I don’t worry about using nofollow links on any SEO focused site I run. The reason is that if you look at how this has all evolved, it’s value has downgraded.
This happens to be a topic where I know for a fact that many other SEO people will probably disagree with me but I’m going to make a strong case. First, let me explain the details of this particular thing, it’s history with regards to rankings and then explain why I say it has little value…
It’s basically a link (pointing to) you put within the content of your site (anchor text for instance), that goes to another site, but you don’t want Google spiders to “follow” it, crawl the other site, and give the other site SEO value.
I’ll explain in a moment the logic behind that strategy, but first…
Here is an example:
Say for instance, I’m talking about SEO on a page like this, and I decide to externally point to a Wikipedia page (just like that) that talks about it too. That’s actually an excellent way to do what is known as off page SEO, but that’s not the point.
By default, the link I just provided to Wikipedia above will send people to the site and will be count as a dofollow (it’s just a default thing, I don’t have to anything). So once Google scans my page and sees the pointing to the Wikipedia page, they are going to crawl it.
As a result, Wikipedia will get an extra backlink point from my site because of that.
However, if I were to edit the same Wikipedia link, and add a “nofollow” to it, then Wikipedia would not get any extra points from me, because naturally, I just said I don’t want Google to crawl that.
What’s the logic behind using and not using nofollow anyway?
There’s a few circumstances to consider in which this makes sense to use:
1) Say you have a landing page with a lot of affiliate links on it.
Typically, if you do too much of this on a landing page, it looks more like spam to Google and seeing that, they may not want to rank your landing page high. By updating the same affiliate links on the landing page and making them “nofollow”, you can TECHNICALLY omit the negative SEO effects because Google will not count them and see them as spam.
2) Perhaps the site you’re pointing to is of poor quality or has malware & other bad things on it.
Not that you would ever want to do this if you were doing SEO, but people mistakenly or purposely still do it. This situation occurs in cases where people try to promote programs on their site that point to pages like torrent sites or low quality affiliate pages that may have spam, pop ups, malware and other bad things.
Without adding a nofollow to these things, Google may see your page as a poor third party site trying to promote bad sites as well, and thus they may penalize you for that.
And frankly, I am totally for that, why would you want to send people to sites that harm them or their laptops and phones? In that case, your site SHOULD be punished.
But in any case, people who practice this, in an attempt to omit this scenario, make those links to the bad sites, nofollow ones, and thus Google TECHNICALLY (I will be explaining why I keep capitalizing this word shortly) won’t hold your site accountable for sending traffic there.
3) You have duplicate pages and posts on your site that you do not want Google to see.
But these particular pages have their own protocol in that there’s a certain, suggested way they be set up and people simply auto generate them from free sources or copy them from other sites and fill in the blanks such as their site name and other things.
Basically, all that legal jargon is duplicated by many people, across many sites and duplicate content is something that you should NEVER allow Google to index or crawl, thus…
And second, to avoid any problems, just don’t point any page on your site to those pages that are duplicated.
But if you decide to do it (again, I strongly suggest against it), make them nofollows.
Now I want to explain why those 3 points matter very little…
So pretty much every point I made about the value of using nofollow, in reality, has very little value today and it goes back to the main point I was making earlier.
The reason I even put them up was because there’s still many people say these same things and make the same exact case for using this stuff on your site. I just wanted to list them as well because I am about to explain why their uses actually have very little uses…
Here’s the main reason why there’s little value in all of this:
If you look at Google and how they are judging this particular thing (their official policy on this), you will see the following:
Google says they generally respect when someone creates a nofollow link, but the keyword is “generally” and they may have situations where they don’t honor that from what I understood and it totally makes sense. Here’s why:
If you look at my first point about a landing page using too many affiliate promotions, even if you make them all nofollow, Google can still count them as the opposite and punish you for it. This is probably because there’s more to consider here, such as the value of the page being lower if you try to spam promotions on it.
If you look at the second point about pointing to poor quality sites, once again, they may choose to count that you’re sending traffic to bad sites and punish your site for it. And why not? You’re not making the internet safer with this practice, so your site should be punished, despite you trying to hedge against that Google penalty.
And finally, for the last point, you may choose to send traffic to duplicated pages (I advise not doing it), and think you’re safe from a penalty, but Google can still choose to count that against you.
So what’s the safest approach to all of this? 3 tips:
1) Stop worrying about whether you should make a link a nofollow or not. If you’re going to send traffic to external pages, make sure those pages are high quality, period.
I would never send my traffic to a site which has the potential to hack them or give them malware. I would however be 100% confident in sending my traffic to truly safe pages like Wikipedia and in regards to affiliate programs, I’d make sure those affiliate programs are legitimate before sending my traffic there.
2) For the affiliate thing, just don’t spam your site or landing pages with them, it’s really not that hard.
And for extra safety, make the duplicate pages themselves unable to be indexed by Google. I simply use the All in One SEO plugin which allows all of my pages and posts to have these boxes show up that stop Google from indexing them:
In the end, because Google ultimately decides if they want to honor your request to give a link you provide value or not (in spite of you labeling it a nofollow or not), you are best off not even worrying about it (this is why I said technically in caps earlier) and making sure you aren’t doing anything bad to begin with.
In that case, you won’t even have to worry about any of this stuff which is why I will say it again, this whole thing has lost most of it’s SEO value.