SEO: What Are NoFollow and DoFollow Links?

Linking, whether you’re linking to another site or your site is being linked to, is an important part of SEO (search engine optimization). How a site treats links is important because it can determine how search engines treat those links as well. Specifically, I’m talking about whether a site uses NoFollow tagging within its links.

What do NoFollow and DoFollow mean?

When you create a link within your blog, whether it’s on your sidebar, within your article content, or in a comment, a regular link will be coded similar to this (obviously the URL and link text will be your own):

<a href=”http://www.bloggingbasics101.com”>Blogging Basics 101</a>

If a link is tagged as NoFollow, it will look similar to this (again with your own information):

<a href=”http://www.bloggingbasics101.com” rel=”nofollow”>Blogging Basics 101</a>

The part that defines the link as NoFollow is the rel=”nofollow”. If you take that out, your link becomes DoFollow. There is no actual DoFollow tag. The absence of the NoFollow tag makes the link DoFollow.

If a blog or web site doesn’t use the NoFollow tag, the search engines acknowledge the link; if a site does use the NoFollow tag, the search engines do not acknowledge the link. Why does this matter? In a previous article, I explained Google pagerank. Basically, if a site with a high pagerank links to you, Google increases your authority, and in turn, your pagerank. Those links can be links directly to something you wrote or links left in comments (since most commenting forms allow you to include your URL). But what if that site with the higher pagerank is using the NoFollow tag and not sharing the love? Well, Google ignores the fact that the site links to you and you don’t get the increased authority or pagerank. It is therefore desirable to interact with DoFollow blogs or web sites.

Is Your Blog DoFollow?

Most web sites have the NoFollow tag automatically enabled. Check out these article for tips on figuring out whether your blog is DoFollow or NoFollow:

Should You Use the DoFollow Tag?

Your readers will appreciate it if you don’t use NoFollow tagging. After all, you’ll be building their authority. It’s a way to give back to your community. Like everything, though, there’s a downside to being a DoFollow site: spammers may inundate a DoFollow blog with comments and links. If you choose to become a DoFollow site, be aware that you may experience an increase in spam comments and it may take more time to filter out the spammy stuff.

If you decide ditching the NoFollow tags is worth it, here are some links to help you change your blog to DoFollow:

When should you consider using the NoFollow tag?

Not every link is created equal. Every site has links that are less important or link to pages that don’t change (e.g., a site map or your About Me page). Use the NoFollow tag for those links. In addition to low priority links, Google suggests using the NoFollow tag for untrusted content and paid links. If you have text link ads on your site, make sure they’re tagged as NoFollow.

Further Reading

A version of this article was also posted at BlogHer.com.

61 Responses

  1. Gushchin Dmitry February 26, 2010 / 12:32 am

    Good post!

    It is not clear to me though – why would one want to use ‘nofollow’ attribute?

    As I understand site owners review every comment and consider whether they are relevant to their post or not, so the spammers will not be able to incorporate their links anyway.

  2. John Soares March 13, 2010 / 10:23 am

    Melanie, thanks for the clear explanation of this issue. I found out about it just a few months ago. My blogs are all on WordPress, which has nofollow as default. I’m debating whether or not to go dofollow.

  3. Creative Agency March 31, 2010 / 6:29 am

    Many are obsessed with do follow blogs, im not saying that this is useless since it give you links but comments should be used holistically within a masterplan for getting what you really need: direct link recommendations from bloggers or site owners with a loyal audience, sending you high quality visitors that will convert well.

  4. Justin Germino June 27, 2010 / 6:19 pm

    Great sum up on DoFollow vs NoFollow.

    Reading the latest Google information remember that NoFollow links still leak some of your Google PageRank to other sites, it is best to have miminal links outbound from your site (especially homepage) for SEO reasons unless you want to promote and deliberately share the site you are linking to.

