Are nofollow tags complicating your SEO game plan?

No need to scratch your head anymore.

The ever-changing landscape of search engine optimisation might seem labyrinthine, but handling the gears, like nofollow tags, efficiently is a cakewalk if you know the ropes. 

That’s precisely where we come into the picture – to illuminate the path and accompany you on your journey towards mastering the subject.

The role of nofollow tags in SEO can often be shrouded in mystery, leaving webmasters bewildered about how to wield them as a potent tool.

Lacking a comprehensive understanding could lead to missed chances to boost your site traffic, escalate your brand’s visibility, and unleash the full power of your site’s SEO capacity.

Here’s the twist: Even with their nofollow status, these tags can offer your linked pages an unexpected advantage and enhance your comprehensive SEO blueprint.


Well, these links have more than what meets the eye.

By gaining a deep understanding of nofollow tags and their role in the vast SEO domain, you can make judicious decisions that bolster your website’s performance and aid in realising your online aspirations. 

And that’s the focus of this enlightening article.

As you scroll down, we’ll examine the transformation of nofollow tags, their part in PageRank and anchor text, Google’s changing viewpoints, the indirect benefits they serve, the incorporation of nofollow tags in internal links, and the crucial aspect of maintaining a balance between them and dofollow links. 

By the end of this insightful journey, you’ll be armed and ready to strategise and unlock the true prowess of your SEO operations.

So, are you ready to dive into the depths of nofollow tags and their impact on SEO in 2023? Together, we’ll demystify the complexities, grasp the subtleties, and enable you to harness the maximum potential of these significant tools.

Fasten your seatbelts as we are about to turbocharge your SEO strategy!

The Evolution of Nofollow Tags

Before September 2019

Prior to September 2019, nofollow tags acted as a directive, instructing search engines to ignore the linked content.

Yet, a critical paradigm shift in Google’s interpretation of nofollow tags has brought about a sea change in their influence on SEO.

For a more profound grasp of the diverse types of tags and their ramifications, navigating through a detailed guide on the essence of nofollow, sponsored, and UGC tags can prove highly beneficial. 

What Are Nofollow Sponsored and UGC Tags

This resourceful guide unravels the way these tags shape search engine rankings and crawl behaviours. 

Delving into the intricacies of each tag type, it underscores their role in the dynamic SEO terrain.

With updated knowledge about these diverse tags, webmasters can strategise effectively, ensuring the implementation on their websites is in sync with the best practices, thereby amplifying their SEO performance.

Post September 2019

However, post-September 2019 marked a significant pivot in Google’s perspective on nofollow tags.

Google transitioned from seeing the nofollow tag as an absolute command to treating it as a subtle cue for rankings. 

This shift in stance led to a seismic change in Google’s policy, reverberating through the sphere of SEO strategies.

In effect, Google gained the discretion to consider a nofollow link while assessing a site’s ranking, with the context playing a critical role. 

Although nofollow links continue to refrain from passing PageRank or anchor text, they could shape how Google comprehends and ranks a site. 

This refined approach hands webmasters more leverage and governance over their SEO strategy, underscoring the indispensability of comprehending nofollow tags.

You might find this resource enlightening too – Deciphering the Right Time to Use Each Tag Type: Nofollow vs Sponsored vs UGC Tags

The Role of Nofollow Tags in SEO

Nofollow Tags and PageRank

Despite Google’s paradigm shift regarding nofollow tags, it remains crucial to recognise that nofollow links don’t contribute to PageRank. 

PageRank serves as Google’s method to evaluate the significance and relevancy of web pages, by examining the quantity and calibre of links pointing towards a page.

The larger the count of high-quality links associated with a page, the greater its PageRank. This, in turn, elevates its likelihood of featuring prominently in search engine results.

Nonetheless, a link labelled with a nofollow tag is practically discounted from this equation. 

While the link continues to exist and can be accessed by users, from the perspective of Google’s PageRank algorithm, it becomes invisible. 

This implies that nofollow links don’t directly bolster a webpage’s visibility in search engine results. They neither enhance the PageRank of the linked page nor deplete the PageRank of the page they are placed on.

Nofollow Tags and Anchor Text

Likewise, nofollow links do not transmit anchor text. Anchor text refers to the visible and clickable text component of a hyperlink. 

Search engines employ this anchor text to ascertain the context of the linked page, influencing its rank for specific search queries.

However, when a link is designated as nofollow, the anchor text doesn’t shape the search engine’s interpretation of the content on the linked page. 

This implies that irrespective of how pertinent the anchor text is to the content of the linked page, it won’t impact the way the page is indexed and ranked by search engines.

Essentially, although users can still interact with nofollow links, leading them to the linked page and potentially increasing its traffic, these links do not enhance the linked page’s SEO in terms of PageRank or anchor text. 

This characteristic renders them a handy tool for webmasters who wish to establish a link to a page without advocating it in the eyes of search engines.

