Hey Bloggers: Stop Making All Your Links ‘Nofollow’!

June 17, 2016

I normally don’t blog about blogging (because I really just want to write about travel), but I want to make an exception just to get something off my chest.

Note: this post might be a bit technical and “behind the scenes”. It assumes you’re a blogger and you know something about search rankings and linking methods.

Lately, I have noticed that some blogs have begun tagging all of their links with the ‘nofollow’ parameter. And this kind of grinds my gears. If you do this, you need to stop doing it. It’s bad.

But let me step back and give a bit of background.

grindsmygears

As you may be aware, links on the internet work a bit like votes. Search engines count all these votes and use these to determine which pages are important enough to be shown on search results pages (this among many other factors).

The nofollow parameter was created for site owners to tell Google to ignore certain links. And this is super useful in some cases! For example, it allows us to make links in comments not count as ‘votes’, which helps dramatically cut down on comment spam.

More recently, Google has updated its guidelines for using this tag. It now says that if a link was purchased or sponsored, it should also be tagged as nofollow. Google sees these as unnatural links, essentially as a way of ‘buying votes’, and so it doesn’t like them. This is fair enough, and you should probably follow that guideline.

But… apparently many site owners don’t quite understand these guidelines, or maybe they’re afraid or confused. I’ve seen some discussions in travel blogger circles where people are totally misinterpreting these guidelines. And now increasingly, I see sites just tagging every single link with nofollow, not just ones in comments or ones that were paid for.

This is simply terrible for everyone involved. It removes any fairness in how blogs link to each other, and worse, these sites actually shoot themselves in the foot. Here’s why:

If you nofollow, I won’t want to link to you

I liberally link to other blogs. For example, when I see an awesome post about Thailand, I add a link to it on my Thailand page. That’s because I want my readers to know about useful stuff around the web! And yes, these links are do-follow. After all, no money changed hands; these are organic, natural links. This is the stuff the web is made of.

But… if all other blogs start to ‘nofollow’ any links they have, whether to me or to other sites, it suddenly feels unfair. These blogs would benefit from my linking to them (and they do benefit a lot, as Indie Traveller has a high domain authority), but myself or others wouldn’t ever benefit from any links coming back to me. That doesn’t seem right.

If I see something cool on your blog but it has nofollows all over, I would probably hesitate. I mean, maybe I’ll still link it, but maybe not? This is not the way I want to be thinking about linking to each other! I don’t want to check every time whether a site is playing by different rules than everyone else. Linking to another site shouldn’t be so calculating—this is the open web and if something deserves to be linked, I should be able to link it without wondering if I’m being duped on some level.

If you nofollow, I won’t give you free content

Every now and then other blogs, or content marketing managers from companies, ask me if I want to contribute something to a blog post. This might be a Top 10 post or some kind of collection of travel stories. Everyone writes a part of it, and this is usually in exchange for a link back to your site. It’s a nice way of collaborating and cross-promoting. I do it sometimes because it’s fun and, hey, it gives me a bit of SEO benefit too.

So recently I wrote up a little story for a collaborative post that a number of other travel bloggers also participated in. This was for a medium-size site belonging to a major travel brand. I was told I’d get a link back, which seems like a fair exchange, but then it turned out that all the links are nofollow.

I was told that ‘All external links on our site (other than those within our own family of brands) have the “nofollow” code as a matter of [big top-tier travel company] policy.’

Oh.

Well, then I won’t link to that story anymore, nor promote it on social media, as there’s little in it for me.

(And no, you generally don’t do these posts for ‘exposure’. You typically get only a handful of clicks from a link embedded in a collaborative post.)

Is it the end of the world? It clearly isn’t, and I’m just being slightly dramatic. That little piece didn’t take long to write, and it’s possible I’d still get some vague tertiary benefit from it. Maybe someone out there will recognize my name or something.

But it’s part of a bigger trend, one that  basically removes the main point of doing collaborative posts. You’d expect at least a little tit-for-tat.

But… maybe the most compelling reason you should do-follow is that it’s actually in your own self-interest.

If you nofollow, it hurts your own rankings

If your page links to other sites’ pages that are relevant and good and useful, it actually helps you in the search engine rankings. While there has been some debate about how much of a ranking factor this is exactly, many SEO experts do believe that outbound links are a ranking factor.

In other words: sites that link to other sites in a way that is helpful to their readers will be rewarded with higher search ranking themselves.

So if you’re going to use nofollow, it’s important to understand when this is appropriate. Sure, tag your paid-for links with nofollow, but making your entire site nofollow is essentially a selfish act… you stop participating in the open web, instead retreating to an island that doesn’t invite itself to be linked by others.

Remember that links are a form of content and provide value. I link openly and freely to other blogs, and I’d like to continue doing this without other people misusing the nofollow tag.

Okay, whew, that got a bit ranty… do you agree or disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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24 comments

  1. Vinz Salvador Reply January 22, 2017 at 5:17 am

    Also, to add, it’s fine with me if you use no-follow tag to all blog comments as other uses it only for spamming website and it’s an easiest way to get backlinks. But, it’s really annoying that there are websites who charge for an article or guest post with no-follow tag. What the heck, it’s useless to bloggers. It’s not beneficial at all.

  2. Vinz Salvador Reply January 22, 2017 at 5:12 am

    Thanks Marek! I totally agree with you. We, bloggers, should support one another. If blogger finds the article interesting then link to it without using the nofollow tags.

    I’m a travel blogger and SEO Specialist by profession that’s why I fully understand where are you coming from.

  3. Magdalene Reply December 24, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I am considering doing some (paid) content marketing w blogs and was researching what impact no follow links would have on our site. Thanks for answering all my questions, great post!

