What Is a Nofollow Link?
To better understand what a nofollow is, you need to know how it came about:
You already know that link building is what makes the SEO world go ‘round. You know that the more backlinks from “authoritative” web properties your site has, the higher Google values it. In 2005, when there was a rise in blogging, spammers began to find workarounds to boost their page rank. This included automated link-building processes and spam links.
To resolve content spamming, particularly to stop links in blog comments from passing credit to other pages, Google introduced the nofollow attribute. Simply put, nofollow is a way to tell search engines to not track certain links and that the hyperlink should not affect the ranking of the target URL.
Does Nofollow Have Any Benefits?
The answer is yes. While some people are still not convinced of the utility of a nofollow, there are some benefits:
Generating Referral Traffic
Nofollows can provide valuable referral traffic from people clicking through your links, specifically blog comment links. Nofollow or not, a well-placed blog comment or forum post can direct a huge amount of traffic to your site, which generates leads and converts into sales.
Wikipedia is a great example of the benefits of nofollow links. It used to have a dofollow profile, but switched to nofollow to discourage people from spamming the site, particularly when users discovered that anyone could edit and add their own links. A link from Wikipedia today can get you a lot of referral traffic despite being a nofollow.
It’s also worth noting that other factors besides SEO value are considered when it comes to rankings. Social signals from Twitter or Facebook, for example, are becoming increasingly valuable in brand building despite being nofollows.
Having a Balanced Link Profile
The absence of nofollow links on your site can raise red flags. This might alert Google of unethical, black-hat SEO schemes that harm your search ranking. Having a balanced profile helps you avoid this problem.
Do They Really Affect Rankings?
While the general impression about nofollows is that they do not pass along SEO value or link juice, some people question if Google was telling the whole truth when it comes to their effect on rankings.
Paul Marino, who published a study on nofollows on Teknicks, says that he likes to look at dofollow and nofollow links as having the same value. For the study he tracked traffic growth for one of his client’s sites where 88 of its 99 links are nofollow. The results show that nofollows do indeed affect Google rankings.
Despite having 89 percent of its link profile as nofollow, the site had an organic growth of 288 percent and ranked number one for its primary keyword (with 2,000 searches per month). It also ranked number two for its secondary keyword (with 8,100 searches per month). Its other three keywords gradually rose from page two to page one.
While there might be other factors to consider in the study, there is no denying that nofollow provides substantial benefit to rankings.
Should You Nofollow ALL Outbound Links to Recover From a Manual Penalty?
It’s understandable why you may want to do this, especially if you lack the time to review all outbound links on your site. However, this isn’t necessary. If you must nofollow to recover from a manual penalty, only do so for product endorsements or reviews where compensation is received.
According to TheSEMPost, nofollowing all outbound links (or worse, inbound links) make it doubly hard for Google to figure out which links are important to your site. You don’t want to nofollow source or reference sites that are beneficial to your site because you’re denying these reputable sites the chance to benefit from organic backlinks.
So should you or should you not nofollow? At the end of the day, it’s all up to you. They still make a difference to SEO and add value to your site. Find a balance and make sure your content is helpful to your readers because, in the end, that’s all that matters.