Neil Patel

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Should You Waste Time and Money on Nofollow Links? Here’s a Final Answer

nofollow link answers

It can get frustrating when you’re spending time and dumping money into link building for SEO.

Within a few days, nothing happens. But that’s expected.

Then, after a few weeks, months, and even years, still nothing happens.

What gives?

Eventually, you come to find out that all of the backlinks you spent so much time and money building were nofollow links.

And because of that, none of the links matter.

At least, that’s your fear. That’s what you’re afraid is going to happen if you spend too much time building nofollow links.

Ideally, you want to benefit from SEO and your link-building efforts. In fact, link popularity is one of the top ranking factors in search engines.

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Which means that you definitely don’t want to spend a lot of time and money thinking you’re building link juice only to find out that you’re not.

That, after all, is the fear of building nofollow links.

They are sort of the bane of people trying to build their SEO. Since you’re not sure how they affect your site, you don’t know how to proceed.

The point is, marketers everywhere are afraid of nofollow links.

“Oh! They use nofollow links. Don’t waste your time here,” marketers often say.

But is that true?

You know that link building is a powerful strategy to increase your SEO and that 99.2% of all top 50 results in the SERP have at least one backlink pointing to their website.

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But what about nofollow links?

Do they help you at all? And if they are bad, how bad are they?

Should you really be afraid of them at all?

Those are the questions I intend to answer once and for all in this article.

By the end, I want you to understand exactly what nofollow links are and why they aren’t nearly as bad as people make them sound.

Because here’s the thing. You want to end up somewhere around here in Google’s results.

digital marketing Google Search

You don’t want to sit at the bottom of that page, and you definitely don’t want to sit on page 5, 10, 100, or even 1,000.

And, believe it or not, nofollow links can help you get there.

What are nofollow links?

You’ve heard lots of talk about nofollow links.

But maybe you don’t fully understand what they are.

What, exactly, are nofollow links?

Well, to explain that, you must first understand what a dofollow link is.

A dofollow link is any normal ol’ link that gives the page that it’s referencing some extra link juice. Google uses these links to determine which websites to rank and which not to rank.

These are, as you probably already know, called backlinks.

And there are two kinds of backlinks. Dofollow and nofollow.

Dofollow links happen when the person doing the linking doesn’t fiddle with the HTML version of the hyperlink. In that sense, these links are “normal” backlinks.

Nofollow links, on the other hand, happen when the person doing the linking plays with the HTML to intentionally tell Google not to give the linked-to website any additional link juice.

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However, the link still works like a normal hyperlink. If someone clicks on it, they are still taken to your website.

The only difference between a dofollow and nofollow link is that the nofollow link tells Google not to associate the referring website with the referenced website.

For that reason, generally speaking, nofollow links build no (or less) domain authority than their dofollow counterparts.

Now, of course, you’re probably wondering if you’ve built nofollow links unintentionally.

Fortunately, finding that out is remarkably easy.

For free you can download the NoFollow Chrome extension to quickly figure out which links are dofollow and which ones are nofollow.

I used it to look at Entrepreneur, for instance, and I found that a lot of their links are nofollow.

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However, when I checked SmartBlogger, I found that almost all of their links are dofollow.

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Logically, then, it would be smarter for your business to build backlinks from SmartBlogger instead of Entrepreneur, wouldn’t it?

Well, not necessarily.

In fact, building nofollow links can be a great way to drive traffic, boost SEO, leverage social signals and influencer marketing, and create a domino-effect link-building strategy.

In other words, nofollow links aren’t nearly as bad as they sound.

Here are five reasons why.

1. Increased traffic from backlinks and second-tier links

Since nofollow links do nothing to stop people from clicking on them, one of the best benefits of them is the potential for additional traffic to your website.

If you generate a backlink from Entrepreneur, for example, a publication that uses almost no dofollow links, that link is still remarkably valuable.


Because Entrepreneur has a massive audience and all of those readers now have a chance of visiting your website.

