Understanding nofollow, dofollow, noopener and nindex links
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Lesser known benefits of “Nofollow Links” in SEO & 5 related key factors [Updated for 2023]

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A nofollow link, as the name suggests, is a link that we ask search engines like Google or Bing not to follow for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking. In other words link generator, usually, a website host, tells a search engine not to consider this link for SEO ranking.

But the story doesn’t end here. We need to understand the motive of Google for the nofollow link concept. This will make it very easy to grasp. Let’s break this concept into pieces and try to understand this informative concept which is widely related to SEO and will help us get closer to understanding do’s and don’ts for good SEO ranking.

By the end of this content, you should be able to understand what is

  1. nofollow link
  2. dofollow link
  3. noopener link
  4. noindex pages
  5. How to use them to ensure web security and boost SEO ranking.

What is nofollow and dofollow link?

A link with “rel” attribute value as “nofollow” is termed a nofollow link. When we don’t use rel = nofollow in an anchor tag, the link becomes dofollow. There is no special syntax for dofollow.

/**************************nofollow link**************************/
<a href="https://todaystechworld.com" rel="nofollow">nofollow link to My Blog</a>
/**************************dofollow link**************************/
<a href="https://todaystechworld.com">dofollow link to My Blog</a> 

Suppose 2 different websites are using my blog link as shown in the above snippet. When someone clicks on the first link, Google will not consider my blog for SEO ranking enhancement, or link juice, as this is a nofollow link.

Since the second link is a dofollow link, it will help my blog get SEO ranking enhancement.

Link juice term is coined to measure the value of SEO gain from one website to other.

Why Google introduced the concept of nofollow links?

nofollow link by Google

The origin of the nofollow link goes back to 2004-2005. Back then blogs were getting ranked higher based on the number of visits, i.e. clicks. Bloggers with high link distribution skills were doing better than actually skilled ones. Google came up with the idea of a nofollow link to avoid spamming and such kind of Ranking Manipulation.

Later Bing and other search engines started following it. Nowadays almost all social media platforms mark all outbound links as nofollow links to avoid spam.

How to identify if a link is a nofollow link?

We visit a lot of blogs and websites in our day-to-day online activities. We see a lot of links as well but we can’t say whether it is a nofollow link or a dofollow link just by looking at them.

The easiest way to find out whether a link is nofollow or not, is by inspecting the link. Inspect element is a feature in the browser where we can see what code is written behind that element.

Let’s check this feature on a sample link, “submit review link”. You need to right-click on this link and then select, “Inspect Element”. Easy one.

How to inspect a link whether it is nofollow link-2

Alternatively, You can install the NoFollow Chrome extension or NoFollow Firefox addon as well. This will let you know if a link on a web page is a nofollow link by highlighting it.

check this nofollow link. This link has been automatically highlighted by the Chrome extension. Now we can say this link is a nofollow link just by looking at it.

Chrome extension nofollow link

What is rel = “noopener” or noopener link?

Like nofollow, the rel attribute, under the anchor tag, has many more acceptable values. “noopener” is one of them which usually appears along with nofollow. WordPress always appends noopener when a link is created.

<a href ="https://xyz.com" rel="nofollow noopener">Visit xyz.com</a> 

Unlike nofollow, noopener might not be important in terms of SEO ranking directly but this is important for web security. If you are a web designer or blogger and use a lot of outbound reference links in your content then you should always use noopener as rel value in the anchor tag. Why?

Do you know that when a link is clicked, due to the javascript feature, the new page has the capability to control the previous page, let’s call it the parent page.

This malicious action is entirely defined inside the new page by the web Administrator. Suppose you have an outbound link to a malicious website, when clicked on the link, that website might use the javascript feature and read critical information or overwrite the web page.

Check below chunk of code. We can see that the parent window is able to interchange the information.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<p>Click the button.</p>
<button onclick="takeControl()">Try it</button>
function takeControl() {
  var parentWindow = window.open("", "myWindow", "width=200,height=100");
  parentWindow.document.write("<p>This is parent window.</p>");
  parentWindow.opener.document.write("<p>New Window!</p>");

We use rel = noopener to avoid giving this malicious control to someone else. Once you insert no opener in rel attribute, the newly opened web page won’t be able to use the window.opener feature from JavaScript.

Google has recently introduced 2 new link attribute values

  1. rel = sponsored: It shows link navigation is sponsored or advertised.
  2. rel = UGC: User-generated content such as social media comments, and forum comments.

Google has quoted that these 3 link attribute values will be considered as hints and unlike earlier, the nofollow link might not be completely ignored.

Also Read: What Is Domain Authority? – 5 Things You Need To Know About It in 2023

What is noindex? How Do I Noindex URLs?

Noindex is basically an indirect assertion for Google search engine’s web crawler to ignore that particular page.

Noindex is used for pages like internal circulation pages, welcome guest pages, thank you pages, etc.

A Noindex directive is given by a website or blog owner while nofollow is a directive given by someone else about someone else’s website or blog.

By default, every webpage is qualified for indexing by a search engine crawler. We can defer some pages by putting a robot meta tag with the content attribute as noindex. Check the below example.

<meta name="robots" content="noindex" /> 

How to take advantage of nofollow links to gain SEO ranking?

Usually, we get the perception as nofollow = no SEO gain but we know that nofollow = at least definitely traffic. Over time, Google’s search and indexing algorithm has become advanced and smart. They know that if your blog link is getting so much circulated by multiple sources, there must be something good in it.

Recently a blogger got quoted in Forbes.com. He was happy because Forbes.com is a platform where you get millions of visitors but when he found that it was a nofollow link, he was disappointed later after some time he wrote that he was amazed to see his blog’s SEO ranking because a lot of people shared his blog with dofollow link.

Should You Nofollow All External Links in Your Blog Posts?

No, you shouldn’t. If you think someone has written a good article or someone is selling a product with a decent deal, you should offer them a dofollow outbound link if they are providing any value to your readers. In fact, Google has mandated that articles should have a good combination of nofollow as well as dofollow links. This is one of the criteria to get good SEO gain.

So when should you mark an outbound link as nofollow? The answer is while you are referring to a malicious site, bad article, or raising a warning message against a spammer website you should mark it as a nofollow link.

All Social media by default mark all links as nofollow because it requires a huge amount of time and effort to moderate each and every link.

The whole purpose of nofollow links is to stop bad content or spammers from getting ink juice and rank higher in search engines.

Below is the SEO screenshot from the Google search console in WordPress.

Also Read: Beginner SEO Guide: How to Optimize your blog for SEO Ranking?

SEO mandate

Google has quoted sometimes, “We usually ignore nofollow links…”. We can conclude, “…but not at all completely. ”

At least nofollow is now being used as a hint for ranking purposes. Google already has something powerful in the backend to get it done.

Alok Rai
A passionate tech blogger who loves to read and write about technology, interesting concepts, and science. Additionally, I love to code and recently develop a mobile app, "The Mutual Fund Journal" for Indian users and working on it to extend for all.

15 Replies to “Lesser known benefits of “Nofollow Links” in SEO & 5 related key factors [Updated for 2023]

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