The Shift in Google’s Stance on Nofollow Tags

Nofollow as a Hint for Crawling and Indexing

Starting in March 2020, Google significantly changed how it treats nofollow tags. Instead of completely disregarding them, Google now considers the nofollow tag as a hint for crawling and indexing. 

This means that while nofollow links may not directly impact search engine rankings, they can still influence how Google crawls and indexes web pages.

By using nofollow tags strategically, webmasters can guide search engines to focus their crawling efforts on more valuable content. 

For example, suppose there are certain pages on your website that you want search engines to prioritise for indexing. In that case, you can add a nofollow tag to less important pages to signal that they are of lower priority. 

This helps ensure that search engine bots spend more time and resources on crawling and indexing the pages that matter most to you.

This change by Google provides webmasters with more control over how their content is discovered and indexed. It offers an opportunity to optimise crawling and indexing resources, which can have positive implications for SEO.

The Indirect Impact of Nofollow Tags

Driving Traffic

While nofollow links may not directly contribute to search engine rankings, they can still significantly impact traffic to a website. 

Users can click on nofollow links just like any other link on a webpage, which means that they can still be a valuable source of referral traffic.

When strategically placed, nofollow links can lead users to relevant and engaging content on your website, enticing them to explore further. 

Additionally, if a nofollow link is placed on a high-traffic website or a popular platform, it can generate considerable click-throughs and direct visitors to your site.

Therefore, while nofollow links may not boost your SEO directly, they can still play a crucial role in driving targeted traffic and potential conversions.

Increasing Brand Awareness

Another indirect benefit of utilising nofollow links is the potential for increasing brand awareness. 

Even though these links do not contribute to search engine rankings, they can expose your brand to a larger audience when placed on high-visibility websites or social media platforms.

By leveraging nofollow links in strategic partnerships or collaborations, you can reach a wider pool of users who may not have discovered your brand otherwise. 

Each click on a nofollow link is an opportunity to showcase your brand’s value proposition, products, or services. 

Over time, this exposure can contribute to brand recognition and enhanced visibility in the minds of your target audience.

The Indirect Benefits of Nofollow Links

Indirect BenefitsDescription
Driving TrafficNofollow links can attract click-throughs and direct visitors to your site, increasing traffic and potential conversions.
Brand AwarenessPlacing nofollow links on high-traffic websites or influential platforms can expose your brand to a larger audience, enhancing brand recognition and visibility.

By leveraging these indirect benefits, you can enhance your overall SEO strategy and achieve your desired online goals.

The Use of Nofollow Tags in Internal Links

The use of nofollow tags in internal links can be beneficial in specific situations. One example is when linking to login pages or other content that you don’t want to appear in search engine results. 

Elevate Your Local Business Understanding and Implementing Link Building in SEO

Adding a nofollow tag to these internal links ensures that search engines don’t index or rank these pages, keeping them private and hidden from public visibility.

For instance, login pages often contain sensitive information or personal data that should only be accessible to registered users. 

Using a nofollow tag can prevent search engines from crawling and indexing these pages, maintaining their confidentiality and preventing potential security risks.

Additionally, internal links that lead to low-value or duplicate content might also benefit from the use of nofollow tags.

By selectively applying nofollow tags to such links, you can guide search engines to focus on more valuable content within your website, enhancing the overall user experience and SEO performance.

The SEO Potential of Nofollow Links

Despite the presence of the nofollow HTML tag, these links can still offer benefits to the linked pages.

While they don’t directly contribute to search engine rankings or PageRank, nofollow links can indirectly impact SEO by driving traffic and increasing brand visibility.

When you strategically place nofollow links on high-traffic websites or influential platforms, they can attract users’ attention and entice them to click through to your website.

This increased traffic can lead to engagement, conversions, and improved user metrics, all of which can positively impact your SEO efforts.

Moreover, nofollow links can still contribute to enhancing your brand visibility. When placed on reputable websites, they expose your brand to a wider audience and can help establish brand recognition and authority within your industry.

This exposure can lead to potential brand mentions, social sharing, and organic backlinks, which indirectly contribute to the overall SEO strength of your website.

The Importance of Dofollow Links

While nofollow links have their place in a balanced SEO strategy, it’s important to highlight the significance of dofollow links as well. Dofollow links are essential for increasing visibility in search engines and improving page authority.

Dofollow links pass PageRank and anchor text, meaning they directly impact search engine rankings.

When other websites link to your pages using dofollow links, it signals to search engines that your content is valuable and relevant, potentially boosting your rankings in search results.

Furthermore, dofollow links can contribute to other SEO benefits such as generating organic backlinks, increasing referral traffic, and improving your website’s overall credibility and authority.

These factors are crucial in establishing a strong online presence and achieving long-term SEO success.

Examples of When to Use Nofollow Tags

Nofollow tags can be used in a variety of scenarios to optimise your SEO strategy. For instance, you might use a nofollow tag for sponsored links.

This is because Google requires that paid links are marked with a nofollow tag to prevent manipulation of search results.

Similarly, you might use a nofollow tag for user-generated content, such as comments on a blog post, to avoid linking to low-quality or irrelevant sites.

