How to use nofollows correctly

Ok so today I read an article by Aaron Wall about nofollows being largely a waste of time, I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about until I scrolled down on my RSS reader to find Matt Cutts had already blogged about this.

Basically, in a nutshell – no follows don’t pass page rank, but they do reduce the amount of page rank passed on by other links.

So for example, if you have a PR 10 site and 10 outgoing links, 9 of which are nofollowed, only 1 will actually pass any link juice. In this situation you might expect it to pass all 10 (minus a dampening factor), but it doesn’t it only passes 1.

So here is my advice on how to use nofollows correctly and what action you should take:

  1. Ensure you are “dofollowing” all internal links – otherwise you are just shooting yourself in the foot – don’t page rank sculpt, you are just reducing the amount of juice that stays on your site.
  2. Reduce the overall amount of outgoing links you have on your site, these might include social tagging links
  3. Dofollow all your external links, unless you see them as a direct competitor or you deem it a “bad neighbourhood”
  4. Dofollow Nofollow links from commenters – you may get a little spam, but if you keep on top of the moderation it should be fine you will be spammed!.

So far I’ve dofollowed all my internal links (that I have noticed) and removed any nofollow external links completely. I’ve also removed my social networking links on each post which were detracting the link juice through my site significantly.

On a final note, I’ve dofollowed nofollowed my blog comments – I want to encourage people to use my blog – perhaps it’ll but I don’t want to get it covered in spam (I hope not) – so feel free to comment on this post!

The plugin for WordPress I used to use to dofollow my comments is called NoFollow Free in case anyone is interested (by the way the link is dofollowed).


About the Author:

David's social accounts: Google+

  • Becky

    Well its worth a comment just for a bit of link love…. good post btw

  • David Whitehouse

    Cheers Becky – and thanks very much for the RT! :)

  • Teifion

    Your worry about spam is well founded but spam is not hard to combat, there are numerous different anti-spam plugins. I think I use spamkarma, I’ve not updated my blog in a while so can’t remember exactly.

  • David Whitehouse

    Hi Teifion,

    Well I use Akismet – which Dave Naylor swears by – but if I run into serious problems I’ll give that a shot, thanks! :)

  • Steven Morgan

    Best post I’ve read on this topic, simply because its short and sweet.

    Care to go in to a little more detail on point 2? Or is this working on the assumption that outbound links were no-followed previously?



  • Elaine

    is the Dofollow the same as not ‘nofollowing’ – if you get my drift

  • Frank

    what a theater first u “invent” no-follow an then you change the whole thing again – is that only Google keeping SEOs busy?

  • James Inman

    I read Matt Cutts’ post in its entirety and that short explanation still made just as much sense! Nice and succinctly explained.

  • Dominc Parker

    You can still Pagerank scope without the use of nofollow says SEOmoz:

  • RE Site Guide

    It’s a good thing for me to know – phew I almost posted that no-follow plugin to my blog – glad I didn’t!

    “Reduce the overall amount of outgoing links you have on your site, these might include social tagging links”

    Do you think this maybe was Google’s Goal? Reduce overall links from each site?

  • dafalcon

    I think what you are doing is right and a good idea but by blogging about it you may simply be inviting spam. The nofollow link attribute was invented to combat blog spam and other spam links created by users on web sites.

    You really don’t want your blog taken over by viagra ads, it’s really not good from an seo point of view. I think the ideal situation is happily linking out but on pages where users can create links, make sure you edit out spammy crap. eg. make sure people don’t use anchor text names and only allow good quality sites (maybe only blogs?) in the link.

  • Chicago George

    I like your attitude. Although you might get more comments they’ll probably be from people looking for links and not neccesserily from people interested in what you’re writing about.

  • David Whitehouse

    Yeah Steven your quite right – try and remove all nofollowed external links

  • David Whitehouse

    Yes Elaine – dofollow means a straight normal link which passes link juice :)

  • David Whitehouse

    Frank – my view is that Google may have done it to make paid links easier to distinguish. Think about it – a site with everything nofollowed except one, non related link – makes it a bit obvious if you ask me!

  • David Whitehouse

    Thanks James :)

  • David Whitehouse

    Cheers for that Dominic – by the way you need to set your site to “Other” on Linked In – it then allows you to add anchor text (at the moment it is just showing straight HTML code) – check your linkedin page, you’ll see what I mean.

  • David Whitehouse

    The funny thing is dafalcon – since you mentioned the word viagra in your comment, it automatically got nofollowed – something which I forgot to mention. So perhaps it will put off spammers?

  • David Whitehouse

    You are probably right George, but at least this way I have a chance of building relationships and gaining inbound links…

    I’m willing to sacrifice a few spammy comments for that I think – plus I get an email when someone comments and it goes straight to my phone – so I’ll moderate quite carefully.

  • dafalcon

    Nice :-) I guess with the right amount of filtering and moderating you can avoid spam. I’d still say that it’s not the right approach for everyone but I agree it should be encouraged were possible. That’s always been the case even before Google announced the PR changes it made a year ago.

  • BluelightSEO

    Beautiful bit of viral marketing, I may even RT on Twitter!

  • David Whitehouse

    Hey if you could that would be great! I think @davenaylor did to try and get my blog spammed! But the more the merrier I say :)

  • Outer Banks

    Well, if it helps. I’m posting a comment b/c I like what you read AND the free link. To me its amazing how many ‘top’ SEO blogs let their comments get taken over by spam when you are showing that it doesnt take that much effort to keep active comments clean.

    nice work

  • David Whitehouse

    Thanks :)

  • Andy Fletcher

    Hey David – what an enlightened and adult approach. When the nofollow thing first came up (with the intention of combating comment SPAM) I imediately saw it as simply laziness on the part of the website owner and Google themselves (unwillingness to moderate on the part of the site owner and unwillingness to improve algorythms on the part of Google). If G was really concerned, it would be a small matter to algorythmically spot comment links and do the nofollowing thing without the need for a tag at all. Or, if the outbounds were to bad places, do what they always did and just drop said site from the index – that’s the real way to encourage good linking practices – reward the good, punish the bad. Enjoyed your post, and will be back to read some more of your stuff soon. Andy.

  • Carps

    Word up :)

    I personally have never really bothered with internal nofollows – I think Google’s up to the task of determining what pages are important and which ones aren’t without my help (Google’s own sitemap generator sets priorities for URLs, for example)

    As for spam? Well… it’s going to happen! I use Akismet myself and make sure I moderate frequently and that’s that. The best sites are the ones run with a human touch anyway. I suppose that’s easy enough for me to say with my 7 visitors a day though ;)

  • David Whitehouse

    lol – same here Carps :)

  • David Whitehouse

    Glad you enjoyed the post Andy – your right, Google are lazy. Sorry for taking so long to activate your comment (I’m not lazy really!) it was stuck in my spam!

  • Paul,

    Thanks for the info. Personally, I think we can get a bit too obsessed over this “nofollow” thing, to the detriment of other stuff such as focusing on keywords that people are searching for, and writing great content based on (but not stuffing) those keywords.

    It’s not difficult getting a Top 10 spot on Google for a long tail keyword. Sure, it might only get a couple of hundred searches a month, but multiply that by 100 posts, and the traffic soon adds up.