  4. Rich Reply August 24, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Hi Marek
    I love your blog and read this with rapt interest.
    How do you find out out your domain authority you mentioned?
    How do you know if someone is using “nofollow” is that in the html of the page??

    I would love it if you checked out my blog. By all means, feel free to leave a link in the comment section of any of my posts for your valuable info.
    http://www.richtrek.com cheers man!
    Rich recently posted…A Fact Free History of Pompeii + Modern Day TourMy Profile

    • Marek Reply August 24, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks Rich!

      The Domain Authority is a score given by a company called Moz (it’s not one of Google’s own metric, rather it’s Moz’ best guess for how authoratitive a site is). You can see it by installing the Mozbar at https://moz.com/

      There are specific tools that let you more easily see if a link is nofollow, but the most basic way is to go to ‘view source’ in your browser and see if the code for the link looks something like
      <a href="http://www.awebsite.com" rel="nofollow">my link</a>
      Hope this helps, will check out your site.

  5. Cris Reply August 20, 2016 at 8:09 am

    You know what I really dislike? When someone says they will charge to not use “nofollow” in a link to you. Geez, thanks. (sarcastic)
    I agree with what you wrote. When I love something and I link to you, of course I don’t use “nofollow”. It’s totally about supporting each other and “nofollow” is not the way to do it 🙂

  6. Alex Johnson Reply August 17, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Hi Marek,

    I’m so glad you posted this, I do lots of blogging work, and I find it frustrating sometimes. You want to work with someone really badly, end up getingt together to do great content and they No follow your links!

    I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling the pain.

  7. Anna Reply July 30, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Hey Marek, totally agree with your views.

  8. Adam Reply July 14, 2016 at 2:18 am

    I agree with you. Some one scare penalty because they don’t understand.

  9. Dave-Guidetotravelling.com Reply July 12, 2016 at 7:32 am

    I think you make some really good points. I don’t think Google help matters by constantly changing their rules but having said that blog owners need to be aware the importance who they are linking to and how these links can effect their rankings.
    Dave-Guidetotravelling.com recently posted…Best Places to Visit in Seville SpainMy Profile

  10. Sumil Reply July 8, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Absolutely correct. Its really imporatant to understand that we bloggers grow collectively and need each others support. You never know, the lesser known blogger whom you give link today might turn up a better one tommorow.
    And controlling spams is just a little bit of manual work.
    Sumil recently posted…10 things you must do before travelling abroadMy Profile

  11. Kamil Reply July 6, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Youre absolutely right!

  12. Tom Reply July 5, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I don’t understand this mentality at all. Surely, we should be helping, not hindering each other!? As an aside, is there are a way to tell if links are nofollow? I’m not 100% sure how to check for this!
    Tom recently posted…11 unusual places to visit in AustraliaMy Profile

  13. Josh Reply July 3, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    I hadn’t noticed this was a trend but I’ll be looking out for it from now on! Like you say we should support each other as bloggers and use the nofollow attribute appropriately. Good explanation anyway I hope the culprits read this!

  14. Charlie Marchant Reply June 27, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Totally agree with you here. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers, not just travel bloggers, going really overboard with using nofollow links. I work in digital marketing and a lot of the bloggers who I chat with about this kind of thing in my day-to-day work say it’s because they’re scared about getting a penalty, and some because they link having inbound follow links to their website but only outbound nofollow links will make their website more powerful. It’s a bad situation because they’ve taken Google’s guidelines to the extreme and really misinterpreted what follow and nofollow is meant to be about. It’s much more likely that they will end up getting penalised for their weird, all nofollow linking strategies, which is such a shame.

    From a blogger to blogger perspective, I find it difficult to understand bloggers who are “competing” with one another, as opposed to “supporting” one another. We all have different audiences, some of us have shared readers, and our readers enjoy valuable content no matter which blogger it’s from. In my mind, blogging is like a big network where everyone should be supporting everyone 🙂
    Charlie Marchant recently posted…Mexico Travel ChecklistMy Profile

  15. Dave Reply June 22, 2016 at 7:08 am

    Hey Marek, definitely a valid point and I will keep it in mind while growing my travel blog. Interesting site by the way, have been reading now for quite a while and I like your writing style.
    Greetings from Germany,
    Dave

    • Marek Reply June 22, 2016 at 11:58 am

      Thanks Dave! 🙂

  16. Chris Reply June 21, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Totally seems like a jerk move. Hopefully it wont be a lasting trend :/

  17. Linda Bibb Reply June 20, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    I have to agree with you about shooting yourself in the foot by making links nofollow. I have always assumed it stems from a misunderstanding of how “link juice” works (because if the link has a better ranking than yours you would actually gain link juice from a follow link).

    SEO aside, I think it is selfish and inconsiderate to nofollow fellow bloggers. We should be supporting each other! So if you ever notice it on my blog, let me know. 🙂
    Linda Bibb recently posted…Panama to Colombia: Crossing the Darien GapMy Profile

    • Marek Reply June 20, 2016 at 7:12 pm

      I totally agree we should support each other! 🙂 Travel blogging is not a zero-sum game, I believe everyone benefits from referencing each other.

  18. Mridula Reply June 20, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    I think a lot of people got scared because of the confusion around the issue! I anyway never went no-follow and after reading your post I am doubly sure it was the right thing to do!

    • Marek Reply June 20, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      Yes it’s probably down to fear/confusion. To be fair the use of nofollow has been poorly explained in some cases! So it’s understandable that there’s been uncertainty around it.

  19. Anne Reply June 18, 2016 at 11:22 am

    I totally agree. I think if someone is collaborating with you, it’s the least you can do In Return?

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