Should Outbound Links Be Nofollow?

Whether outbound links should be nofollow depends on the context and purpose.

If the link is endorsing a trusted and relevant source, a follow link can contribute positively to SEO, but for untrusted or paid links, using nofollow is recommended to avoid potential penalties and maintain site credibility.

In this blog post, we will discuss whether outbound links should be nofollow, and what factors you should consider when deciding whether to nofollow your outbound links.

What is a nofollow link?

A “nofollow” link is a hyperlink with a special HTML tag, “rel=”nofollow”,” added to its code. This tag instructs search engines not to pass any link equity to the linked page.

By nofollowing the outbound link, you are telling search engines that you don’t endorse that site.

An example of “nofollow” link:

<a href="" rel="nofollow">Link Anchor Text</a>

When to use nofollow links?

There are several situations where it’s appropriate to use nofollow links:

1. Paid Links

If you’ve paid for a link, or if you’ve sold a link on your site, that link should be nofollow to comply with Google’s guidelines. This includes sponsored posts, advertisements, affiliate links, etc. Google introduced the rel=”sponsored” attribute to specifically mark these types of links.

2. User-Generated Content

If the content is not directly controlled by you, such as comments on blog posts or forum threads, it’s a good practice to use nofollow links. This prevents spam and potential issues with low-quality or irrelevant sites. Google also introduced the rel=”ugc” attribute for this purpose.

3. Untrusted Content

If you’re linking to a website but don’t want to vouch for its content, you should use a nofollow link. This could be because you question the credibility of the information or because the site has a poor reputation.

4. Widgets or Site-wide Links

If a link will appear multiple times across a website, like in a footer or a widget, it may be appropriated to use a nofollow attribute.

Remember, while nofollow links do not pass SEO equity, they can still provide value in terms of traffic and visibility. Always consider the user experience when making decisions about how to link out from your site.

Should I nofollow all external links?

No, you should not nofollow all external links. The use of nofollow attribute should be strategic and based on certain conditions.

If the site you’re linking to is high-quality, relevant to your content, and provides additional value for your readers, then a dofollow link is beneficial. It shows search engines the contextual network between your site and others, which can actually improve your SEO.

Also, having a mix of dofollow and nofollow links also makes your link profile look more natural to search engines.

Does Google crawl nofollow links?

Yes, Google does crawl nofollow links. Googlebot follows nofollow links to discover new pages and understand the structure of a website, but it doesn’t use these links for determining the ranking of the linked pages in search results.

Links marked with “nofollow” rel attributes is a directive for crawling but doesn’t affect how the link is considered in terms of SEO.

Are nofollowed links counted as backlinks?

Yes, nofollow links are indeed counted as backlinks. However, they are treated differently than dofollow links.

While nofollow links don’t directly contribute to the search ranking of a page, they are still visible and can be crawled by search engines. This means that they are recognized as part of your site’s overall backlink profile.

Furthermore, Google has stated that it treats nofollow attributes as “hints”, suggesting that they may still take nofollow links into account to some degree when analyzing a site’s backlink profile.

In terms of SEO strategy, it is beneficial to have a mix of both dofollow and nofollow links as this creates a more natural and diverse backlink profile.

Do nofollow links help rankings?

The consensus among SEO experts is that nofollow links do not directly help a website rank higher in Google search results. This is because nofollow links do not pass on any link equity to the destination webpage.

However, there are indirect ways in which nofollow links could potentially benefit your SEO. For instance, nofollow links can drive traffic to your site, increase brand exposure, and may lead to more dofollow links in the future. If these interactions are positive, they could indirectly improve your site’s ranking over time.

Google has also stated that it treats nofollow attributes as “hints” rather than strict directives, meaning they might still take nofollow links into account when crawling and indexing.

It’s important to note that while having many nofollow links won’t necessarily harm your site’s ranking, they won’t provide the same SEO benefits as dofollow links.

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey is an SEO Consultant with 5+ years of B2B and B2C marketing experience.