  5. Jenny August 13, 2010 / 10:39 pm

    Thanks for the mention and your site looks great!! This is a great explanation you are so thorough….much appreciated!

  6. work online at home September 26, 2010 / 8:08 am

    Great news i have been trying to figure out how to change my wordpress blogs to do follow, but i could not find anything in the settings. Your explanation was so simple thankyou very much.

  7. Cindi @ Moomette's Magnificents September 27, 2010 / 4:59 pm

    Thanks for the thorough explanation. I referenced you in my post on the NoFollow Reciprocity plugin for those who need a further explanation of NoFollow/DoFollow tags

  8. Kristl September 28, 2010 / 10:42 am

    Sorry…I’m still confused! The links I normally use in articles are:

    #1 – Guest post with a link or two…can or should I make these no-follow?

    #2 – Affiliate links…can or should I make these no-follow?

    #3 – A link to a site that I think is really great…I expect that I should make these no-follow?

    Is there a plug-in or something that will allow all my links to be no-follow?

    Thanks for helping a confused person!

  9. Melanie Nelson September 28, 2010 / 2:32 pm

    Krisit,

    In answer to your questions:
    #1: Links to the author’s site in a guest post can be DoFollow. That way they’re enjoying the link love from your site.

    #2: Affiliate links should be NoFollow.

    #3: A link to a site you love can be Do Follow (again to share the link love).

    If you’re using WP, then your post links are already DoFollow by default. Your comments are NoFollow by default. You probably don’t need to do a thing to share the link love and keep your comments NoFollow (to avoid possible spam). This article is just explaining what the difference is between DoFollow and NoFollow and introducing the pros/cons of each. You’ll have to decide which option works for you. And just because you choose one over the other doesn’t mean you can’t change back later. :)

    There is a No-Follow Reciprocity plug-in that Moomette discusses here: http://moomettesmagnificents.com/blog/nofollow-reciprocity-wordpress-plugin-best-plugins-blogging-tips/

    • kajolcute February 3, 2013 / 2:23 am

      If you’re using WP, then your post links are already DoFollow by default. Your comments are NoFollow by default. You probably don’t need to do a thing to share the link love and keep your comments NoFollow (to avoid possible spam). This article is just explaining what the difference is between DoFollow and NoFollow and introducing the pros/cons of each.

  10. Sleepless October 26, 2010 / 6:26 am

    Good summary of a simple but often missunderstood topic. To be honnest, I’m not sure how important NoFollw is. Tips like “Don’t have too many links on your homepage” sound strange to me. After all, I want to offer my visitors the best possible experience, and this often includes providing them with relevant links…

    There’s a lot of food for thoughts in this domain and no absolute rule.

  11. Stasia Riles October 26, 2010 / 2:49 pm

    I actually appreciate this post. We need to have far more folks like you bringing value for the community. Can I put this post on my blog? I’d give you credit and link back of course.

    • Melanie Nelson October 26, 2010 / 4:08 pm

      Stasia,
      Thanks for commenting! Unfortunately, I do not allow re-prints of my articles. You are more than welcome to use a small quote, then link to the original article, but please do not reprint the entire article. This particular article was originally distributed via BlogHer.com and they paid me $50 to write it (we have an agreement that I write articles for them and I can reprint them at my site since I’m the author). Allowing you to reprint the article would be a breach of contract with them. Thank you for understanding.

  12. iyep April 5, 2011 / 4:37 am

    good job,,and thaks to you..when I was still confused with dofollow and nofollow

  13. safaris in tanzania April 19, 2011 / 8:01 am

    I really wanted to know how one can tell it is a do follow or no follow. Many links that I place mostly do not seem to be dofollows, but how to tell one is a nofollow or a dofollow has been tricky.

  14. Servicio informatico May 25, 2011 / 7:49 pm

    That is easy. If you want to know what links are nofollow, just check the source code of the website and look for the links and the nofollow tag.

