Ours has certainly become a digital world, this means that we are spending more and more time with things that seem so abstract that you can at times question the nature of them. I kind of feel like that about dofollow and nofollow links sometimes. For us to tackle this topic I think it would be prudent to get to it step by step and define a few things that we will need an understanding of before moving on to the next one. Let’s dig in, I’ll try to start at the beginning.
A bit about SEO:
The reason why we are using terms like dofollow is that they refer to a specific technical resource that has some influence in the way in which content and websites are found by Search Engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short) is a bunch of practices that aim at aiding a website with its traffic management, to get more and more interested eyes on it.
Because search engines (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo) work in fractions of a second the way in which they work is handled with algorithms. You might ask: what exactly is an algorithm?
This is a big word, it gets thrown around a lot nowadays. It has a ring to it, I will grant that, but there is nothing mysterious about what an Algorithm actually is. A cooking recipe is an Algorithm. It is basically a set of instructions to be followed, where a specific order and a set of actions are stipulated for a piece of software to follow. Why even mention this? Enter PageRank.
PageRank is the Algorithm responsible for website indexing used by Google. It is used to create a ranking with which to choose the priority that is given to relevant search results when you type something into Google’s Search Box.
With this introduction, we can now ask ourselves a question very relevant to our topic: do nofollow links help seo? We will have to continue digging to find out.
Wait a second. Dofollow, nofollow… what are we even talking about?:
Essentially we are referring to a property of an HTML tag used in the way a particular link is coded into a website. Let’s go step by step here, we are getting closer.
It is the language used to represent websites, HTML is what programmers write for browsers to interpret. It is centered around the use of tags, which are designed to hold specific types of information. There is a tag for holding a picture, a block of text, there is one for links and there are many other content-specific tags too.
Inside a particular tag, you will find a set of ways to add information about it so that the browser knows what to do with it, these are called Properties. For instance, the href property of a tag tells the browser where to find the website that the link is pointing to, you would see something like href=’www.google.com’ inside a link tag that takes you to Google’s main site when you click on it.
Dofollow and Nofollow:
A good question to answer at this point is: what exactly are dofollow and nofollow? We have set the stage to clarify this now. So let’s find the nofollow links meaning along with his counterpart dofollow.
Both dofollow and nofollow are options for the ‘rel’ property of a given HTML tag. If you set rel to dofollow you are instructing PageRank to index what is behind that link, while if you set this property to nofollow you are instructing it to ignore it. This is why there is value for this HTML property from an SEO standpoint, it allows us to somewhat manipulate the way in which our content is found by Google and other search engines.
This property was put in place originally to combat Blog comment spam. The amount of spam in comments throughout the web was starting to change the shape of the web itself, influencing traffic all of over the internet. This was an effective way to control the problem and make sure that good quality and relevant search results were seen when searching, instead of being directed to malicious sites.
Here is how to check dofollow and nofollow links:
Find the ‘rel’ property of a given link tag. You will literally see: rel=’dofollow’ or rel=’nofollow’ inside the tag. Of course, to be able to access the hidden code that powers every website you will have to go a bit behind the scenes. If you are not familiar with coding there are a few resources that will aid you in this task that are free and most important: very easy to access.
1. Open DevTools: Pressing the F12 key while using a web browser will give you access to what is commonly referred to as Developer Tools, you will be able to inspect from here the HTML contents of whatever website you are looking at, and if you hover over the link you are trying to investigate it will show you the relevant tag.
2. There is a Chrome extension: It would seem that there is a Chrome extension for just about everything today. If you use Google’s Browser you can install this free extension that will automatically cross over links with the nofollow property, so you can tell right away.
So, do they actually matter?
After all of this analysis, you are now better equipped to draw your own conclusions. My personal feeling is that they do influence the flow of Search Results and they should not be ignored when working on your own SEO strategies.