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DoFollow vs NoFollow Backlinks

Crystal brought up a good question the other day and I didn’t have the answer. So I thought I’d do a little research, write about what I found and post it here. We both (Crystal and I) would love to hear your thoughts on DoFollow and NoFollow backlinks.

Before I go into DoFollow and NoFollow backlinks, I need to back up just a bit and do a little explaining about backlinks.

What are Backlinks?

Backlinks are links back to your site, blog, article, or anything you have on the internet. If someone likes your work and links to it, then you have a backlink. The right backlinks are good, bad backlinks are not so good.

What is a good Backlink?

A good backlink is a link to your blog/site/article from a reputable site on a related topic. For example, a backlink to NJFM from a site on how to improve your golf swing isn’t as good as having a link from another freelance writing or work from home site.

Quality and Authority

In addition to being backlinked from related sites, backlinks from high quality sites is also a plus. In other words, having a backlink from a high quality, authoritative site holds a lot more weight than receiving backlinks from brand new blogs with no ranking or no following. Imagine receiving a backlink from CNN or Oprah vs. a backlink from your Aunt Mary who is still trying to figure out how to add an image to her blog.

One Way or Reciprocal

Another plus with backlinks is whether or not they are one way or reciprocal. If you write great content, people will link to you. If you are trying to build links and offer the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” type of link, that’s called reciprocal linking and they don’t hold as much weight.

All in the Anchor Text

There’s also the anchor text to be considered. Anchor text are the words used to link to the site. Keyword anchor text holds more weight than non keyword text. For example, I could link to Grandma’s site by saying, “Here’s Grandma’s site.” Yes, she gets a link, but she would get more benefit if I were to say something like, “Check out Grandma’s site if you want quality website content.” To use Dr. Oz’s phrase, “Make sense?” (I’ve been watching too much TV lately).

Finally, to get back to the topic of this post, there’s the Do and NoFollow backlinks.

A Little History

Many years ago, when blogging was a mere pup, links were generally DoFollow.  So, when Google indexed/spidered any given blog, it would also send the spider to follow any links it found on the blog. This worked pretty well until spammers realized they could get some of the blog’s link juice by placing as many spammy comments on blogs as possible. As a result, Google developed the NoFollow tag. It doesn’t penalize the link; it just doesn’t give it any juice.

The Do Follow tag gives back the Google link juice that NoFollow took away.

Pros and Cons of DoFollow

The pros of DoFollow links are obvious if you are the recipient of the Google juice. Just imagine getting some of the Google juice if one of your articles was directly linked to by Google itself. Google has a PR of 10. Or, even Oprah, whose site holds a PR of 7.

Getting some of the link juice is great. However, DoFollow link juice goes both ways. If you have a ton of DoFollow links to spammy sites, it reflects poorly on you and your site may take a hit.

Is a Link DoFollow?

There are lists on the internet of DoFollow blogs, websites and social networking media. Since things on the internet change often, to truly find out whether a link is DoFollow, check out the HTML code. Visit the webpage and view the source. If you see

rel=’external nofollow’ it’s a NoFollow site and
rel=’external dofollow’ is a DoFollow link

If you use Firefox as your web browser, there’s a NoDoFollow plugin that will do the work for you.

My Opinion

Personally, I’ve never spent much time thinking about Do or NoFollow links (that’s why when Crystal asked, I couldn’t give her an answer). However, I’d like to hear your take on these types of backlinks.

Oh, A Shout Out before I End This Post

Speaking of backlinks, I’d like to give a shout out to Crystal’s sites. She’s got a couple of good ones. I especially relate to her The Best 50 Years blog (since I’m considered chronologically mature, but the jury is still out on my mental maturity), and her new blog Rugged Canyon Jewelry. Although, I think I first “met” Crystal through her Rock Climbing Jewelry site right after I wrote a review about a recent indoor Rock Climbing experience.

Thanks, Crystal, for asking the question.

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Crystal March 3, 2010, 2:51 pm

    Wow Felicia! Thanks for the Shout Outs! And thanks for taking the time to research and post about this. I actually understand it now that I’ve read your explanation.

