So What Links Should you Nofollow?

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A few weeks ago, there was a lively exchange on Search Engine Land about using the “nofollow” link attribute to sculpt PageRank. Shari Thurow, in her article You’d Be Wise To “NoFollow” This Dubious SEO Advice, essentially railed on SEO practitioners for employing this practice, which respected expert Stephan Spencer describes and advocates in his article Sculpting Your PageRank For Maximum SEO Impact.

If you do not believe that a page’s content is important, then don’t link to it. Better yet, remove the content. If you believe a web page’s content is important, then link to it and do it in a way that makes sense to your end users, your site’s visitors. I think it is very odd to put a nofollow attribute on pages within your own site. Essentially, you are saying that you cannot validate your own content…you advocate giving users one information architecture and search engines a different one?

Shari’s comments regarding the use of nofollow seem to imply some sort of bait and switch tactic that would not only fly in the face of search engines, but would be deceitful in some way to site visitors. So many people have cited Matt Cutts’ position that there is no problem with this practice that I won’t bother citing more. However, for those fearful of employing the practice, Matt indicated that employing such practice in no way even serves as a red flag to Google. Secondly, how could such a practice be deceitful in some way to site visitors? When the visitor is on the site, they have no idea which links have the nofollow attribute; they can go anywhere the navigation allows.

While it would be great if every page had the same high value to search engines and site visitors alike, that’s simply not reality for the vast majority of sites—even if it has been optimized for human usability. There are many pages that have real value to site visitors but marginal value to site owners in terms of PageRank or being included in search engine indices.

So what links should you nofollow? Stephan Spencer cites many examples:

So whip out the scalpel and nofollow your links to low-value internal pages such as: Legal Notices, Privacy Policy, Order Status, Customer Help Center, Testimonials, Email Us, View Shopping Cart, My Account, FAQ, About Us, and Shipping Info. This technique is valid for low-value outbound links too, such as “Click to Verify” VeriSign and HackerSafe seals. Doing so will save a larger share of PageRank for the remaining links to your more important pages (e.g., category pages).

While many of these pages may be of low value, don’t automatically nofollow links to all of these pages. Some of the pages Spencer identifies above may be sending a lot of traffic to your site through natural search. These pages may have been optimized to address specific keywords. For instance, we will often incorporate a significant amount of copy on the “about us” or “contact us” pages, both for visitors and to satisfy a desired search phrase. It’s not gaming the system; it’s relevant and appropriate information we want and need on client sites for site visitors, and we choose to use the “about us” or “contact us” pages to convey that information.

In addition to content-less pages, I recommend looking at your analytics. Isolate the landing pages coming via natural search and look at their relative popularity in terms the other natural-search landing pages and in terms of bounce rate. Then compare that list to the pages in your total site architecture.

You should evaluate those pages with little to no natural-search landing page activity and those with extremely high bounce rates. If the page has little or no natural-search landing page activity, you should determine whether you need to revise the content and other factors associated with the page to increase the likelihood of natural search click-through. However, if the page is important to site visitors, and if the content and all other factors are how you want them, you may want to nofollow links to this page in order to concentrate PageRank elsewhere. Assuming the page is indexed and has associated PageRank, the page is doing very little for you in terms of search anyway.

There also may be internal landing pages with extremely high bounce rates. If 98 percent of natural-search visitors landing on a given page leave right away, you’ll want to evaluate these pages in the same way and make appropriate changes, either in terms of content and other factors or in terms of placing nofollow on links to such pages.

The usability purist would argue that any page important to a visitor should also be important for search, and that your architecture and linking structure, if engineered correctly, should remove any need for nofollow in the first place and appropriately weight PageRank throughout the site. That utopian thinking doesn’t mesh with reality. Here’s just one example.

In the B2B world, case studies represent high-value information for prospects. Accordingly, a B2B site owner’s architecture and linking reflect a desire to drive site visitors the “home page” of the case studies section. The prospect wants to see a case study relevant to her issues. The site owner wants to present numerous and diverse case studies to help ensure the visitor finds a case study relevant to her. As a result, the site owner may have 20 case studies linked from the “home page” of the case studies section, each of which receives a portion of the total PageRank. If these case studies don’t vary all that much (at least in terms of unique and probable search phrases searchers would reasonably use), the site owner would likely be better off placing nofollow on links to many of the case studies, concentrating PageRank in other pages. While this may be a good practice, you’ll again first want to check your analytics to ensure the links you consider for nofollow aren’t linking to pages currently sending a lot of natural search traffic.

So go ahead, employ the practice of nofollow, but do it smartly. And being sure to consult your analytics as part of the process.


So What Links Should you Nofollow?
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  • Guest

    There aren’t many places you don’t want the search engines to go, but a couple were mentioned above and these are things like "View Shopping Cart" and "My Account" pages. The reason you don’t want search bots to go to these areas is because they are specific to site function and interaction with a specific user.

    So, for an e-commerce site, the shopping cart would be empty unless John Doe has put something in his cart; and then that is his cart, not something for the world to see. In fact, the world usually couldn’t see this as John Doe would be logged into his account.

