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The PageRank Google assigns your pages is one of your most valuable assets as an online publisher. Your SEO success on Google is dependent upon earning and maintaining PageRank.

In every sense of the word, doing so is a balancing act. Hoarding your PageRank is not good; not providing any links to other websites can be viewed as an SEO sin and it's difficult to get other websites to link to yours when you don't link out, in turn making it more difficult to earn PageRank in the first place.

At the same time, providing too many links can be a bad thing too - under certain circumstances. While the concept of 'PageRank leak' - the idea that you can potentially 'dilute' your PageRank by linking out too much - has been widely debated for years, there's no doubt that good linking practices are important to maintaining PageRank.

Linking to third party websites that Google thinks are 'spammy' can harm you. As Google itself advises, "avoid links to web spammers or 'bad neighborhoods' on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links."

This is where using the 'nofollow' attribute on outbound links can be a valuable SEO tool.

As Matt Cutts of Google has explained in the past:

"The rel='nofollow' attribute is an easy way for a website to tell search engines that the website can’t or doesn’t want to vouch for a link...Nofollow is recommended anywhere that links can’t be vouched for."

In short, using the 'nofollow' attribute is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that your outbound linking doesn't harm your website's SEO.

Here are some simple and easy-to-implement tips for using 'nofollow':

  • If you have user-generated content on your website, have your application automatically apply 'nofollow' to every link supplied by users in comments, profiles, blog posts, wikis, etc. Doing so will not only protect your website from the ill-effects of content users might submit containing links to websites in bad neighborhoods, it will also discourage spammers from targeting your website in the first place because they know that 'nofollow' neutralizes any SEO benefits they might have received from their shady activities.
  • When linking to third party websites, add 'nofollow' to those that you're not so familiar with or that have other content you're not so sure about. In other words, consider every link you give to be a 'recommendation' and recognize that just like in real life, recommendations come with varying levels of enthusiasm.
  • If you purchase links, consider requesting that 'nofollow' attributes be added to them. In a previous post, I discussed Google's stance on paid links. Google recommends that paid links include 'nofollow'. If you don't want to take any risks, this is probably a recommendation worth heeding.

An effective SEO strategy is not only dependent upon boosting your ranking but maintaining it and protecting it.

The 'nofollow' attribute is a simple, easy-to-implement way to help your SEO efforts and protect against penalties. It should be included in your SEO best practices.

Patricio Robles

Published 16 January, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2392 more posts from this author

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Richard Hartigan

Richard Hartigan, Industry Manager at Google

It is also worth considering the concept of sculpting pagerank by applying nofollow attributes to internal links. This helps ensure that the landing pages that have been targeted are pushed to the forefront.

For example, a product website may wish to place a nofollow link to their terms and conditions page. Google would usually look at this page and identify it as important due to the fact that it is linked to from all the independent product pages. It is not however the best page for a new customer to land on. It is a necessary page rather than a desired page and therefore, the webmaster may want to dampen the of this page in Google's eyes by adding nofollows. The whole principle of Pagerank then means every other page is more valuable. If you are clever, you can ensure that pagerank flows only to the key landing pages.

It is also not beneficial to allow Google to follow links to pages that they cannot see, such as secure pages or those hidden by a database.

There is a school of thought that says the more pages you have indexed in Google the better, but personally I would prefer that the correct pages are showing for the correct keywords.

over 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Richard - very good points all worth considering too!

over 7 years ago

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Dan W, Digital Marketing / Ecommerce / Optimisation Professional at Personal

Good point Richard. I've been to a number of SEO panels where delegates have suggested Google still follows these links, nofollow or not. Any thoughts on that? What are the likely benefits to doing that?

over 7 years ago

Richard Hartigan

Richard Hartigan, Industry Manager at Google

Yes - it is true that Google still recognises the link between the pages even when the Nofollow attribute is in place. The important thing however is that the attribute tells Google that this link is not important so it will not apply pagerank value or 'linkjuice' to the destination page.

The same principal applies to the noindex meta tag. Google are still aware of the page due to the links to it. The tag simply informs Google that you do not want it in the index.

I have seen amazing benefit from applying the NoFollow strategically throughout websites. The Firefox SEO Tools allow you to see exactly which sites are employing this tactics. This number is increasing.

over 7 years ago

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Dan W, Digital Marketing / Ecommerce / Optimisation Professional at Personal

Indeed - reports are mixed but mainly positive according to posts by folks over at SEOmoz. Clients are seing increases of 20-25 per cent in 2-4 weeks, while others' remain unaffected.

over 7 years ago

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Glenn Abel

I've never seen a straight answer as to whether Google expects nofollow applied to Amazon text links. As in, you mention a product in a review and have a link to the Amazon page that's linked to your account.


Recall seeing a Matt comment that said Google was good at figuring these out, but not sure if that means don't bother.

over 7 years ago

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Dan W, Digital Marketing / Ecommerce / Optimisation Professional at Personal

Old news now, but Matt Cutts of Google has recommended internal cross-linking over page rank sculpting. There's also lots of discourse of late on how PageRank 'link juice' is shared out among links on a page. Basically, this is no longer recommended as a useful tool / technique, other than adding no-follows to non-indexable pages like log-in pages and so on. 

about 7 years ago

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oes tsetnoc

great thanks for the info

almost 7 years ago

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Tammara

Yes, it really is a good practice and best SEO policy to use the no follow attribute, including comments! What most blogger's don't recognize is the fact that it is still of benefit for them to comment on blogs that use the no follow attribute! So many blogger's were brainwashed by the "You Comment, We Follow" movement, that they stray completely away from leaving comments on good quality posts, like yours! I'm happy to have the opportunity to comment on your no follow comment form - lol. :) Thanks!

over 6 years ago

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elcidi

This is a great post. I'll implement this NO FOLLOW right away... I hope it will increase my PR

over 6 years ago

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m65

very well put i was having the same problems when i started out doing seo and now it is much clear

over 6 years ago

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Justin Balbierer

I never really considered the benefits of "nofollow" until now... previously I just avoided it. I will most definitely put more emphasis on "nofollow" in the future.

over 5 years ago

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Ken

Should I use nofollow tags on my product reviews on my WP blog, or will this derank their popularity in Google?

over 4 years ago

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Nayan Popatia

Nice, nofollow links are best ..you dont even need same category website to get link :)

over 4 years ago

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Oliver

I personally believe there is benefit to link building with nofollow links. Even if Google does not follow the link there is still the opportunity to promote and build click through traffic and promote awareness of the site.

over 3 years ago

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Amtech Group, Marketing at Amtech Group

Nowadays Google ignores use of nofollow for internal website page rank sculpting. It is still a good strategy for links to external sites so as to keep page rank to yourself.

over 3 years ago

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