Nofollow links seem a little unfair, don’t they? It’s not how good relationships are meant to work right? They should be a two-way street? Why not show a little love back?
Interestingly enough, and something that many people don’t realize, is that nofollow backlinks aren’t as bad as they sound.
They can be a good thing, and the following nine facts will help support this statement while changing your mind about the seemingly unresponsive SEO tactic.
For those that don’t know what nofollow backlinks are, in 2005 the nofollow attribute was created to combat link spam. Anytime a paid (sponsored) link ad popped up; Google could differentiate between paid links and natural links.
This was a form of protection for websites against those building unnatural anchor text profiles via backlinks.
They are also becoming increasingly more common as most major publishers are using a rel=”nofollow” tag on all of their external links.
This inclusion led many people to believe more so than ever that nofollow links were an utter waste of time. There is, however, a case to be made that the opposite of this is actually true.
Fact 1: Nofollow links establish trust with Google
While they seem somewhat pointless, nofollow links tell Google that you are spending money on advertising. Serious brands and businesses should be expected to have a marketing budget; you should be buying ads to improve your position in the marketplace.
Nofollow links are basically explaining your ad content to Google and waving your hand in the air saying “we are in business.”
This points Google towards your anchor text to assess its relevance and give you the credit you deserve while dodging the sting of an unnatural backlink profile.
So a little bit of trust is built between you and almighty Google who would likely think that businesses with zero nofollow backlinks could be an unnatural profile.
Fact 2: They help build awareness
Links in the text are usually used as proof to back up what you are saying or explain/show something in greater detail. That and you could be pointing someone to a product or service that does what you are talking about.
Link building is like online networking. If you are trying to raise the awareness of your business, links are critical.
There is a reason why you can buy link building services as a successful link building campaign can boost the traffic to your site.
The reason why a nofollow link is handy is that links build awareness if they are seen, not necessarily followed.
Twitter and Facebook are perfect examples; people may post links that cause people to follow pages based on a good headline, without even reading an article.
It plants a seed that may pop up in someone’s mind at a later stage achieving the desired outcome without a follow on the initial link.
Fact 3: It’s better than nothing
A nofollow is better than no link. It’s an opportunity to build a connection with the author that may lead to more opportunities down the track.
Nofollow links can bring you guest posts or mentions on reputable websites, and the ultimate, it may bring a new user to your site.
A link in the right place on the right website can bring exposure, traffic, and brand awareness while also growing your social media audience and general network.
This is all potential lead generation, and at the end of the day, potential clients are not going to care about the type of links you have, whatever gets them through the door!
Fact 4: Traffic is traffic
Good SEO is great, but let’s not forget that reason why we need good SEO is to generate traffic to our sites. If you have something that is bringing the traffic, while not having a significant effect on SEO, what’s the problem?
Link building is about creating opportunities to be discovered and engage audiences, so by this theory the attribute is inconsequential.
A nofollow link can turn into a dofollow link via a different site down the track, which will help your rankings eventually. It goes:
Links > traffic > engagement > profit
Referral traffic from a nofollow link is a good outcome, a citation or external link from a well-regarded site is technically a nofollow link, but no one will complain about that. Whatever generates interest in your site!
Fact 5: Lots of links from authoritative sites create juice
Link juice is an SEO term for value created by lots of links. To understand why this is relevant in the case of a nofollow is to understand that search engines are complicated, and becoming more so by the day.
Frequency and placement of nofollow links affect overall page ranking calculations, and this is particularly pertinent in the case of authoritative sites.
This all harks back to the idea that a nofollow link is a potential pathway, or planted seed, to something beneficial down the track.
Fact 6: Nofollow links are natural
As we discussed earlier, Google would expect a certain amount of nofollow links on a real site. Websites that try to game the system will be punished.
Too many dofollow backlinks are considered a blatant attempt to do precisely that, and Google will have none of it.
As with most things in SEO, there needs to be a realistic balance, and the shortcuts rarely pay off.
Mixing nofollow backlinks in shows that you are genuinely working to create backlinks for organic SEO.
It shows that you are playing the game, abiding by your rules, and big brother should stay away from your PageRank score.
Fact 7: It’s not all about Google
Shocking we know, and hopefully, this fact doesn’t offend our search engine overlord, but Google isn’t everything.
There are other metrics, like Page Authority and Alexa Rank, that come into play when assessing your site potential that doesn’t really affect Google rankings.
These other listing services and directories count nofollow links along with other backlinks when calculating their metrics all of which helps improve your site authority creating more potential opportunities.
While we are on the subject of Google not being the be all and end all, it’s important to note that Bing does not outright ban buying links. Do with that information what you will.
Fact 8: An increase in brand mentions
In most cases, nofollow links are accompanied by brand mentions, which are considered by Google as implied links. This is the next best thing to an actual link.
We should note at this point that is it very hard to measure the data and impact of brand mentions, but if one of your goals in brand awareness, this can’t hurt.
One area we do know this is effective however is the local search. If citations like name, address, and phone number are included, then your local search ranking will likely rise.
This has been proven in things like press release distribution, especially as we see a rise in press release distribution sites. It all contributes to your SEO in a positive way.
Fact 9: There are steps you can take to ensure that nofollow links benefit your SEO
We know that the “planting seeds” theory is the undercurrent of the above methods, but there is no harm in trying any of it.
So to ensure you maximize the SEO value of your nofollow links consider the following points and act accordingly.
- Anchor text doesn’t affect keyword rankings so if you are talking about nofollow links the benefit of SEO, anchor text and your keywords aren’t really relative. The link should focus on getting people to visit your site directly, so the anchor text should be tailored for the click through. Make it engaging, clear and encouraging of further investigation.
- Set one of your nofollow link goals as bait for additional followed links from noteworthy sites and people. Your nofollow links should appeal to journalists and influencers with large audiences. This means being comprehensive while targeting some kind of novelty or niche market; you want to give these people something new or unique.
- The nofollow should always mention your business or brand. Just a mention of your brand can improve online visibility and authority metrics, so anything that helps with increased searches for your brand name is positive.
- Finally, nofollow links are the most relative and effective on social media. There are no special ranking factors for social networks but social media activity, especially if it’s viral, inevitably leads to media coverage and followed links.
A tactic like the republishing of your content on various platforms will often result in nofollowed links, but it’s all worth it if those sites have a large audience.
Republishing is actually of great benefit to you if Google notes duplicate content with you as the original source.
At the end of the day, link building is all about referral traffic and the most valuable links are those earned organically.
Nofollow links are not useless, so ensure that you include them as part of your overall strategy. Keep planting those seeds!
James Silverwood is a digital marketing specialist who recently merged his digital agency with a company in the Middle East to offer web design services in Saudi Arabia.