What does Nofollow mean?
The term “Nofollow” is an attribute value that is set for a single link or even an entire page. For Google, a Nofollow tag is a signal not to crawl the corresponding link or to associate it with the linking web page. Even if links are provided with a Nofollow tag, they still have an influence on the ranking of a website.
The Nofollow attribute was introduced by Google in 2005 to limit spam. Until then, it was common practice, for example, to link one’s own page in the comments section of Internet forums or link exchanges. This was a common practice to strengthen the backlink profile. Since backlinks are considered an important ranking factor for Google, the ranking of one’s own website could be positively influenced in this way.
However, this does not correspond to the purpose of backlinks. They should be built naturally and thus serve as an indicator for the quality of a page.
Such manipulation was prevented by the introduction of Nofollow, because now you could explicitly instruct the Google Bot not to follow the spam links.
Differences: Nofollow – Dofollow
Internet pages are crawled by search engine bots at regular intervals. If an internal or external link is set on a website, the web crawler follows it and lands on the linked target page. As a result, the page receives link juice. In order to increase the link popularity, it makes sense to link a relevant page often. This relevance is a signal for Google to rank it higher.
In this case it is a “Dofollow” link.
The situation is different for a nofollow link. If you mark a link with the additional tag “Nofollow”, this is an instruction for the web crawler not to follow this reference. If the bot encounters such a link, it will not crawl the linked page.
Set a Nofollow Link
The signal to the search engine not to follow a link is stored in the HTML code. This is possible either for individual links or for all pages. If you want the search engine not to follow a single link, then Nofollow is added in the HTML as a rel attribute (rel=”nofollow”) within the hyperlink:
<a href=”http://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor text</a>
If a page has many links that you want to exclude, it would be very time-consuming to add the Nofollow tag to each link individually. Therefore, you can also set all links for a page to Nofollow. This is achieved by inserting a robots metatag in the header of the page:
<meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow” /a>
When should you use the Nofollow attribute for a link?
If a page to which you link does not seem trustworthy or you do not want to take responsibility for the linked content, you should mark the corresponding link with the attribute. This procedure can be helpful, for example, for links in the comments section of forums.
Until the end of 2019, it was also mandatory to mark advertising links with Nofollow; because purchased links (paid advertising, affiliate) are not generated naturally. Here, the attribute thus served, similar to the paid ads in the SERPS, as a marker that it is advertising.
In September 2019, however, Google introduced new link attributes (“Sponsored” and “UGC”) for this case.
At first glance, nofollow links do not seem to have any added value for search engine optimization, as no link juice is passed on via them. However, it is certain that links with the tag are useful for SEO, because in link building they contribute to the generation of a natural backlink profile. Moreover, link clicks still generate traffic even if the web crawler does not follow them. Since September 2019, it is also official that Google includes Nofollow links as a factor for the ranking of a website.