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Do nofollow links really impact SEO ranking in 2021?

Nofollow link, as name suggests, is a link which 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, telling a search engine not to consider this link for SEO ranking. 

But story doesn’t end here. We need to understand the motive of Google for 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 understand 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 the web security and boost SEO ranking. 


What is nofollow and dofollow link?

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

/**************************nofollow link**************************/
<a href="" rel="nofollow">nofollow link to My Blog</a>

/**************************dofollow link**************************/
<a href="">dofollow link to My Blog</a> 

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

Since second link is dofollow link, it will help my blog getting SEO ranking enhancement.

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


Why Google introduced concept of nofollow links?

nofollow link by Google


Origin of nofollow link goes back in 2004-2005. Back then blogs were getting ranked higher based on number of visits, i.e. clicks. Bloggers with high link distribution skills were doing better than actually skilled ones. Google came up with idea of nofollow link to avoid the 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 spams.

How to identify if a link is 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 nofollow link or dofollow link just by looking at them.

Easiest way to find out whether a link is nofollow or not, is by inspecting the link. Inspect element is a feature in 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 NoFollow chrome extension or NoFollow firefox addon as well. This will let you know if a link on web page is nofollow link by highlighting it.

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

Chrome extension nofollow link

What is rel = “noopener” or noopener link?

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

<a href ="" rel="nofollow noopener">Visit</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 acnchor tag. Why? 

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

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

Check below chunk of code. We can see that 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 ="", "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 noopener in rel attribute, the newly opened web page won’t be able to use 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 comment, forum comments.

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

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.

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

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

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

How to take advantages of nofollow link to gain SEO ranking?

Usually we get the perception as nofollow = no SEO gain but we know that nofollow = at least definitely traffic. Over the time, Google 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 He was happy because is a platform where you get millions of visitors but when he found that it was a nofollow link, he was disappointed but later after sometime he wrote that he was amazed to see his blog 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 decent deal, you should offer them an dofollow outbound link if they are providing any value to your readers. In fact Google has mandated that article should have 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? 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 nofollow link. All the Social media by default mark all links as nofollow because it require huge amount of time and efforts to moderate each and every link.

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

Below is the SEO screenshot from 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 hint for ranking purpose. Google already has something powerful in the backend to get it done.

15 Replies to “Do nofollow links really impact SEO ranking in 2021?

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    1. @Zidek
      Thanks for your appreciation and encouragement. It means a lot to us.
      I am glad you liked our article on nofollow, dofollow and noindex concepts.

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