We often get asked by our clients about nofollow links - an important but often confusing topic. What is the difference between nofollow and dofollow links and why does this matter? How can you make sure you are taking advantage of a citation while using the right type of link to optimize your online presence? We have the answers.
Aren’t all links created equal before Google?
The short answer is no - but that doesn’t mean that one is good and one is bad. In fact, both nofollow and dofollow links are important for SEO, and they each serve a purpose to improve your overall web traffic.
But first, let’s clarify how the two link types differ.
Dofollow links are strictly “normal” links which means that their code includes everything except the nofollow attribute. The exact difference is in the HTML structure of the link. A dofollow link looks schematically like this:
<a href=“https://uberall.com“> LINKTEXT</a>
A no follow link, on the other hand, has the attribute rel=”nofollow”, resulting in the full link code reading like this:
<a href=“https://uberall.com“ rel=“nofollow“> LINKTEXT</a>
This command within the code influences how search engines see the links. Google indexes websites by using crawlers that scan all pages and follow links. The landing page of the link is rewarded with a reference as an indication of relevance and an improved ranking. The more references, the better the ranking. Traceable Dofollow links are referred to in the SEO world as “link juice.”
Nofollows links, due to the special command in the code, are read like regular text and not traced.
In the early days of search engine use, SEO professionals figured out that links would increase their PageRank causing a hyperlink mania. This led to a flood of links everywhere - even on sites which had nothing in common with their landing pages.
Google reacted to this so-called blackhat SEO behaviour by penalizing the overuse of dofollow links and introducing policies that pushed the use of nofollow links.
Since then, it is often incorrectly assumed that only dofollow links have a positive impact on search engine ranking. In fact, nofollow links play an important - although indirect - role in SEO and an exceptional one in online presence.
The Advantage of Nofollow Links
Nofollow links are used far and wide in business directories, social media, paid or incentivised content, as well as comment sections on blogs. Although the placement of this link type in these situations generates no direct reference, there are nevertheless significant benefits for your SEO strategy.
Although Google does not recognize the link itself, it is positively evaluated as a business mention. Secondly, it is discoverable by visitors that clicked through to your site. This increases the organic traffic to the website which should be, in principle, the ultimate goal of a link in the first place.
Google is emphasizing more and more the relevance of the website content. Unlike keywords and link building, quality beats quantity. If the bounce rate of a website is low and visits and CTR are high, Google sees that as indicators of good content and rewards the site with better ranking.
As long as a nofollow link leads to a relevant page that informs the user and encourages increased interaction, it indirectly leads to an improved search engine ranking.
Dofollow Links Can Lead to Penalization
As already mentioned, Google punishes blackhat SEO - the unfair measures to improve a website’s position in the search results. If dofollow links are created artificially, such as through payment, this leads to a poorer placement in Google’s search results.
That’s why Google updated its guidelines for bloggers, for example, encouraging them to only use nofollow links whenever a company offers an incentive to review a product or service. Also, most online directories, particularly the ones which work with Uberall, are using nofollow links to avoid possible punishments by Google.
Image via Uberall.com
Unlike dofollow links, Google does reward an accumulation of consistent citations. A citation is the mention of your business on another website (for example, an online directory in the form of a company name or a phone number). Ideally, however, it includes full distinctive information such as the company name, address and telephone number. When Google finds this data on multiple points in the Internet in a consistent form, it improves the page’s ranking.
Since the Google 3-Pack on the results page of local searches only includes 3 items, a holistic and well-managed citation structure is more important than ever to appear in these top 3 results. (In a future blog post we’ll examine in more detail the click behaviour since Google’s search result changes.)
Consistent and accurate location information lead to increased confidence among potential customers who are searching online, and ultimately to more store visits. According to Search Engine Land, building citations is one of the 5 essential practices for improving your ranking.
The creation of dofollow links is no longer the only relevant strategy to improve the search results ranking for your local business. Returning to the ultimate goal of an optimized online presence - more users online for more sales offline - citations combined with a strategic set of nofollow links play a crucial role.
Correct, consistent and complete location data throughout all online channels not only improve your chance to be found organically by potential customers but also have a positive impact on your SEO. The profiles on the online directories, map services and social media platforms appear directly in Google and, through citations and indirectly through nofollow links, support the ranking of your business in the local and organic search results.