Do you grimace when you see “SEO” and “nofollow” used in the same sentence? If you know what nofollow links are, you might think they are utterly useless in SEO. You might even hate them enough to avoid them completely and never use them yourself, not even to share somebody else’s content with others.
But that is wrong!
Are nofollow backlinks really bad? Yes and no! The answer would vary depending on who you ask. Certainly, they do have their own undesirable traits… but it would be unfair and unwise to ignore the good ones.
SEO has come a long way, and there is a need to thoroughly understand and analyse the old and new optimization tactics in order to separate the good ones from the bad. In this post, we will shed light on how nofollow backlinks can be good for your SEO and from other points of view.
What is a Nofollow Link?
Links are an integral factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. They can be compared to votes: linking to a website means that someone vouches for its quality. However, if you do not wish to vote in its favour, then you can add a rel=nofollow attribute inside the link’s HTML code. A nofollow link, therefore, is one that does not vouch for the site it is pointing to nor pass link equity.
In the year 2005, the concept of nofollow links was introduced to combat link spam. One thing it did was help Google see the difference between natural and paid links. It also served as protection for sites from others that were creating unnatural backlinks or using irrelevant anchor texts. Even today, this attribute is still widely used due to the fear of web spam and the damage it can cause to Google rankings.
Below are nine reasons you absolutely should build nofollow backlinks for SEO.
1. Nofollow Links Help Google Understand and Trust You
Do you want a reason to bother with nofollow links at all? Here’s a really good one: they still pass information about your site to Google, even if they don’t let Google crawl it. That information lies in the link’s anchor text.
A nofollow link can still let Google know what the content on the other side of the link is about, thus giving your site a small boost in authority on the subject. Advertisement links are often nofollow, but their very existence is enough to be of use to your site because of this fact. It prompts Google to give you the credit you deserve and not treat your backlinks as unnatural, which also builds trust between Google and you.
2. Nofollow Links Build Awareness
Links play a crucial role in raising and spreading awareness of your brand among users. That’s pretty much what link building is: a form of online networking. Links act as a bridge between users and products or services. That’s not to mention how links can boost traffic, provide additional details of information and back statements up with proof.
In that regard, even nofollow backlinks come in handy. Brand awareness is achieved with links that are seen and followed by the audience and not necessarily by search engines. For instance, people link to all kinds of valuable content from Facebook and Twitter, and their followers can click on those links without even reading the posts in social media. And even if they don’t click immediately, they might still come back and check the page again.
3. Nofollow Links Are Invaluable in Local SEO
Google considers unlinked brand mentions as “implied” links. They may not offer as many benefits as dofollow links, but they certainly count. One way to put a bit more oomph in an unlinked mention and make it more useful for your brand is to turn it into a nofollow backlink.
It’s especially effective when you optimize your site for local search. Local SEO is interesting because the users’ search intent is always more clearly defined than with regular search. When you show users a link, chances are, they are already motivated to click on it.
In particular, NAP citations (which consist of your business’ name, address and phone number) are a boost to local SEO in and of themselves, but they work even better when there’s a link attached to them.
4. Better a Nofollow Link than No Link
A mention of your site or brand with a nofollow link is better than an unlinked mention (and certainly better than nothing at all). Links unlock opportunities to connect you with your target audience. A nofollow link is even more valuable if it leads to you from a reputable website with a large audience; it might even make the difference between success and failure of your business goals.
A backlink at the right time, in the right place is a source of traffic, exposure and brand awareness, in addition to opportunities to expand your online network and bond with your audience. In fewer words, backlinks are powerful assets in lead generation. Prospective clients don’t care if a link is dofollow or nofollow; they only want you to meet their expectations and needs.
5. Metrics Other Than Google’s Use Nofollow Links
Google metrics aren’t the only ones you should be using. There are other metrics, such as Domain Authority and Alexa Rank, that can really help you with SEO. These “unofficial” metrics are meant to evaluate your website’s potential to rank high in Google, and they rely on your nofollow backlinks, too.
Turning that around, building nofollow backlinks is necessary in order to make effective use of the “unofficial” SEO metrics. Of course, you’ll want to research what each metric truly means before including it in your SEO campaign.
6. Nofollow Backlinks Are Natural
Google dictates the rules of the Internet. It is Google everyone submits to when they need to build their brand or launch a successful SEO campaign. One of the rules set by the online titan is to have a natural link profile – that is, one that has both dofollow and nofollow backlinks. Websites that try to game link building and create only dofollow backlinks are likely to suffer a drop in their rankings.
Focusing on having only dofollow links will attract Google’s attention, and not in a good way. That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy balance in order to ensure your online strategy bears fruit. Shortcuts will only lead you astray in SEO.
A mixed profile of dofollow and nofollow links shows clearly that you are real, your efforts are real, and you play the SEO game fair and square.
7. Nofollow Links Can Pass Juice Indirectly
Link juice is a term SEO experts know very well. It refers to the numerical value a backlink adds to a website’s total authority score. However, when a link is marked with rel=nofollow, it becomes unable to pass link juice to your site. Does this mean nofollow links absolutely can’t give you link juice under any circumstances?
Actually, it doesn’t and they can.
It is true that nofollow links don’t pass equity directly; that’s what they were made not to do. However, let’s not forget the main purpose of links: letting users move between websites. If somebody comes to your website and likes your content, they might link to it from their own website! And it might even be the dofollow link that you want.
Creating a nofollow backlink can be compared to planting a seed that will eventually blossom into a flower. Nofollow links, especially when they come from authoritative websites, can open an obscure path full of advantages for your brand.
8. Nofollow Traffic Is Still Traffic
Directing more traffic to websites is one of the main goals of SEO. However, it’s fine to generate traffic even without helping your SEO. Link building, while usually brought up along with SEO in the same context, results mainly in creating opportunities to engage with the audience. It works like this:
Links > Traffic > Engagement > Profit
This way, nofollow links can be even more useful than dofollow links. And since user experience matters to Google, they can eventually improve your search engine rankings.
9. Other Benefits of Nofollow Backlinks
Lastly, in addition to what was mentioned above, you should also take into consideration the following points.
- When it comes to nofollow backlinks, the most important things at the end of the day are not keywords in their anchor text and not even SEO. A link’s primary job is to make users click on it. A nofollow link that incites exploration and convinces people to visit your site directly is better than a dofollow link that does not.
- Mentioning your brand in a nofollow link helps a lot. It can give a boost to your status as an authority, as well as make your online presence stronger by encouraging searches of your brand name.
- Journalists and influencers are often present on sites which enable only nofollow links (such as social media). It’s all right: those people’s pages gather large audiences and can potentially send lots of traffic your way. Even a single nofollow backlink in the right place and in the right context can be a huge victory.
- In the same way, if a piece of your content manages to go viral on social media through nothing but nofollow links, your brand might even receive media coverage.
Ticking even one of these boxes spells success for your SEO strategy and makes your brand more of an authority. Aim for all of them!
To sum it up: link building is generally about creating referral traffic. Backlinks you earned naturally end up being the most valuable ones. Nofollow backlinks are not useless at all; on the contrary, they must be a part of your SEO strategy.
Strive to build links from reputable sources and avoid making irrelevant backlinks from low-quality sites, and your SEO will be fine.