One of the first things you need to learn about link-building is to differentiate between dofollow vs. nofollow links. While these two might seem like two identical elements, they can’t be more different in terms of the value they provide. Specifically, a high-quality dofollow link can completely change the outlook of your site, which can’t be said for nofollow links.

In this article, we analyze the differences between these two and talk about situations where you should use dofollow vs. nofollow link. That way, you can maximize SEO efforts from external sites while also preventing potential issues and penalties to your own platform.

3 Main differences between dofollow vs. nofollow links

While the topic might seem irrelevant to an untrained eye, there’s a good reason why SEO experts often debate dofollow and nofollow links. Here’s how these two types of backlinks differ between each other:

  1. SEO value

Nofollow and dofollow links are completely different in terms of their SEO value. While dofollows provide benefits to your site, nofollows are, for the most part, useless for your brand. Specifically, a dofollow link will pass link juice from another site to yours, thus increasing its authority and reputation in search engines.

However, that doesn’t mean that a nofollow backlink is completely useless. You’ll still get direct traffic from other sites, which can sometimes be huge when featured on a large platform. That way, you can also boost awareness and potentially score some additional indirect links.

Nevertheless, when choosing between dofollow and nofollow links, you should always go for the prior.

  1. Indexing

As the name implies, Google crawlers crawl all over your site, looking for valuable content. They are heavily reliant on sitemaps and your architecture to get from one page to another. Among others, they also use links to reach specific content.

Google bots will use dofollow backlinks to discover new pages on your site. Among others, these links help with link equity on the internet, significantly increasing visibility and hastening the indexability of platforms that can accrue lots of links. On the other hand, a nofollow link doesn’t provide that value, as bots will not follow it.

  1. Spam prevention

The nofollow attribute is crucial for preventing comment spam and other SEO tactics for gaining links. These hyperlinks are commonly used for forum posts and social media sharing that would allow marketers to accrue lots of high-quality dofollow links with minimal effort.

As these platforms automatically put a nofollow tag on each link on their site, there’s no way you can manipulate these platforms to boost your site. In other words, you won’t gain major marketing benefits from user-generated content aside from direct traffic and brand awareness.

Are nofollow backlinks bad for my site?

Based on everything said so far, you might think that nofollow links are bad for your site and might send the wrong message to Google and other search engines. However, this can’t be further from the truth. Nofollows play a specific role in search engine optimization but also in how we use web content.

Specifically, these external links are vital for having a natural backlink profile. A naturally organized, well-built site will have a mixture of several high-authority links, lots of medium and low-tier links, and countless links from user-generated content and social platforms.

Having a nice balance of nofollow and dofollow backlinks shows Google that you’re not one of those spammy websites that manipulate search engine rankings. As you’re getting lots of nofollow links from other websites, forums, and social media, you probably have a real-world following.

Based on that, the importance of nofollows increases with each new dofollow backlink as it helps dilute and normalize your traffic sources.

When to use nofollow links on your site?

Although most SEOs focus on the external benefits of links, these site elements can also affect your optimization internally.

Like other sites, your site will mention numerous other platforms and influencers. By using links, you can enhance every web page by providing additional sources of information to your visitors.

Among others, placing outbound links into your content can also increase the website’s authority and the audience’s perception of your brand. In the last few years, search engines have placed more emphasis on giving outbound links to reputable sources as a way of making your articles look more natural and increasing user engagement.

However, that doesn’t mean you wish to endorse every linked page. While it’s okay to use a dofollow tag for a highly reputable news site, giving numerous dofollows to irrelevant spammy platforms might hurt you. Besides providing link juice, search engines might think that you’re trying to sell links and manipulate SERPs.

In other words, linking out can be a slippery slope where you need to watch your every move. Here are a few tricks that will guide you when using external links in your content:

Pages that you don’t support

There are numerous situations where you wish to link to a resource but don’t necessarily want to be associated with it. For example, you wish to reference research or a news source and think that a dofollow link would be inappropriate in that specific case. Here are a few situations when this might happen:

  • Source from your industry (they might be direct competitors)
  • Site categories that are potentially harmful (adult, gambling, schemes, and other shady sources)
  • Content that you don’t support but wish to mention for discussion purposes (hate speech, controversial, or excessive content)

In these situations, you need to assign attribute rel nofollow to these links. This will tell Google and other search engines that you’re not endorsing the post, nor should it be directly associated with your brand.

Affiliate links

During its lifetime, a brand might cooperate with various web entities. They might sell other products and services on their site or promote their brand on other platforms. In these situations, it’s best to use nofollow links so you don’t have to worry about potential issues.

