What are nofollow and dofollow links? Everything you need to know

Mackenzie Griffith

  | Published on  

May 26, 2021

One of the best ways to drive up your rank on Google is by getting a backlink - but not all links are treated equally by Google.

When it comes to boosting your site's rank, it's important to know about nofollow and dofollow links, the differences between the two, and how they work.

Here's the short answer: dofollow links help your ranking in search engines, nofollow links don't. There's a longer answer though, which we will dive into in this article.

It's impossible to tell the difference between a nofollow and a dofollow link as a website visitor. However, they make a world of difference to Google when it comes to ranking your site. Google categorizes all links as either a nofollow or a dofollow, so using the correct tag will help establish a quality backlink to your site and increase your domain authority.

What is a nofollow link?

A nofollow link is a HTML tag that explicitly tells search engines (like Google) not to follow the destination of that link. When Google is analyzing a page nofollow links tell Google to ignore the linked page and pass over it.

As a result these these links do not impact a search engine ranking as they do not pass PageRank, and will do nothing to help the linked page's SEO (so Google says, check below for some interesting SEO benefits to nofollow links).

The rel= “nofollow” tag tells Google that you don’t want to pass any link juice. While you will still get referral traffic from your link, the nofollow tag tells all search engines to ignore the link, so no SEO credit is passed through. You might be wondering - why do these even exist? Spam. In the old days of the internet, before nofollow links, spammers would comment on websites linking back to their site in order to build up domain authority. Webmasters wised up though and the nofollow link was born.

Now comments on most major CMS platforms are nofollow links by default, though web managers of websites may still elect to use a nofollow link when linking out to another site (for example, if it's a paid link).

Other common examples of nofollow links include:

  • Links in social media posts (such as Facebook)
  • Links from forum sites (like Quora or Reddit)
  • Certain blogs/news sites (like the Huffington post)
  • Medium

If someone is linking to you but using a nofollow link, don't lose heart. We break down the benefits (and even evidence of an SEO boost) later in this article.

What is a dofollow link?

As you probably guessed, a dofollow link is the opposite of a nofollow link.

A dofollow link is an HTML tag that allows search engines to follow the link. All links are dofollow links by default. Dofollow links help to increase your site’s page ranking by passing link juice from the linking website to your page. Google uses dofollow links in their algorithm to figure out how good the page is based off of the number of websites that have linked to your page.

This was a pretty revolutionary stance that the folks at Google took. Before Google, search engines ranked pages by traffic however the founders of Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) had an idea that websites that were cited the most were the most valuable. Larry and Sergey came from an academic background so this concept just made sense, but it was brand new for a search engine and has shaped the past 20 years and Google's dominance as a search engine.

How to tell if a link is dofollow or nofollow?

Want to know if your link is a dofollow or a nofollow? There is just one small technical difference between these two links.

Here it is:

<a href= "https://centori.io" rel="nofollow" >

<a href="https://centori.io" >

As you can see, nofollow links have a nofollow tag at the end, whereas dofollow links do not. It's really that simple.

You can figure out if your site is a nofollow or a dofollow by visiting the page and looking up in the search box the word “nofollow.” If the tag rel= “nofollow” pops up, as seen in the example, then your page has a nofollow backlink. If you do not see this tag, then your page is using a dofollow backlink, which means that you are allowing Google to crawl the linked page from your site to all search engines.

There are also several extensions of chrome and Firefox that are downloadable and will automatically inform you of whether a link is dofollow or nofollow. For Chrome you can use the program NofollowSimple while for Firefox you can use the program SEO Quake

Can nofollow links still help with SEO?

Nofollow links may get a bad rap, but they can still provide an SEO boost to your website.

Brian Dean of Backlinko points out a few case studies that suggest nofollow links can be just as beneficial to your site as dofollow links.

For one, Brian cited several experiments that showed nofollow links still improved the rank of websites. One interesting one was a test SurveyMonkey did to use a nofollow link to an unindexed page (a page Google had not yet crawled) and within 48 hours the page was indexed. Surely Google is paying attention to nofollow links? Their official stance is they 'generally don't follow them' but 'generally' is a broad term - it could mean almost never or sometimes. Google tends to be vague on these things.

Another interesting example is from the folks at SEOJet who saw some pretty amazing success using nofollow links for the keyword 'backlink software' - in fact, just about as good as you'd expect from getting dofollow links. The lesson? Don't count nofollow links out. While you can rely on dofollow links to pass PageRank you might be able to get some still from nofollow links so don't lose heart.

Nofollow links also bring in referral traffic, as discussed, which can help your site grow in the long run. They also help you get discovered by people which can turn into several dofollow link opportunities which without a doubt will help your SEO. So nofollow links aren't a lost cause, when played right they can be beneficial to boosting your rank.

Should I request a nofollow or dofollow link when I am getting a backlink?

You're always going to want a dofollow link to your site - but don't count the nofollow link out.

In some instances you won't have a choice, but don't worry and remember that any link is a good link if it's coming from a reputable website. Dofollow links provide an immense benefit by passing link juice over to your website, however nofollow links are still beneficial in that they can provide referral traffic and broaden your network.

Try not to get too hung up on it, instead focus on creating great content and building relationships in your industry - the links will start to come from there.

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