. If nothing is found, your site is giving dofollow links.
  3. You can also program links uniquely to offer dofollow or nofollow properties. Currently WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly have this option, but may vary depending on the age of your site.

Absolutely. Links do much more for your website than just pass authority. Their primary function is to drive clicks/traffic from one site to another and that is independent of the kind of link it is. It’s wise to strongly consider the importance of being seen in the search engine’s eyes as an authority on your topic vs holding out for a dofollow link.

Dofollow & Nofollow Link FAQs

Dofollow vs Nofollow… Is There Ever A Preferred Time For A Nofollow Link?

Because nofollow links don’t pass reputation, they are advisable in situations when you’re concerned about your reputation. For example, if your website has matured and is seen as an authority in your subject matter and you want to link to a “lesser” site, that can be a reason to use a nofollow vs a dofollow link.

Digital reputation is both subjective and quantitative. In the subjective lane you have things like peer reputation or how a site is referenced in non-digital ways. I have seen many older professionals who are more well established in a university setting or at their jobs than they are online. This is an example of someone who is clearly professional and trustworthy, but since they haven’t created the same online presence that they have offline, it’s both subjective and not necessarily helpful for your linking strategy.

On the quantified front, you can see a website’s level of toxic backlinks to get a sense of their digital reputation. This is one variable that will give you a nod towards or away from dofollow links. Both metrics are worth “knowing” as you decide who to link to and what kind of link to request or offer to a site.

Can I still get traffic to my site if I don’t build backlinks?

You can, but it’s harder. The shortcut here is advertising which can come from something less expensive like “boosting” posts on Facebook to something more expensive like Google ads. Either way, you’ll get traffic from advertising if you target the right audience and keywords and this happens without worrying about backlinks.

How many backlinks are safe to add to my site a day without looking spammy?

There isn’t a number of backlinks that are good or bad for your site. The goal is that your number of backlinks grows organically. So if you publish an article on a website that drives a lot of traffic to your site and is shared widely on social media, that happens naturally. Perhaps it brings you 30 backlinks in a day. You don’t need to worry about that provided it’s natural. It’s when people get into buying backlinks and doing it from less reputable websites that the volume of backlinks raises an eyebrow.

In the end, your toxic backlinks and your backlink profile are traceable and you can investigate how your website gets backlinks (and if they are follow links vs nofollow links) by using tools like SEMRush.

Remember that lots of links to your website as a source, subject-matter expert, or for having something that’s of great value to the general public demonstrates your professional authority on the topic. Those clicks are tremendously valuable and far outweigh the stress of getting a dofollow or nofollow link.

When it comes down to it, it’s the click from the link that matters most.

Related Content:

Canonical Vs. 301 Redirects – Understand When (And How) To Use Them

6 SEO KPIs You Should Be Tracking

How To Get Backlinks For Your Therapy Website

Need help with your SEO strategy (links included), reach out for a complimentary consultation today.

Updated 7/24/23

author avatar
Melanie Gorman
Melanie Gorman is the owner and operator of Crownsville Media. She holds a masters in counseling psychology and has been in the fields of web development, SEO optimization and content creation for more than 20 years.

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