Using nofollows is crucial when doing affiliate campaigns with numerous other unrelated industries. As you don’t want to link to platforms unrelated to your business, it’s best to simply put a nofollow rel. This is especially true for new sites that don’t have much content and aren’t diversified enough.

Keep in mind that whether you use dofollow or nofollow, the affiliate partner can still gain traffic from your platform. So, your bottom line won’t be affected in any way.

User-generated links

As mentioned previously, user-generated links and content should never be supported with dofollow rels. People can easily take advantage of the fact that you’re giving out these links by spamming your comments sections and other pages. That being said, it isn’t surprising that this practice is widely present on forums and social media as a way of protecting content integrity.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should never use a dofollow link for such articles. There are situations where you might wish to “treat” your partner and boost their placement. Similarly, you might allow top-tier influencers and site owners to use links back to their sources.

Whatever the case, make sure that these dofollow links are relevant to the linked page on your blog and website as a whole. While you can give out a few dofollows here and there, you should always pay attention to how they affect your link profile and topical relevancy. Most notably, make sure that Google doesn’t perceive it as a shady activity.

Obsolete content

There are also situations where you want to turn your old dofollow into a nofollow link. Here are a few examples:

  • Bad relationship with a previous partner
  • A website changing its focus and becoming a direct competitor
  • You used shady link strategies in the past, such as selling sponsored links
  • Content was altered in a way that you no longer fully support the statements

A good practice is to perform an occasional audit of your dofollow and nofollow backlinks. Alternatively, you can simply isolate specific, troublesome websites and put a nofollow tag to every backlink you gave them in the past.

When to use dofollow links on your site?

Based on everything that has been said so far, you might think that it’s a good strategy to spam dofollow links on your platform. In the end, if they can only provide benefits without any risks, why would you hesitate to give them out? Well, this isn’t exactly true.

Like all other website elements and strategies, you need to be careful as to how many dofollow and nofollow backlinks you use on a particular page. Here are a few good rules to follow when adding dofollow links to your web pages:

  • Dofollow links should only be used when providing true value to users. While you might use hyperlinks for quality blog posts, they’re best used for case studies and research pages
  • Check whether you have a better post on your site for that particular topic. Internal links can be every bit as valuable as outbound links as they make visitors stick a while long on your pages
  • While you can add numerous quality dofollow links to your platform, make sure they’re well-spread. Most importantly, don’t put too many links at the very start of the article because this might force users to bounce back from your platform, sending a negative signal to search engines
  • Focus on improving user experience. As long as your visitors are happy and use your hyperlinks, you’ve achieved your goal
  • Think about content and website relevancy. Even if dofollow backlinks send users to authoritative sources, it is much better if these sources are related to your business

All in all, dofollow links can be incredible when used in moderation and when combined with internal links.

How do you tell if a link is nofollow or dofollow?

There are a few tricks you can use to tell these two groups from one another. Most SEO use extensions and software that allow them to quickly differentiate between dofollow and nofollow links. Alternatively, you can check the HTML code and which rel was used for the hyperlink.

SEO extensions

Using SEO extensions is fantastic for tackling all the links you’ve given out to external sources. These apps work in Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and other major browsers, allowing you to quickly and efficiently check elements on your every web page. The extensions analyze all the tags within an article, giving you a quick breakdown.

SEO tools

If you’re looking to climb the top of search engine results pages, you can’t forget SEO tools. These platforms work on several levels, allowing SEO experts to perform competitive analysis, keyword research, content management, and link analysis.

Given that large platforms get a lot of dofollow and nofollow links, they must be on a constant lookout for new hyperlinks from external sources. Besides tracking performance and influx of quality dofollow backlinks, tracking is vital for quickly addressing negative attacks. Some companies also try to turn their nofollow links into dofollows.

Most of the large suites have a separate tab for tracking all the mentions and backlinks, and here, you can also find information about used tags.

HTML code

It’s also worth mentioning that you can use HTML code to check tags on your links. Although this is the slowest, most annoying approach, it can work well when analyzing single links on your site and other external platforms.

Basically, all you need to do is right-click the hyperlink in question and press the “Inspect elements” button. This will open a new HTML screen to the right (on Google Chrome). Now, you can go through all the backlinks within the code and assess them one by one. You can easily differentiate dofollow and nofollow backlinks based on the rel that is attached to them.


By following these simple tricks, you can get the most from your backlinking strategy. As long as you use these elements properly, you can significantly boost your content performance. Similarly, try to get as many quality links from external sources, combining nofollows and dofollows for a balanced link profile.

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