How to use rel="nofollow" for SEO

How to use rel="nofollow" for SEO

Hi everyone, welcome to my Monday blog! I am considering naming my SEO blog series, but I can’t think of anything too crash hot yet –  if you have any ideas please leave a reply!

I was asked last week to explain one of the points in a previous blog post about on page SEO, specifically, the part of the post about no follow attributes.

So what is a rel=”nofollow”?

A no follow tag is an attribute used in a link that blocks the transfer of link juice, or authority, to the page or website it is pointing to. When the tag was first introduced, it was used to tell search engines not to follow a link (hence the name). If you had a page that you didn’t want a search engine to crawl, you would use this tag. Now search engines are smarter and make up their own mind on what is important. But the tag can still be used to mould authority throughout a website or to external websites.

You will notice that the majority of a WordPress blog’s comments automatically create a nofollow to replies, as do many other blogging platforms and websites. Wikipedia nofollows every single external link, similar to some forums and other large websites.

The theory behind nofollows

The best way to describe links is like a glass of water. Each incoming link is a very small amount of water poured into a glass. So if you only have 1 link, the glass fills up very slowly. If you have 10, 20 or 30, the glass starts filling up more quickly.

Think of an external link as a small hole in the bottom of the glass from which water is slowly leaking. If you put a rel=”nofollow” on the hole (external pointing links) it essentially blocks it, so the glass will then fill up faster.

Internal linking structure

Matt Cutts himself has stated that external links aren’t the be all and end all for SEO. Internal links are also important. So if you put nofollow tags on internal pages, it will make it easier for Google to figure out which page is most important for users to see. It helps Google classify the pages, and in return Google will help you by ranking those pages. In theory anyway.

To revisit an example used in my last blog post, if you have a 10 page website, and all the pages have exactly the same authority, then each page accounts for 10% of the total authority available. If each of the pages link to the 10 pages (including itself) that is a total of 100 internal links throughout the site, thereby giving each link a value of 1/100. 

Now let’s say you have a “Contact Us” page that you don’t want to show as high as the others in the SERPs. By implementing a nofollow attribute on all the links pointing to that page, this will essentially place the page at the bottom of the heap in terms of perceived importance to search engines.

So in theory, you now have only 90 links active instead of 100, which makes the value of each link 1.1. This is only slightly more, but each page is now receiving 11 points from internal links instead of 10.

Simon, hopefully that has been cleared up, if not, please leave another comment so I can elaborate even further.

Should I nofollow images as well?

Yes, nofollowing images is also important. The reason being that most of the information passed through a link is via the anchor text. Now, if there is no anchor text because the link is an image, it is still going to transfer authority. However the lack of anchor text means that the link won’t directly be telling Google anything about the destination page, so it’s not going to help that page to rank for any specific keywords. The best way to correct this is to nofollow the images and create a sitewalk. A sitewalk will let you choose the best anchor text for each link and should be on every page.

Please let me know if any of the above points need further clarification, I am always happy to run over posts again!

Till next week!

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