Which links does Google care most about: Follow or no-follow?

October 7, 2022 | Advanced SEO

Every marketer knows that link building is the most important strategy of SEO.

It is a unison of numerous skill sets that involves creating quality content, reaching out, making convincing pitches, conducting surveys and research, etc. If you want sites to link to your domain, you need to excel in these skills.

Long story short, every site needs links to boost their search engine visibility and traffic. And there are two main types of links that exist.

  1. No-follow
  2. Do-follow

What are no-follow links?

Hyperlinks with rel=”nofollow” tags are called no-follow links.

If a hyperlink is rel=”no-follow”, then no link juice will be transferred to the destination URL, which means that the presence of such links will neither improve a site’s ranking or domain authority.

Bottom line: the presence of no-follow links informs search engine spiders to not crawl the hyperlinked URL.

What are do-follow links?

No-follow links and do-follow links are identical to each other. However, if the nature of the link is do-follow, it means that the spiders have the authority to crawl the hyperlinked URL and transfer the link juice. Presence of do-follow links can improve a site’s rankings as well as the domain authority.

NOTE: Refer to the complete guide to no-follow and do-follow links to learn more about them.


If Do-follow links are proven to boost PageRank, then why does Google recommend sites to build No-follow links as well?

We asked several industry experts to share their opinion on the subject.

Here’s what they have to say:

“Google still recommends websites to acquire a mix of both do-follow AND no-follow links because.”

Many SEO experts know that the no-follow attribute was developed around 2005 to help fight comment link spam, flag paid links, and also to disassociate responsibility when linking to external sites from your domain. 

However, in the present-day SEO (and for several years now), Google still recommends websites to acquire a mix of both do-follow AND no-follow links. It still wants to know about the authority signals received via links coming from other relevant websites. 

The key is to have attribute diversity. For example, you would not say ‘no’ to acquire a link from a site like Wikipedia on a relevant Wikipedia page just because it was a no-follow link. Every SEO knows that Google considers Wikipedia to be a credible source of information. To gain an authority no-follow link, it’s clear that Google will analyze Wikipedia’s link association and examine which site Wikipedia deems authoritative enough to link. This would, in turn, contribute as a signal for Google when deciding which websites to rank. 

In summary, rather than focusing on do-follow or no-follow links, it’s important to focus on quality, relevancy, and authority links that Google will notice.

“A no-follow is much more valuable than a follow link.”

Regardless of where it came from or how much link juice you get from the link, traffic is traffic. The more sources you have linking to your domain, even if Google does not follow them, the more chances you have of people ending up on your page. This will improve signals for Google, indicating that your content is worth reading or viewing. Even if it’s not helping you grow the Page Authority, it is helping you serve valuable information to more people. It does help you but not in the traditional way that a backlink can serve. 

In some cases, a no-follow is much more valuable than a follow link. For instance, a no-follow link from a site like BBB.org will drive 100 people to your website in a month, whereas a do-follow site with low traffic may drive 1-5 people to your site.

“Apply the 80-20 rule -make 80% your links do-follow and 20% of no-follow.”

It’s common knowledge that no-follow links don’t influence your search engine rankings but they still drive traffic to your website. As Google, itself stated: “In general, we didn’t count nofollow links as a ranking metric.” Which means there are some cases Google counted it as a ranking factor. 

The two questions that are rowling around the internet are what if I get nofollow links from a high authoritative site like Wikipedia, will it boost my ranking? Well, probably not. Nofollow links can help you drive more traffic to your websites. It makes your backlink profile look great and healthy. Even major sites like Youtube, Facebook, and Linkedin have a vast amount of nofollow links, which makes their backlink profile natural. If you have 10,000 do-follow backlinks and 0 no-follow, it sends a clear message to Google that this site buys links from third-party websites. And guess what happens, Google will de-rank you, hit you with a penalty, or I’ve seen in some rare cases, Google de-indexes you. 

Imagine, you get a do-follow link from a DA 20-30 site, it’ll help a little bit in your SERP ranking but won’t drive that much traffic. But when you get a no-follow link from an authoritative site like Inc or Forbes, a massive amount of traffic is driven to your site. In my opinion, a website must have both kinds of links. Apply the 80-20 rule -make 80% your links do-follow and 20% of no-follow.

“While a do-follow link might support the direct endorsement of the site, it alone isn’t enough.”

Often a time, companies promote their products by offering a free trial or a demo of their services/products. But does it stop them from advertising and marketing it, even though it provides potential customers with no visible/direct reason to buy what the company is selling? This works in the world of link-building as well, while a do-follow link might support the direct endorsement of the site, it alone isn’t enough.

When a house is built, bricks alone aren’t enough cement has to support them. Similarly, in the outer world, if a product was to be endorsed by several celebrities at once, but you don’t find any other mention of it elsewhere, it’s bound to get suspicious. Same works in the eyes of Google (and most search engines) as well. Google has stated repeatedly that its sole aim is to improve the quality of online content and provide engaging yet valuable information to its visitors. Hence, you would do better if, for each of the do-follow links that you build manually, some cousins of it i.e., no-follow links are built to support them, too.

In Conclusion:

No-follow links are equally important as do-follow links even though they don’t have any influence over a site’s domain authority and page rank. 

Do you have something to add on to this, let us know in the comment sections below!

NOTE: The answers from these experts are collected from RankWatch SEO Superstar Of the Month contest.

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