    This brings us to the "My Account" pages…if a site user isn’t logged in, as would be the case for a search engine bot, then this is often a bland login page. Best not to show this to the world either.

    That’s my two cents.

  • Jaan Kanellis

    I am pretty tired of this argument, but I will continue to fight it when i see articles and posts like this. Here are my thoughts as i have been collecting them from readings everyone opinions on RP Sculpting:

    Point 1 – We live in a bubble. 99% of the world doesn

  • http://www.rankbetterseo.com Chicago SEO Firm

    I know I have had many clients ask about what pages and I completely agree with this artilce.  Great job in writing a well thought out article to address this issue.



    SEO Engineer


  • http://expert-seo-consultant.blogspot.com/ sushilver

    Nofollow i good attribute and works lots fo time. But we have lots of other ways too to fulfill our work.

  • http://wulffy.blogspot.com SEO Wulffy

    I believe that nofollow is a hype caused by Social Media. Many Social Bookmarking websites started some time ago with nofollow or e. g. blogcatalog.com. However. I only agree that this is not the right way for the web.

    During the last months I made several tests with rel="nofollow" and got some interesting results, e. g. a page with 25 external links to movie sites without nofollow got PR3. Then I used nofollow at all of those 25 external links and changed nothing else and at next TBPR the page lost PR. I deleted all nofollows and got at last TBPR this year again PR3.

    Of course you can "kill" internal pages with nofollow, but I don’t see any sense in it. If you understand PageRank and understand how to build a very good site structure that you are able to control, then don’t use nofollow. Only use the PR from those pages for other internal pages.

  • http://www.bigeasylinks.com/ Pedro

    Several months ago, I began experimenting with rel="nofollow" on a few relatively small sites. I experimented with nofollow on both internal and external links. On one 3-page site I added nofollow tags to about 50 external links on a single page. On another, I added nofollow only to internal links to pages such as the contact page.

    To date, I have seen no toolbar pagerank increase (in two updates by Google), and traffic to all of the sites used in the experiment has remained constant at best, with one site experiencing a significant decline.

    Despite all the reassurances from Mr. Cutts, I still can’t help but be suspicious that all this nofollow hype is a backdoor attempt by Google to easily identify those sites which actively engage in efforts to secure a better position in the serps.

    If Google believes the buying and selling of links to be a malicious attempt be rogue marketers to subvert Google’s pristine virgin search results, why would it take a different stance toward the use of nofollow on unpaid and non-user-generated links?

    Maybe I’m just paranoid, but there is something about this whole discussion that just doesn’t smell quite right.

  • http://www.mydatafarming.com Guest

    The official claim is that links with the rel=nofollow attribute do not influence the search engine rankings of the target page. In addition to Google, Yahoo and MSN also support the rel=nofollow attribute.


    it helps indexing…

  • http://www.factfrenzy.com jawn_tech

    I know that Yahoo is supposedly adhering to nofollow. Yet when using a link:www.example.com search, I’m seeing backlinks from weblog comment links where the nofollow was utilized. So perhaps they don’t give nofollow links much weight, but I’m seeing they are in fact, following.

  • http://www.creativebox.ltd.uk BB

    Surely the object of SEO is to optimise every single page on the website towards the key search terms sited in the content of that page. If a page is deemed to be unimportant to the website then that page shouldn’t even be there.

    Consequently, I agree that no-follow tags are another trap laid down by the search engines in order to identify ‘who’s trying too hard’. Let’s face it, the about us page or the terms and conditions page are relevant and will have links back to the home page and the site map anyway etc..

    I don’t understand either why anyone would have external links on their site with a no-follow tag. Take the link off if you are that bothered about the demise of your page rank.

  • http://www.moovinonup.com/websites.html Website Design

    true if you think your content is of no value remove it i don’t consider the no follow  worthwhile

  • http://www.keycanada.ca KeyCanada

    Are there any search which ignore the nofollow tag? Also by adding this tag to your website or blog is there any risk of hurting your own website?

  • http://www.kingstonapartmentfinder.ca Kingston Rentals

    Hey guys, thanks for all the useful information. I am still trying to get my head wrapped around all the SEO techniques and which ones work better then others.



  • http://www.xeenit.com Gregc

    Yahoo Answers are all no follow. But, you can still get traffic from them if rhey get SERPS.

  • http://www.zurpit.com Boaz

    this is another great article, Yahoo answers is a great way to get traffic even though its no follow

  • http://www.healthwellnesszone.blogspot.com/ Peter

    I nofollow websites that really don’t need any more pagerank – company sites, very large sites that buy their pagerank. I basically only no-follow those, as well as sites I think don’t deserve pagerank – aka I dont like them.

  • Guest

    I have seen many sites that has no idea how to use the nofollow tag and even no follow their own internal links. Most webmasters do not understand that this is just what it means dont followthis link. When spiders see this link the stop and don’t go to the page its link to. There are other tags that can be used to get better results link the noindex tag. I dont want to write an article in the comment but webmasters should take the time to learn the other tags and how to use them. great article keep up the great work.

