Nofollow links: Definition, origin and relevance for SEO

Nofollow links are links that have been assigned the HTML tag rel="nofollow". The so-called nofollow tag practically instructs search engines to ignore these links. The tag was originally introduced to ensure ranking quality.

Google itself states that such links are "normally not followed". The word "normally" is an indication that the processes surrounding nofollow links are not as simple as they first appear.

In general, links from the following sources are nofollow:

  • Links in blog comments
  • Links in social media
  • Links in forum posts
  • Links in press releases
  • Paid advertising links (for example affiliate links)

Why are there nofollow links?

Google and other search engines use links as important ranking signals. In this context, they are primarily used in so-called backlink building. This involves promoting links from other websites to your own pages. In the course of this, link quality (link juice) is passed on, which can lead to the page that receives such a link rising in the rankings.

The nofollow tag was introduced by Google to combat the abuse of these processes by blog comment spam. With the increasing popularity of blogs, link spam there also increased massively. The spammers left masses of links to their websites in the comments.

This led to two major problems:

  • Firstly, the spam pages often received optimal rankings on Google - in contrast, really high-quality pages were less visible in the search results.
  • This SEO tactic worked extremely well - and blog comment spam quickly got out of control.

In 2005, the nofollow tag was created in response to these developments.

Are nofollow links important for SEO?

According to Google, nofollow links do not pass on link juice. They are "normally" not followed. They are therefore less relevant - at least in link building.

"Less" because studies by various SEOs have found that Google sometimes does follow such links and they can actually have a certain influence on the ranking.

Nofollow links also have a completely different SEO effect. This is because they always have the potential to provide website visitors with guidance if they are placed sensibly. They can also direct people to interesting websites or draw attention to new topics within online presences. They then increase the number of visitors and/or the length of stay. These are definitely relevant factors for the ranking.

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