Plus, if the anchor text for the link in the Entrepreneur article mentions your brand name, then you also generated a ton of brand awareness.

Clearly, that nofollow link is far from worthless.

And with second-tier links, that potential becomes even more lucrative.

First-tier links are your normal backlinks. Another website links to one of your pages.

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A second-tier link is similar, but further down the chain of command. A second-tier link doesn’t directly link to your website, but to a website page that is currently linking to your own website.

I know. That gets kind of meta.

Here’s what that looks like.

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Still confused?

That’s okay. Let me give you an example.

Here’s an article from SmartBlogger that is linking to another tech website. This is the first-tier backlink.

How to Start a Blog in 2018 New Method That s 20X Faster Smart Blogger

However, if I click on that link and go to the referenced page, I can also find that WordPress is mentioned on the link from the tech website.

This then is a second-tier backlink.

WordPress received the first-tier link from the tech website and a second-tier link from SmartBlogger.

WordPress quietly powers 27 of the web TechRepublic

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

Why is first- and second-tier link building so important when it comes to nofollow links?

The reason is simple. While nofollow links will give you less direct SEO juice than dofollow links, they can generate just as much traffic.

And with second-tier link building, they can generate even more.

Clearly, all of that traffic is far from worthless. Therefore, the same is true for the nofollow link that drove that traffic.

2. SEO boost to your referenced pages

That subtitle might sound deceiving.

Why would you receive an SEO boost to your pages that receive a nofollow backlink?

After all, isn’t the entire point of the nofollow tag to restrict Google from attributing domain authority to the referenced page?

Well, yes. Kind of. Sort of.

That’s the idea, anyway.

But then, Google knows that.

The people building the secretive Google algorithm know that website owners are trying to use nofollow links to protect their own SEO by not helping other website’s SEO.

Here’s the thing, though. Google also knows that you’re still linking to them, regardless of the nofollow link.

And since they know that, the actual ability of nofollow links to restrict the building of domain authority is iffy, at best.

If you receive a nofollow link from a popular blog, that doesn’t automatically mean that the link will do nothing for your SEO.

In fact, lots of online case studies say differently.

One person ran a test to determine the impact of nofollow links and saw a clear correlation between when they used nofollow links and a rise in their rankings.

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Also, consider that pages ranking first in Google average 20% to 40% of their total backlinks being nofollow links.

Clearly, those nofollow links are doing far more than most people think they are.

You want to climb through the rankings, right?

You want to leverage the fact that 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine and 75% of people never scroll to the second page of results.

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As it turns out, nofollow links can help you leverage that SEO potential.

And they don’t do it indirectly, but directly.

More than likely, since Google knows about nofollow links, they’ve worked something into their algorithm to still provide benefit to the referenced pages, despite that nofollow HTML tag.

Perhaps nofollow links don’t provide as much SEO juice as dofollow links.

But to claim that they provide no boost to your domain authority is just as ridiculous as claiming that Google doesn’t know what nofollow-attributing websites are trying to do.

3. Social signals

Most likely, you already know how much social media can help your online success.

Everyone is talking about it after all.

They are talking about how often you should post on which platform and why that is going to build your audience, brand awareness, and even drive traffic, leads, and conversions to your website.

But did you know that all of those social media accounts can help build your SEO?

In SEO terms, it’s called social signals.

And Google uses social signals to determine how updated your website is, how popular it is, and how active it is.

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Of course, every social media site is a little different. But, for the most part, social signals are nofollow.

Here are some nofollow links on Facebook:

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And some nofollow links on Twitter:

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On Pinterest, however, the story is a bit different. As you can see by the green highlighted links below, Pinterest actually seems to use dofollow links.

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That will, of course, benefit your SEO even more than a social site that offers nofollow links.

But despite the “do” or “no” tag in front of “follow,” those social signals help your SEO directly.

In fact, there’s a clear correlation between the top ten results and the presence of those websites on social media.

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But it isn’t just how present those websites are on social media. It’s also how active they are.

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Naturally, that makes sense.