    I’m really anxious to see what others have to say. I also hadn’t thought much about this previously (actually I guess I didn’t think of it at all beings I didn’t even know the difference) but it recently popped up as an ethics type issue in relation to sponsored blog posts.
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Another Great Resource for Entrepreneurs! =-.

  • Cheri March 3, 2010, 8:36 pm

    Well as far as one of the cons of the do-follow backlinks is concerned, I hate the spam it attracts. I hardly ever get comments on one of my blogs, and when I do, it’s usually someone trying to establish a backlink to an unrelated topic.

    IMO it’s a cat and mouse game, but some people have been successful getting backlinks from places like the New York Times, and other major sites. However they are linking to very relevant sites.

    Overall, I would say try to find a good balance between the pursuit of writing enjoyment and the income. For me, I just don’t want to spend all day trying to create backlinks just for page ranking. Instead, I try to do good keyword research and pursue only those keywords that require few or no backlinks to get to the first page of Google. For my high dollar keywords only, I will usually write a blurb on a couple of my blogs, as well as Tweet, post on FaceBook, Xomba, and RedGauge. I have some of these processes automated via RSS feed.

    The bottom line is that I enjoy writing, and for me personally I don’t want the majority of what I do to be SEO oriented.

  • Netlexis March 3, 2010, 9:56 pm

    Thank you for explaining anchor text. It finally makes sense. As for the no follow/do follow, it seems like it’s just another piece of the puzzle. It’s probably something I’ll be aware of, but I won’t chase it. In otherwords, I’ll comment when and where I feel like it no follow or not.
    .-= Netlexis´s last blog ..Is Your Online Writing Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full? =-.

  • Julie - Inspired to Write March 3, 2010, 10:11 pm

    Thanks Felicia for this explanation! I did not think about the anchor text – good to know! I will think about that when I use backlinks in my blog.
    .-= Julie – Inspired to Write´s last blog ..Allow Short Blog Posts From Time to Time =-.

  • Silicon Beach Training March 5, 2010, 12:25 pm

    Thanks for the helpful background info Felicia! I wasn’t aware Google developed the nofollow tag themselves.

    I actually posted on the same subject today.

    Like you, I can’t say it was an area I’d thought about too much before.

    .-= Silicon Beach Training´s last blog ..How can I get dofollow links? =-.

  • Crystal March 5, 2010, 10:59 pm

    I really appreciate everyone here who has taken the time to comment on this issue. I’ll be gone for a few days but plan to dig in deeper when I get back, starting with reading the Silicon Beach Training blog post.
    .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Take a Virtual Vacation =-.

  • Jade Dragon March 9, 2010, 9:54 pm

    Very informative. Thank you for the great post.

  • prerna March 13, 2010, 10:16 am

    Thanks for the post and in-depth explanation, Felicia. I had no idea about anchor text and the like. Big eye-opener. Now I have something more to learn about writing online:-)
    Blessings and best wishes always!!
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..Book Review: No Flying from Fate by Saurbh Katyal =-.

  • Danny @ Blogs About Everything March 22, 2010, 5:13 pm

    Great resource in regards to backlinks. No question a link that does not have the nofollow tag will help rank your site better. To me there is no reason you should nofollow a link unless it is to a sponsor link or paid link.
    .-= Danny @ Blogs About Everything´s last blog ..DoFollow Vs NoFollow Debate =-.

  • Massy April 16, 2010, 2:25 pm

    I have heard that even nofollow links help your google ranking.. is this true?
    .-= Massy´s last blog ..The Mass Outsource Mastermind Special Fast Action Bonuses =-.

    • Felicia April 16, 2010, 5:09 pm

      Massy, I’m no expert, but I would think quality links, whether they are “do” or “no” follow should help Google ranking.

  • JadeDragon@innovativepassiveincome April 16, 2010, 7:13 pm

    My research also leads me to believe that both types of backlinks give weight to your Google ranking. I have some no-follow eHow links that show up as backlinks on Alexa… so they must not be hurting.
    .-= JadeDragon@innovativepassiveincome´s last blog ..Should You Work 9 to 5 For Someone Else or For Yourself Online? =-.