  15. Scentsy June 6, 2011 / 1:36 am

    I understand the concern of spam, but I don’t understand why WordPress would automatically add no follow on their blogs. If someone is spamming your site can’t you just delete it? I would think that it would help SEO rating for everyone if this feature wasn’t so widely used. Sad to see the google considers it a good thing. Thanks for the clarification and for helping “spread the love.” :)

  16. Hasan Ali July 1, 2011 / 10:10 am

    Can we change NoFollow links to DoFollow links. If yes then how because this will very useful for increasing SEO

  17. Karen@MicroSourcing July 4, 2011 / 2:52 am

    Spam is the risk you take for giving back to the community. Besides, there are control mechanisms with which the filter spam; WordPress is particularly good at this. Website owners need to see their Do Follow attribute as an incentive for heightened reader/author interaction.

    • ali arfaq March 19, 2013 / 5:39 am

      Spam is the risk you take for giving back to the community. Besides, there are control mechanisms with which the filter spam; WordPress is particularly good at this. Website owners need to see their Do Follow attribute as an incentive for heightened reader/author interaction

  18. Karla July 26, 2011 / 11:49 am

    Really useful post – to the point and clears up some all too common misunderstandings.

  19. carlosgentry September 20, 2011 / 10:29 pm

    Thanks for the giving great explanation for dofollow or nofollow…

  20. Linda Ross October 21, 2011 / 9:05 am

    Thank you for such an informative and clearly written article. New to this business I truly appreciate language not filled with acronyms. I totally understand how to use these links now.

  21. Steve January 2, 2012 / 6:09 pm

    How can I remove nofollow tag from my wordpress blog?

    • Melanie Nelson January 5, 2012 / 9:42 am

      Steve, it’s easiest to use a WP plugin to remove No Follow links. Take a look at http://codex.wordpress.org/Nofollow. When you scroll down the page, there’s a list of plugins you can look at to see if they’ll fit your needs. ~Melanie

  22. Bsnl Broadband March 11, 2012 / 9:35 am

    No offence but Matt writes: “The essential thing you need to know is that nofollow links don’t help sites rank higher in Google’s search results.” And all the high Pageranks of the Twitter profiles are presumable from other links do DoFollow. Not the Twitter links.

  23. Marketing Consultant London April 17, 2012 / 6:28 pm

    I’m starting to make use of do-follow on the likes of Digg etc. – so far so good. Thanks for your thoughts on this hotly debated issue

  24. mlm June 20, 2012 / 10:15 pm

    Hi there, You’ve done an excellent job. I’ll certainly digg it and in my opinion recommend to my friends. I’m confident they’ll be benefited from this website.

  25. Patel July 2, 2012 / 11:05 pm

    I was searching for this information on “nofollow” and “dofollow” detail. I got it all the details here and cleared my doubts. Thanks, I really appreciate it.

  26. Keith Cairns July 4, 2012 / 6:26 am

    i got the technical aspect but i want a layman’s explaination of dofollow or notfollow,what does it do?

    • Melanie Nelson August 5, 2012 / 8:28 pm

      Keith,
      Basically dofollow links pass along your authority and tell Google to pay attention to the links you post. Nofollow tells Google not to pay attention to that link. You’d use a nofollow link for paid links, for example.

  27. Brent August 12, 2012 / 3:51 am

    Personally, I believe Google still counts no-follow links because I have seen websites rank with just no-follow. Its probably a misinformation policy, so that people stop spamming blogs. Plus, its natural to have no follow links in addition to follow. How would it look if your website only had follow links? Keep it natural and diversify your backlink profile.

  28. RahulG October 16, 2012 / 10:17 am

    I was checking online for understanding this. Thanks for explaining in simple and straight way :)

  29. David December 3, 2012 / 5:23 pm

    Most of my backlinks indicated in my Google Webmaster Tools metrics are ‘no follow’. I have to assume the presence of these links in GWT means they are factored into the Google ranking algorithm. My websites with such ‘no follow’ backlinks have page rank as well as visibility in Google search results.

