Many webmasters and SEOs fear that link building had lost its mojo. This couldn't be further from the truth. As it generally happens when there is a shift in the search landscape, people in the SEO community saw Google's search algorithms as an attack on one of the fundamental building blocks of search engine optimization. Link building is...and always will be...the cornerstone of SEO.
Now that the dust settled from Penguin's targeted link building tactics, it's clear that Google has no interest in penalizing sites with healthy link profiles. Still, for a moment there, it looked like link building was dead. While we have to be more careful with our link profiles, there is still plenty of juice to be squeezed from the right type of link. One of the juiciest is that old standby – the nofollow link.
Dofollow, Nofollow, What's the Difference?
All links, as they say, are not created equal. If we ignore for a moment the authority or relevance of the link itself, and that's a big ignore, there are two basic types of links. The dofollow link and the nofollow link.
A dofollow link has the real juice. It tells the search engine to follow the link provided and to pass authority to the site at the other end. They are recognized by Google as a vote of confidence.
Nofollow links, on the other hand, tell the search engine just the opposite. They instruct Google not to follow the link, and not to consider the linked site in their page ranking algorithms. The purpose of the nofollow link was to combat the uptick in manipulative links that spammy websites were using to increase their page ranking.
Google's stance on nofollow links is that they provide no real SEO value. But that is not entirely true, and in the wake of Penguin and Panda, the nofollow link has become a powerful little tool when in the hands of a savvy SEO.
Nofollow = No SEO Value?
Google insists that Nofollow links offer no tangible SEO value because the search engine doesn't follow the link or index the linked-to page. This is only partially true. While Google does not "count" the link to the page, it does very much follow the link.
Moreover, nofollow links help to build diversity within your link profile. Something that Google wants to see, and recommends to all webmasters and SEOs. A website with an abundance of dofollow links, and an absence of nofollow links, look unnatural, and will likely get flagged by the search bots.
You should also keep in mind that many websites pass on nofollow links by default, and the majority of social media links are all nofollow.
The True Value of Nofollow Links
So, if nofollow links don't offer real SEO value, what do they offer? Well, let's look at a few key points.
- Increased Traffic - Nofollow or not, when you obtain a link from a relevant website it acts as an introduction to a wider potential audience. A link from a well-regarded, authoritative, website that receives plenty of traffic is bound to have an influence on your site's click-through rate. That uptick in visitors does have a very real impact on the way Google assigns value and page rankings.
- More Traffic Means More Leads - The increase of traffic, brought on by well-placed nofollow links, means more leads that can be turned into conversions. If your website has been properly optimized, and the right conversion opportunities are in place, the traffic from nofollow links can definitely be profitable.
- Nofollow Links Can Lead to Dofollow Links – Nofollow links should not be seen as a dead-end. People that encounter your website or blog through a nofollow link, may in turn link it to their own sites. These may be nofollow links or dofollow links, but either way they expand the reach of your content.
- Brand Building - Press release sites such as PRNewswire and PRWeb got crushed with Panda 4.0, and all links coming from these sites are nofollow links. It's debatable whether to use press releases for SEO, but I think it's still a great way to build great brand links.
What Exactly is a Nofollow Link?
A "nofollow" link is a link that simply has an extra attribute to it using the rel="nofollow" tag. Here's an example:
<a href="http://www.somedomain.com/somepage.html" rel="nofollow">anchor text</a>
A "dofollow" link is any regular link with the absence of the "rel" attribute. Simple right?
Nofollow links have lots of value and use. If you build websites, as we do, adding an attribution link in the footer of the client's site using the method above is a win for your link profile. You get the benefit of "brand links" without the penalty of Penguin. This is just one small example.
In your link building efforts, nofollow links are great as well for your overall link profile. Remember, Google wants diversity and relevance in all your SEO efforts. Rack up a lot of diverse brand links as both dofollow and nofollow, then go after your keyword links to boost your rankings!