Finally, you might use a nofollow tag for links to pages with sensitive information that you don’t want to appear in search engine results.

The Impact of Nofollow Tags on Backlink Profile

Nofollow links can contribute to a more natural backlink profile. Google values diversity in a site’s backlink profile, and a mix of dofollow and nofollow links can appear more organic and less manipulative.

While nofollow links don’t pass PageRank, they can still signal to Google that your site is being linked to from various sources, which can contribute to your site’s overall credibility.

The Role of Nofollow Tags in Link Building Strategy

While nofollow links don’t pass PageRank, they can still play a role in a healthy SEO strategy. 

For instance, nofollow links can drive traffic to your site, increase brand awareness, and contribute to a diverse backlink profile.

Therefore, it’s worth considering nofollow links as part of your broader link-building strategy.

The Future of Nofollow Tags

Given the changes Google has made to how it interprets nofollow tags, it’s worth considering how they might evolve in the future. 

While it’s impossible to predict with certainty, it’s possible that Google could continue to refine its approach to nofollow links, potentially giving them more weight in certain contexts. 

This could mean that nofollow links become an even more important part of a balanced SEO strategy.

  1. Google’s change to how they respond to nofollow tags: Google has said that they will now view the rel=”nofollow” tags as a hint or suggestion, and this change began on March 1, 2020 (1).
  2. Nofollow links are still valuable for SEO: Nofollow links can be a great way to accelerate your digital PR strategy and create a ripple effect in your link-building approach. They are still valuable for SEO and will be so for the foreseeable future (2).
  3. Google introduced the nofollow tag: Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft created the nofollow attribute in 2005 to combat link spam. If it encountered nofollow in a link, a search engine would not follow the link to the target page (3).
  4. Google’s use of nofollow tags may evolve: All nofollow directives are now officially a “hint”, — meaning Google may choose to ignore it and use it for ranking purposes. Google’s use of these new link attributes may evolve, and it will be interesting to see if a ranking benefit emerges from using nofollow attributes in a certain way (4).
  5. Nofollow tags combat comment spam: Google introduced the nofollow tag in 2005 as a way to combat comment spam that was becoming a problem (5).

How to Implement Nofollow Tags

Implementing a nofollow tag is straightforward. When adding a link to your webpage, you simply include the attribute rel=”nofollow” within the link’s HTML.

For example, a nofollow link might look like this: <a href=”http://www.example.com” rel=”nofollow”>Example Link</a>. This tells search engines not to follow the link when crawling your site.

Remember, while using nofollow tags appropriately is important, they should be just one part of a balanced and comprehensive SEO strategy.

In Summary

Nofollow tags have undergone significant changes over the years, transitioning from a strict directive to a hint for rankings and crawling.

This evolution has reshaped the way we perceive and utilise these tags in our SEO strategies.

While it’s true that nofollow links don’t directly impact search engine rankings or pass PageRank, they still hold value in driving traffic, increasing brand awareness, and contributing to a diverse backlink profile.

These links may not have the same weight as their dofollow counterparts, but they can be instrumental in expanding your online presence and attracting visitors to your website.

Moreover, nofollow tags can play a crucial role in internal links. By utilising them strategically, you gain control over indexing and ensure that sensitive content remains protected from search engine visibility.

This ability to manage internal links can help maintain the integrity and security of your website.

However, it’s important to strike a balance between nofollow and dofollow links. While nofollow links have their advantages, dofollow links remain essential for improving visibility and page authority.

These links directly contribute to search engine rankings, enhancing your website’s chances of being discovered and trusted by users.

By strategically incorporating both types of links within your SEO strategy, you can maximise your website’s overall potential.

Finding the right equilibrium between nofollow and dofollow links will empower you to achieve long-term success in the ever-competitive digital landscape.

Remember, adapting to the changing dynamics of nofollow tags and understanding their role alongside dofollow links is key to unlocking the full potential of your SEO efforts.

So, embrace the evolution, strike the right balance, and propel your website towards sustained success in the digital realm.


Can nofollow links help protect against penalties from Google?

Yes, nofollow links can help protect your site from penalties. For instance, if you have paid links on your site, marking them as nofollow ensures that you’re adhering to Google’s guidelines and helps avoid potential penalties.

Are nofollow links beneficial for social media SEO?

While social media links are typically nofollow and don’t pass PageRank, they can still drive traffic to your site and increase brand visibility. This can indirectly benefit your SEO by increasing user engagement and potentially leading to more organic backlinks.

How do I check if a link is nofollow?

To check if a link is nofollow, you can inspect the HTML of a webpage. Right-click on the webpage and select ‘Inspect’ or ‘Inspect Element’. In the HTML code, find the link and see if it includes the attribute rel=”nofollow”. If it does, the link is nofollow. There are also SEO tools and browser extensions that can highlight nofollow links for you.

About the Author

Des Dreckett

Des Dreckett is the eCommerce and growth Marketing Director of XenMediamarketing.co.uk: a writer, blogger and a paid media specialist.

Writing content to help you grow and build your business.

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