Dofollow vs. Nofollow Backlinks: What’s The Difference?

Backlinks are one of the top two most important SEO ranking factors. If you want to rank for industry-related search terms that earn a valuable amount of traffic, you need to invest in a link building strategy. However, not all links are created equal. 

When building backlinks, marketers typically consider the domain authority, page authority, and relevance of the website they are trying to get a link on. Another thing that should be considered is the type of backlink. There are two primary types of backlinks: nofollow and dofollow. 

In the simplest of terms, dofollow links are far more valuable than nofollow backlinks because they contain so-called “link juice” that can improve your website’s SEO. The difference between the two is designated by attributes that are added to the HTML code on the page. 

Dofollow links are regular links with a rel=”nofollow” attribute, while nofollow links will contain a rel=”nofollow” attribute. Unless indicated otherwise in the page’s code, links will automatically be dofollow. However, nofollow links are used in cases where websites do not want to imply any sort of endorsement or connection to another website. They are also used to help put an end to black hat link building schemes.

How to Tell if a Link is Nofollow or Dofollow

When looking at links on a website, it is impossible to know what type of link it is simply by looking at it. Instead, you have to look at the HTML code to see if there are any link attributes connected to it. This is done by placing your mouse over the link you are questioning, right-clicking on it, and clicking the “inspect” option.

After you click “inspect,” your screen will look something like this.

We can look closer to see if there are any attributes assigned to the link. In this case, there is no rel=”nofollow” attribute, so we know that this is a dofollow link.

Reddit, a popular social media platform, is one high authority website that uses nofollow backlinks. When looking at the code for nofollow links, they will look something like this.

This link is clearly marked as nofollow using the rel=”nofollow” attribute.

Understanding Dofollow Links

If we want to get technical, dofollow links aren’t really a thing. You’ve already seen what dofollow and nofollow links look like behind the scenes, so you know that there is no attribute assigned to dofollow links that make them “dofollow.” Instead, the term dofollow or follow links simply refers to the default state of a backlink – or the opposite of a nofollow link. So, any backlink that isn’t marked with a nofollow attribute is considered dofollow and has “link juice” or “SEO juice.”

How Dofollow Backlinks Affect Page Rankings

Search engine bots are constantly crawling the web by clicking on links, going to a new page, and clicking on more links. As bots crawl through these pages, they are collecting valuable information about the page’s content. They’re also paying attention to which websites are linking to where and what anchor text they are using. If a backlink is dofollow, it contains “link juice” that will help boost a page’s rankings.

The more high-quality dofollow links you have pointing you a page, the more positive ranking signals you have on that page, and the better that page will perform. As your PageRank increases, so will your rankings in the SERPs, your domain authority, and your organic traffic.

Understanding Nofollow Links

If dofollow links are so great, what’s the point in nofollow links? Well, it’s a way for websites to control the links placed on their website. Since Google started considering the number of backlinks as an important ranking factor, some people begin manipulating search engines by adding spammy links anywhere they could – such as forums, blog posts, and more. To help combat link spam, Google invented the rel=”nofollow” attribute. Google encourages websites to use this attribute anywhere that users have the ability to add links themselves. 

Nofollow links may also be accompanied by additional link attributes that were announced by Google in 2019. In order to gain a better understanding of why users were using nofollow links, they introduced the rel’=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc” attributes. The first identifies links that are created as sponsorships and advertisements, while UGC indicates user-generated content – such as content posted on blogs, forums, and comments. All three the sponsored, UGC, and nofollow attributes are considered to be signals to Google about how they should analyze and consider the value of a backlink.

Essentially, nofollow attributes tell search engines that they don’t want to pass any SEO value onto the website they are linking to. While they won’t hurt your site, they won’t benefit it as much as dofollow links do.

Types of Links With Nofollow Attributes

There are many different types of links that a website may want to mark as nofollow. The two most common are sponsored posts and user-generated content. These types of links are found on a variety of different sources, including:

  • Comments on blog posts
  • Social media posts
  • Links in forums
  • News websites
  • Links in press releases
  • Any links that require payment for placement
  • Widget links

How Nofollow Backlinks Affect Site Rankings

Nofollow backlinks will not directly increase your website rankings, however, they still hold some value. In fact, nofollow links are valuable for three specific reasons:

  1. Nofollow links can increase brand exposure and help boost your traffic. Many high-ranking websites, like news websites or media outlets, have their third-party links set to nofollow. Even though you won’t get any “link juice” from these links, a lot of people are reading these articles and clicking through the information on the pages – and they just might click on your link. This can help people get familiar with your brand and increase your traffic. This is especially true for nofollow links on news websites, press releases, and interactive forums like Quora.
  2. Having nofollow links can actually help increase your number of dofollow links. As your brand exposure and traffic increases, so will your followers, level of trust, and rankings. This means more people are likely to reference your website and provide you with organic backlinks. Sometimes, the articles originally posted with a nofollow link will even get re-published on secondary media websites that will get rid of the nofollow attribute – providing you with a quality dofollow backlink.
  3. Nofollow links make for a more natural backlink profile. Nofollow links aren’t bad if they are acquired naturally, and it’s normal for websites to have a mixture of dofollow and nofollow links. In fact, Google’s algorithm finds it suspicious if a website only has dofollow backlinks, so having some nofollow attributes pointing to your website can actually be a good thing.

If you’re trying to build backlinks to increase your domain authority and improve your rankings, you should aim for high-quality dofollow backlinks. That being said, it’s a good idea to acquire a mixture of nofollow and dofollow links for a more natural backlink profile and an extra traffic boost.

When to Use Nofollow Links on Your Website

Once you understand the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, it’s time to learn when it’s appropriate to use nofollow links on your website. If you’re writing a blog post and referencing a resource or linking to information that is relevant to your readers, there is nothing you need to do. These links will be fine as they are and will automatically be dofollow.

However, there are some instances where you may need to use the nofollow attribute. By using nofollow links, you can instruct search engines to avoid assigning value to a backlink. Three times when you should use nofollow links are in user-generated content, paid link placements, and comments.

  • User-generated content – If your website allows other people to contribute content like blog posts or events, you can use the rel=”ugc” tag to prevent your website from giving credit to a website that you may not want to endorse. This can help prevent malicious link-building schemes.
  • Paid link placements – If your blog allows people to purchase link placements, this is considered promotional content and should be marked with the rel=”sponsored” tag.
  • Comments – If you allow visitors to make comments or as questions on your website, you can expect some people to use this function to build links. You can prevent this by assigning a rel=”nofollow” attribute.

Lastly, any links that you deem untrustworthy or do not wish to be affiliated with should be marked as nofollow.

Get Started With Link Building That Really Works

Links are important and you don’t want to risk hurting your website using malicious link-building tactics. You also don’t want others to take advantage of your website for their own link-building schemes. By understanding nofollow and dofollow links and when to use them, you can practice effective SEO techniques that will bring valuable traffic and user engagement.
If you want to learn more about link building or get started with a link building strategy of your own, contact us at Stodzy Internet Marketing today.

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    Tim Stoddart

    Tim Stoddart is the CEO of Stodzy Internet Marketing. He lives in Nashville with his wife and hit adorable pitbull, Alice. Tim loves to write about digital marketing and personal growth. You can learn more at

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