Are You Using nofollow Incorrectly?

It’s become a recent trend among large sites like Forbes, Huffington Post and Entrepreneur to use nofollow attributes on their outbound links. But this is a trend that needs to stop!

As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t trust the content you are linking to, then don’t use it! It’s that simple, really. But lets take it back to basics and see exactly how nofollow attributes work:

Using nofollow in the head section of an entire page is vastly different to using it on specific outgoing links, and should really be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

How does Google treat nofollow?

When it comes to nofollow attributes, Google is clear in how they are treated:

In general, we don’t follow them. This means that Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links. Essentially, using nofollow  causes us to drop the target links from our overall graph of the web.

Let the juice flow

It’s always a good tactic to let PageRank flow to your website. If you absolutely have to automate nofollow links, try implementing a system that focuses nofollow attributes only on external links for body content, but only for links that you can’t control or don’t trust.

Nofollow attributes can create dead ends in crawls and stops the flow of signals through your website, especially when used at a page level. Whilst it may be easier to simply “blanket” nofollow in the head of the page, but the easiest route doesn’t always mean it’s the best route.

So to summarise, here are some important points to consider when you are looking to utilise nofollow attributes:

  • If you have to use a nofollow attribute, use it as an attribute on specific links but not at a page level.
  • Using nofollow at a page level just hurts you more than anything. It’s not a good idea.
  • Using nofollow on all outbound links is just a ridiculous practice built out of fear of linking out.
  • Using nofollow attributes on all outbound links may end up hurting your own website. I recommend you not do it.
  • Be careful not to use noindex and nofollow together in all situations just because you think they should be used together. They have different purposes.