The more active you are on social media, the more links you’ll receive to your website, especially if you’re sharing blog content from your own domain.

This means that for every time you post, for every updated social media account, and for every share you generate, you build nofollow links that are benefiting your SEO.

Whoever said that nofollow links are worthless?

Well, maybe they’d never heard of social signals.

4. Influencer marketing

You’ve heard of influencer marketing, right?

If you haven’t, that’s okay.

Give me a moment to explain what it is, and you’ll quickly understand.

Then, I’ll show you how influencer marketing relates to nofollow backlinks and even benefits your marketing strategy.

Influencer marketing is trying to access the audience of someone who has a large following that will be interested in your business or product.

Ideally, after working with the influencer to market your brand to their audience, some of those people will join your own audience, giving you direct access to them without the influencer’s permission.

And it’s an incredible strategy for driving traffic, leads, and conversions.

The reason is simple. People trust influencers.

81% of U.S consumers trust recommendations from blogs, and 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase an item if they see a recommendation for it on social media.

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And that’s why massive companies have been using influencer marketing for quite some time.

Just consider this Instagram post from Gap:

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Or this video made by British Airways where they invite 100 influencers onto a flight to brainstorm how to fight world problems.

OK. OK. So you understand that influencer marketing is remarkable for driving leads, traffic, and conversions.

But how does any of that relate to nofollow links?

Well, influencer marketing proves that nofollow links aren’t worthless.

Think about it. Often, with influencer-marketing campaigns, the backlinks you generate are nofollow.

But, of course, it’d be stupid to assume that those same links are worthless. You receive access to a massive audience, build an audience of your own, and probably even sell some inventory.

Lots of businesses have used influencer marketing campaigns to build nofollow links.

And they do it because those mentions and references are exceptionally valuable, despite their nofollow roots.

You can use the same strategy.

5. The domino effect of link building

You know when you line up dominoes around your living room floor? Then, you hit one on the front end, which then hits the next as it falls, and the next, and the next, and so on?

It’s quite fun, isn’t it?

But it’s more than fun.

It indicates an important truth in the world of link building.

Two things in particular.

  1. If you don’t hit the first domino, then the rest will never fall.
  2. If you don’t have more dominoes beyond the first domino, then you won’t experience the domino effect.

Put into SEO, link building terms: If you don’t have backlinks, then you can’t generate more backlinks from those current backlinks.

Because here’s the thing. When you have a lot of backlinks out in the digital world, more people find you, regardless of the link’s do or don’t follow tags.

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And when people find you, they can use you as a resource.

After all, who does more research than a content marketer trying to write their own blog post?

This means that, with more links comes… well, more links.

Link building is kind of a self-perpetuating cycle. The more links you have, the more links you receive.

And it doesn’t matter one iota whether those backlinks are nofollow or dofollow.

That’s probably why so many successfully ranking websites have a massive amount of backlinks.

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Those websites don’t worry about dofollow or nofollow.

They simply build links, knowing that a nofollow link can quickly turn into a dofollow link on another website if the right person sees it.

My recommendation?

Spread your links all over the Internet and allow the domino effect to take effect.

One link leads to another link leads to another link leads to…


Your end goal isn’t to build your SEO rankings.

That’s right. It isn’t.

You already know that, though. Your end goal is to drive leads, traffic, conversions, and revenue. SEO just happens to be one of the best ways to accomplish those goals.

But, as you now know, link building offers far more benefits than just SEO juice. With link building, you can drive direct traffic to your website, for instance.

Then, when that traffic visits, you will gain leads and customers.

And nofollow links do that just as well as dofollow links.

So what’s not to like?

Plus, that’s only one reason that nofollow links are so important. Increased traffic, SEO, influencer marketing, and the domino effect are all reasons that nofollow links are well worth your time and budget.

Lots of people have told you different, that nofollow links are worthless.

Fortunately, those people are wrong.

Sure, they might not build you quite as much SEO juice as their dofollow counterparts, but they still drive traffic and build your SEO.

Why do you think nofollow links are worth your time and money?

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Neil Patel