Last week I talked about things bloggers must do when accepting freebies, and it touched on the subject of using nofollow links.
However I know it remains a very confusing subject for many of us, so I thought I’d dedicate a whole blog post to the, er, joys(!) of nofollow links in a handy blogger’s guide.
I’ll try and write it all in layman’s terms wherever possible as some bloggers may be completely unfamiliar with the term “nofollow” links – and likewise with “follow” links – if you’re thinking “Huh?! What on EARTH is she talking about?” then this post is for you… ALL BLOGGERS need to know about this, so keep reading!
The use of nofollow links is something that many bloggers are completely unaware of. After all, no one hands you a guidebook when setting up a blog to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing (but they should! I believe blogging platforms should send you Terms & Conditions that you read and sign when you start a blog, and all these sorts of rules should be included in there. Anyway, I digress).
Nofollow links can be a huge bone of contention between brands/PRs and bloggers, and if you are offered payment for a “follow link” then my advice is simple:
DO NOT WORK WITH THEM. They are asking you to break the rules and put your blog at risk for their own benefit.
And here’s why…
What are nofollow and follow links?
First of all, all links are theoretically follow by default. So this is what all [follow] links do:
Adding a link that sends people to another site results in Google actively following the link. This will then increase the other site’s trustworthiness and PageRank (what Google uses to determine the importance of a web page). It boosts the site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), in other words.
The bigger and more reputable the site that featured the link, the more it’ll boost the SEO of the site it points to. Remember, all links you create on your blog are follow unless you purposely make them otherwise. Make sense so far?
Changing a link to nofollow means that Google won’t follow the link and therefore SEO won’t be boosted. However, they still count as valuable click-throughs in terms of traffic (page views) so they’re far from worthless.
So why should some links be nofollow?
In bloggers’ cases, nofollow links should be used when you have received some sort of payment, either in cash, product or services, in relation to that link. Google don’t like payment being used as a “bribe” to influence SEO – they’re much more keen to see it being grown organically. Payment (cash or goods) for follow links is seen as artificially boosting SEO, or manipulating PageRank.
For example, say you’ve received a range of hair products to try and you feature them on your blog. It makes sense that you’d link to the brand’s site so that your readers can also buy them. Changing the link(s) to the brand’s site to nofollow will prove to Google that you – and the brand – are NOT trying to manipulate PageRank. Basically, by making a link nofollow you’re safe to accept payment or product in exchange for that link without violating Google’s guidelines on link schemes.
When you SHOULD use nofollow links
Here are some examples of when you SHOULD make a link nofollow:
- When you have received payment to write a blog post/publish pre-written content (includes guest posts and copy written by an external party) that includes a particular link
- When you have received gifted items or accepted services (e.g. a free hotel stay) to review or feature on your blog, even if there was no cash payment
- For any affiliate links where you may receive commission, e.g. rewardStyle or ShopStyle links
- Anything that you consider to be untrusted content
When you should NOT use nofollow links
Likewise, there are many instances when you do not want to make a link nofollow… Some bloggers feel it’s better to be safe than sorry and make ALL links nofollow. DO NOT DO THIS – this could be just as harmful to your blog! It’s good for the SEO of your own blog to link to trusted, external sites regularly. It’s not the only reason of course, but it’s one reason why I publish regular featured blogger round ups or monthly “Best of the Blogosphere” links.
Here are the types of links that should definitely be left as follow:
- Links to other blogs or sites that you’re referencing (you want to boost their SEO!)
- Products or services that you bought/acquired yourself or like and are writing about with no direct influence from the brand or a PR
- Links to other posts on your own blog (this is a great way to boost your own SEO and should be something you regularly do)
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, do NOT work with brands that offer you payment for follow links or insist on a follow link in exchange for gifted items.
They know (or SHOULD know) perfectly well that Google do not take kindly to artificially boosted SEO. But you don’t know the extent to which their campaign is running and they will most likely try and tell you that “they’re only guidelines” (or some other nonsense) that makes out you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Believe me, I’ve had some pretty condescending replies sent to me in my time by brands and PRs. You’re being asked to take a risk, and it’s a risk not worth taking because both your blog and the brand’s site may be penalised.
(As a blogger I NEVER take on any collaborations unless the brand/PR agrees to nofollow links in any blog posts I write. And I do not think favourably of any brand or PR company that asks me to do so, either.)
If you want solid proof of a time that Google took action against a company that worked with bloggers in the wrong way, read how Interflora was wiped off the face of the internet for a while back in 2013. Food for thought.
How do I make my links nofollow?
Nofollow links in Blogger
All links are follow by default in Blogger. To make a link nofollow:
- Highlight the text you want to hyperlink and click on the “Link” button as normal.
- In the window where you add your link, check the box in the bottom-left corner that says “Add ‘rel=nofollow’ attribute”. Ticking this box will make it a nofollow link. Done.
Nofollow links in WordPress
I’d recommend getting a plugin that adds a title and a rel=”nofollow” checkbox to the insert link popup box: I use Title and Nofollow For Links and it works a treat.
Creating nofollow links with HTML code
If you’re happy to tweak HTML code, this is what you need to change. A follow (normal) link will look like this:
To make it nofollow, add rel=”nofollow” as shown in bold below:
<a href=”http://NOTDRESSEDASLAMB.com” rel=”nofollow”>
It gets a little complicated if you want it to open in a new tab (this should be something you do more often than not so visitors don’t leave and forget about your site) – you need to add in target=”_blank“ as below:
<a href=”http://NOTDRESSEDASLAMB.com” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>
But remember, both Blogger and WordPress give you a checkbox when creating links that make it open in a new tab. I’d recommend you do it that way, it’s less messy and avoids tiny mistakes in HTML that could mean your link doesn’t work at all.
What happens if you don’t change relevant links to nofollow?
Nothing will happen straight away – even Google isn’t capable of checking every link on every site and decide whether it should be a nofollow link or a follow. Your blog won’t be immediately shut down if you forget to change a link to nofollow when it clearly should be that way.
(But as Google owns and runs Blogger then I think those using the Blogger platform should be extra specially careful.)
Saying that, Google is very good at getting its act together, so why run the risk when it’s such a simple thing to do? Plus, not working ethically and honestly is not clever and isn’t the way to run a blog, whether it’s a hobby or a business. If goods or cash have exchanged hands then it IS a business to a greater or lesser extent, and all businesses have to abide by the rules.
Worst case scenario is that Google penalises you (meaning your PageRank and SEO suffers and you drop off Google search results) as well as the brand if you break the rules. You may be wondering why brands ask bloggers to flout the rules by adding a follow link, but they’re either stupid and willing to take the risk or simply naive.
The more that bloggers insist on making links nofollow when they work with a brand, the more we can stamp out bad practice and brands preying on newbie and uninformed bloggers.
So remember, just say NO to paid follow links… Nofollow is GOOD. Don’t take that chance.
A quick summary of nofollow links
The easiest way to remember whether to use nofollow links is to ask yourself: Was I paid in relation to this link in either goods, services or cash? If the answer is yes, then you MUST make it a nofollow link. Untrusted content is the only other time you should (ideally) make the link nofollow.
Otherwise, you WANT to boost that Google juice for other bloggers, brands you buy from and/or like and trusted sites. Remember, it does your SEO good to link to other worthy sites.
Good blogging is just as much about helping others as it is about helping yourself!