Before we get started on nofollow tags, though, let's make sure we're clear on some basics.
- 1. Search Engines and Page Ranking
- 2. How Nofollow Tags Work
- 2.1. When to Use Nofollow Tags
- 2.1.1. Comments Section
- 2.1.2. Paid Links
- 2.1.3. Widgets and Infographics
- 2.1.4. User-Generated Content
- 3.1. Page Ranking
- 3.2. Legal Notice Status
- 5. Conclusion
Search Engines and Page Ranking
Think of search engines like virtual librarians. They sort through every page on the internet and categorize them so that people can find them when they enter queries into search bars.
Specifically, search engines do three things:
- Crawl through pages and capture URLs
- Index those pages so they appear in searches
- Rank pages so they show up in a certain order
Search engines use complex algorithms to complete these tasks, but that's a whole other topic on its own.
For our purposes, we only need to understand a few points.
Firstly, you can write pages, such as blog posts and articles, in a certain way so that they "rank" higher in search engine results. This is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Secondly, whenever you link to an external website, the other site receives a slight SEO boost. That's because the search engine sees the external link and assumes it leads to trustworthy, valuable content.
There are times when you don't want to endorse external links or boost another website's SEO value. So, you can ask search engines to ignore certain parts of a website, or even just parts of a page. That's where rel="nofollow" or nofollow tags come in.
How Nofollow Tags Work
Rel="nofollow" is a tag you can use in HTML code. The tag has a very specific purpose.
Essentially, it tells search engines to ignore certain outbound links on your page i.e. links to external websites. The search engine will still see the link when it crawls your page, but the outbound link doesn't count for SEO purposes.
But what's the value in using nofollow tags, and when should you actually use them? Let's take a look.
When to Use Nofollow Tags
Frustratingly, there's no right or wrong answer for when you should use nofollow links.
Typically, the answer depends on your webpage content, and your personal preferences. However, let's briefly run over how Nofollow tags are most commonly used.
If you let people comment on your blog posts and articles, you can't control what they write.
Very often, people leave links to other articles and websites within the comments section. Since you can't control what people link to, you don't want to endorse the links. So, you can use nofollow tags to ignore links within user comments.
Maybe you host paid ads or let people buy links on your webpage.
If you don't unfollow these links, search engines could penalize you for promoting non-organic, sponsored content and tampering with SEO rankings. The result is you could lose SEO points and drop down in search results rankings.
To avoid SEO penalties, you should nofollow paid ads and links. The clients you're hosting still get the webpage exposure they paid for.
Widgets and Infographics
It's a good idea to nofollow infographics, widgets, and embedded content from elsewhere around the web. Even if you're linking from an authoritative source, you might not wholly endorse everything the source says, so it's a good idea to nofollow this content.
For example, a freelance writer wants readers to share her article on social media but doesn't want to endorse any of these social media platforms. She also doesn't want to endorse each individual social media share. So, she nofollows the social media sharing widget
This is the same idea as letting users post comments. If they can post anything to your website, it's important that you enable the nofollow feature. That way, you're not endorsing links that you know nothing about.
This isn't an exhaustive list. You can use nofollow tags whenever you want to avoid endorsing another website or boosting its SEO ranking.
Legal Notice Status
In other words, you're not optimizing it for SEO, so there's no actual benefit to using SEO strategies on the page.
- You don't want to endorse the whole contents of external websites you link to e.g. if you link to a website where users can find out more information on privacy laws
Using nofollow tags is pretty simple.
- Switch to HTML view so you can see what the link's code looks like. For most browsers, you can switch views by right clicking and choosing "view page source." If this doesn't work, check the command for your specific browser.
- The HTML code opens in a new tab.
- Go to the link you want to add the nofollow tag to. We're concerned with the first part of the link. It should look something like
- Insert rel="nofollow" after the
<aat the beginning of the link.
- Your link now looks something like
<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.RandomWebsite.com"/>.
Now you've unfollowed the link. It's that simple.
However, it's usually unnecessary to add these tags unless you host paid ads/links or link to websites you don't want to endorse.
If you want to use nofollow tags, simply add rel="nofollow" before the relevant link. When you switch back from HTML view, you won't notice a difference on the page. Search engines simply won't rank the link in question.