  30. Salman @ iTechChat December 6, 2012 / 5:49 am

    Great share Melanie ….

    I was not aware that the rel=’dofollow’ tag doesn’t exist and has no use. BTW an informative article comparing between nofollow and dofollow !

  31. mahabub January 23, 2013 / 7:46 am

    I was not aware that the rel=’do-follow’ tag doesn’t exist and has no use. BTW an informative article comparing between nofollow and do-follow !

  32. saju February 1, 2013 / 12:07 am

    Hi,
    Thank you for such an informative and clearly written article. New to this business I truly appreciate language not filled with acronyms. I totally understand how to use these links now.

    NoFollow Reciprocity plugin does, please read this post by Melanie at Blogging Basics 101 SEO

  33. Abhijt February 19, 2013 / 10:58 am

    awesome Information…
    wanna ask something… if I comment in a website with commentluv activate like urs>>
    then I will get a backlink?? is it true?

  34. Diwali 2013 March 8, 2013 / 1:55 pm

    I think we should use do follow tag in our comment section to provide authority to our readers and visitors. It is one of the best way to provide reward them.

  35. Oscars 2014 Predictions March 8, 2013 / 1:58 pm

    Generally most of bloggers prefer to comment on dofollow blogs to get backlinks for their blogs to generate backlink as well as some visitors from that comment also.

  36. GSEB SSC Results 2013 March 8, 2013 / 2:00 pm

    Nofollow generally no matters and not working for most of people and webmasters don’t like to comment on them.

  37. Jethalal March 8, 2013 / 2:01 pm

    Dofollow link is one of the best way to generate good number of visitors as well as high pagerank from Google.

  38. Huda March 18, 2013 / 8:28 am

    which plugin should be used to attribute NoFollow to links on WordPress

  39. Martha March 25, 2013 / 4:27 am

    I really like this site, it is easy to understand and the topics are very well presented. I will definitely come back for more info

    • Melanie Nelson March 25, 2013 / 8:38 am

      Thank you, Martha! I appreciate your stopping by!

  40. Yogesh May 4, 2013 / 5:33 am

    Thanks for the content. It is simple if you dont trust the link make it nofollow and if you want to pass some link juice to a URL and you trust that then make that link dofollow.

  41. Dan July 27, 2013 / 3:04 am

    Thanks Melanie, i always wondered what it meant.

  42. Anna August 22, 2013 / 8:35 pm

    Pretty Straightforward explanation. however, the question is after recent panda and penguin updates , whether we should go for “No-Follow” links or not??

  43. Anil Kumar August 31, 2013 / 12:23 am

    Thanks for this great post..Please let me know whether i am right or wrong… Your explanation mean we should interlink our posts to dofollow link and if we link other sites then we should use nofollow link..

  44. deep August 31, 2013 / 2:13 am

    very nice post Melanie just love it :) thanx for sharing with us best of luck to you..

  45. Click Top 10 Now September 1, 2013 / 5:34 am

    I am really thankful to you for explaining No Follow and Do Follow concept. The recent Panda and Penguin update depicts that they are considering both No-Follow and Do-Follow for site rankings. Thanks again for explaining the concept. Regards

  46. Khurram September 2, 2013 / 11:52 am

    At last i find write information that what is do follow. I visit many seo blogs that gives that commenting on do follow blog will drive traffic. But i don’t know mechanism of Google.
    Thanks for this nice post:)

  47. Digital Agency September 16, 2013 / 7:46 am

    I have seen many high authority blogs giving dofollow links to other websites from their articles (not guest post or paid links) .. as reference links hyperlinked in between the articles. So my concern is, if they also know about this nofollow thing then why they will do so ?

  48. Lalina September 24, 2013 / 9:49 am

    I always try to get dofollow links because they are really effective in getting ranking

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