  • http://webmasterssocialclub.com webmasters social club

    many people have asked me about this, now I have a better understanding of it. Your article answer a lot of questions I will have to give you a dofollow back link. Yes there are other tags that can be used to get  better results. I have learned alot from this thanks.

  • http://www.best-price-comparison.com Eureka Vacuum

    I also get 95% from organic search and the bounce rate is more than 60%. I don’ t know how to improve my landing page. Should I have more content? Could you please suggest?

    Anyway, thanks for useful article

  • http://www.greymindz.com Amaan Goyal

    I believe the issue of No Follow and DO follow has only come up as link building has undergone a sea change. Do Follow links add link juice and so everyone wants it but there are a couple of website which are No follow but drive traffic to your website.

  • http://www.vtechcare.com Sanjeev Mehra

    A good example is Yahoo Answers, it is no follow but it drives traffic to your website. The key point is – are you only looking for building links or looking for links which can be of value to your website just beside link juice.

  • http://www.sumcontent.com Sum Content

    I have always had trouble figuring out which to make a nofollow link and this helps. I have had my contact page with a dofollow and changing it now but like you said you dont want search engines picking up your contact page because it does you know good, plus you could get penalized by google for a page with little to no content value.

  • http://www.superfastsubmits.com powerboss

    I am gonna be an seo expert with these articles.  Thanks for effort in posting a detailed explaination on seo stuff.


  • http://www.xseodir.com Peter Steven

    Excellent detailed article wrote. Helped me a lot.

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  • http://otooo.com Otooo

    I have always believed that people should stop loyal visitors from getting a bit of link juice

    It’s not harming them in any way – so I’m for DoFollow

  • http://www.lynteractive.com Guest

    I never knew there was so much to this.

  • http://www.seychellen-villa-creole.com Villa Creole La Digue Seychellen

    It is not easy to find such informative and usefull articles. I have learned a lot and hope that I can use it for my homepage. Thank you for your great work.

  • http://rx1-onlinepharmacy.com/ pillso

    no follow is really bad?

  • http://www.mindfood.com/at-texting-driving-unplug-technology-online-internet.seo Internet Technology Wars

    I’ve found that nofollow doesn’t help with any aspect of hte site other than discouraging content spam. Simple as that for me.

  • http://www.seolinkstation.com/ SEO Australia

    Thnx for sharing your knowledge. :)

  • http://www.business-supply.com Brad – Office Supplies

    Personally, on my smaller sites, I do my best to keep non-essential pages no follow.  Pages like privacy, about us, shopping cart, check-out pages, etc; I usually make no follow.  Although I have no physical proof, I suspect that this helps strengthen my other pages from an SEO perspective as whatever PR my site has stays on my most important pages.

  • http://wolfet.co.uk NeuroToxic

    Im dead against the nofollow tag to be honest, but then again i have started to implement it on some of my outbound links, its ok for Matt Cutts with his blogs PR7, after all everyone and anyone wants to backlink to him, but for us the normal minority webmaster its getting more and more difficult to get decent backlinks to our sites, the nofollow rel tag is lets be honest extremely selfish to say the least, 90 percent of blogs are nofollow, and the web is now highly populated with blogs, every tom, dick and harry has a blog now, i guess that nofollow is just something that we need to get used too, because today its the age of the selfish blogger…

  • http://www.freeasianhub.com Antonio

    I think do follow can only help a website.

  • http://www.wpuzmani.com WordPress Destek

    Thats amazing article… Thnx for sharing ;)

  • http://sexprivates.com Guest

    nice article i think i`ll no follow some links from my site

  • http://www.drivinggames.us/ Driving Games


    a mixture of both dofollow and nofollow links are good. If the content of site you link to are close in the content wise, having a dofollow in fact will have more benefits.

  • http://bustina.netsons.org Gigi

    Personally, on my smaller sites, I do my best to keep non-essential pages no follow. Pages like privacy, about us, shopping cart, check-out pages, etc; I usually make no follow. Although I have no physical proof, I suspect that this helps strengthen my other pages from an SEO perspective as whatever PR my site has stays on my most important pages.

  • http://www.themedicalplus.com The natural Health Plus

    Nofollow paid links are still good because its also all about traffic which can turn to a client.

  • http://ezrealestatemarketing.com real estate internet marketing

    This is a good description of what to follow and nofollow. I’ve recently gone through nofollow on my WordPress blog to reduce duplicate content. I found that all of my tags were getting indexed, which gave me a lot of duplicate content.

  • http://rumahabi.com SEO Blog

    I think the links that should nofollow are affiliate banners and rss feed

  • http://gausarts.com gaus surahman

    When I write an article, I put links to sites that are relevant to my content. I don’t really bother about all dofollow or nofollow things apart from discouraging spammers which are already handled well by my disqus commenting system. And still I get enough PR if that also means anything to anyone at all.

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