No follows links are a good testament to how human nature intervenes in the development of technology. In the world of SEO, there are ‘good’ links and ‘bad’ links. For most webmasters, ‘bad’ links are usually prefaced by the no follow tag. Links that drive incoming traffic from other sources contribute to a website’s trust score and its presence on search engines. Due to this, you might think that no follow tags are just being mean spirited about the whole issue since those links don’t count towards building up the site they’re linking to. Even though the part about not contributing to a site’s ‘link juice’ score is true, this misses the reason why we still want no follow links being sent to our site. Before we even get there, however, we need to delve into how no follow even came into existence.
The Black Hat Downfall of Page Rank
The reason why links are such a hot commodity in SEO comes from Google’s adoption of the Page Rank value in order to value a page in reference to the information it provides based on how many people link to it, what many SEO people refer to as ‘link juice’. Because of how easy it was to simply link to one’s own page from a public resource like Wikipedia or from a blog post, it became a real nuisance for Google to rely on those links in order to gauge the usefulness of some pages. It’s here that we find the birth of the no follow tag, in response to human greed abusing the linking system developed to help people find legitimate information on the internet. Through no follow tags, a blog owner could simply stop ‘bad’ links from getting ‘link juice’ while at the same time not censoring content that could prove useful.
The Major Offenders Hit by the No Follow Tag
From a blogger’s perspective, setting up your no follow tags for your comments section would be obvious. Before the tag the comments section of a blog would be a nightmare, filled with all sorts of self-promotional stuff. Even today, many professional blogs still have to face a slew of bots posting on their comments section in order to drive links to their parent sites. Forums and untrusted content would similarly feature with a no follow tag. News sites and blogs that do research into shady practices and unwholesome websites can use the no follow tag to keep the traffic they link to from counting towards that site’s page rank value and thus not contributing to them exploding in popularity. Paid links are ethically on that list as well, since paying for incoming links is a questionable practice in itself and webmasters have a vested interest in ensuring that money isn’t spread around for driving traffic. it sets a dangerous precedent that could undermine the foundation of independent blogging as a whole.
So Why should WE Care about No Follow Links?
The importance of no follow links becomes evident when we look at incoming traffic. Just because the link doesn’t provide any fuel to your page rank score doesn’t mean it’s completely valueless. It’s thinking like that which led to the creation of no follow in the first place. Page rank is important, but what’s more important is getting people to see your content. Only then will you actually have growth happening to your website. Being noticed by the right people just means posting the right comment in the right place. The very first place that a conversion starts is from the point a customer visits your website. That is only possible if the customer knows your website exists. While no follow links don’t provide a good platform for growing a site’s SEO profile, it’s ideal for building a brand by doing brand marketing. Hubspot noted that 61% of SEO marketers saw improvement in SEO and growing the incoming organic traffic as their main concerns in 2017. That’s because they realize the importance of organic links to driving traffic, and those links don’t even need to be do follow.
Figuring Out if a Link is Follow or No Follow
For SEO marketing, it’s of tantamount important to know whether any particular link is follow or no follow. The two most popular browsers today both have their own ways to enable a researcher to view the page source and that’s where you’ll find where the no follow tags are. In Chrome, a user can navigate to View -> Developer -> View Source to get a glimpse of what’s under the hood in any particular page. in Firefox, it’s easier with a simple right click to reveal the context menu and choosing View Source. Once the source is visible, a simple search for the <nofollow> tag will allow you to see what links are not given the importance of a do follow link.
No Follow Links and SEO
Remember when we said that no follow links were built to stop black hat SEO barons from abusing them to build SEO? No follow links still do affect the final SEO value that a page has, albeit slightly differently from the way that directly linking to a page through a do follow link would. According to SEMRush, there are #1 ranked pages on Google search that have as many as 40% of their incoming links as no follow. That’s pretty important since back in 2006, a study by a Forrester shows that as many as 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. That’s where no follow links get their power from.
Balancing a Link Profile is Key
The aim is to create a natural link profile. Google’s algorithm updates have significantly leveled the playing field for both professionals as well as new site owners that want in on this new and exciting world of internet marketing. But to build a properly balanced link profile, you have to use both do follow and no follow links. Too many of one and you’re going to risk getting penalized by Google for bad practices. Since most of your traffic is going to be coming from search engines, being on their good side is probably a good idea. No follow links aren’t a short-term reward, but in the long term the amount of traffic that no follow links can drive to your site can pay off in a lot of different ways. As with most things in internet marketing, it’s all about playing for the long game.