  • Diana April 27, 2010, 11:16 pm

    I have backlinks from one of the no-follow Smithsonian websites. I discovered this through Google Webmaster Tool. I think these links count when it comes to PR, but they are not as “powerful” as the do-follow links.

  • Mike Helton May 17, 2010, 3:12 pm

    Hi Felicia, I think I read somewhere that the backlinks we build will always be identified with our site whether it’s nofollow or dofollow.

    But in my own opinion, it would make sense that dofollow would be more beneficial.

    However, I have backlinks from some authority sites that have a nofollow tag.

    Great post,
    .-= Mike Helton´s last blog ..Building Relationships Through List Marketing =-.

  • Rollie May 23, 2010, 1:12 pm

    I have read somewhere today that while ‘nofollow’ links may add to your backlink collection to your site, it would not be counted towards your Google pagerank. So having any of those links would not actually help you with ranking. The only advantage would be direct visitor traffic, which is only likely if you actually make valuable contributions on good quality or Authority sites.

    I also read today in another article that the flip side to allowing ‘do-follow’ links on your site is that it ‘takes away’ from your own site’s page rank …I can’t remember exactly why.

    The more I read about this it seems to me that the concept of blog or forum comments with links in them is mainly based on the desire to build backlinks. Looking at many blogs, while there are good posts there are simply plenty that are of a quality or relevance of just getting away with not being seen a spammer. This is a concern.

  • Justin Germino June 27, 2010, 7:20 pm

    So many people try to SEO Sculpt their sites with DoFollow or NoFollow, I try not to worry about it and DoFollow my entire site and comments. BTW, if you don’t see rel=Nofollow or rel=”doFollow it is a dofollow by default.

  • Rick Baker August 4, 2010, 1:04 am

    We’re in the boat of trying to decide if we should go dofollow. The downside is that if you just approve a ton of dofollow links and some of those links go to sites that google doesn’t like, it can negatively impact your own page rank.

    So obviously it seems like a bit of work would be involved to make sure you’re only approving valid posts and links that go to decent sites.

    Anyone made the switch to dofollow yet and care to share their experience? If it was my personal site, I’d just go ahead and make the change, but I’m a bit apprehensive to do so since this is for my business site.

  • Sajoo August 18, 2010, 9:51 am

    I’m the same I don’t care about nofollow or not links, even if I think that dofollow is a more suitable behaviour.
    Moreover who knows what really google takes into account ?
    Best regards,
    Sajoo (sorry for my poor level of english)

  • yusuf backlink August 29, 2010, 1:16 pm

    No follow doesn’t hurt your web, some time I get much traffic from it especially if we put good comment to the relevant posting. but do follow will make your web on the first page.

  • Emeric September 1, 2010, 4:50 pm

    Hi Felicia, I was told that even though a backlink may be set to NoFollow, Google still crawls and indexes it. So NoFollows actually end up being followed.
    I like your “My Opinion,” and I think you are correct in not spending to much time thinking about it. I’ll do the same, starting now.

  • Angela February 8, 2011, 3:57 pm

    Thanks for the firefox resource!!! I’m pro dofollow. We all like to blog and honestly who doesn’t want to benefit from it. I enjoy commenting but it’s a bonus when I’m getting an extra link out there for myself. That’s my take! Thanks for the great article!!!

  • Bill Joyce July 5, 2011, 2:56 pm

    I understand the technology well enough to get in trouble. If I am attempting to get backlinks, would a no follow have any value. In fact, I thought that was the point…no following. But I run backlink checker tools and it shows both dofollow and nofollow links.

    Are nofollow backlinks beneficial with the search engines?

    • Felicia July 6, 2011, 6:19 am

      Bill, I’m no expert on backlinks, but I believe as long as the links are coming from reputable sites and are pertinent to your blog’s topic, they should count for something (whether do of no follow). I would love to hear from someone with more knowledge on the topic.

  • Julie July 6, 2011, 5:22 pm


    I thought I would jump in here with the backlinks questions. Nofollow means Google will not crawl it – there are times you will want to use this (i.e. affiliate links). As far as getting higher in search engines – backlinks are very important. But, not any backlink will do. They should be from quality sites – relevant is not really an issue, but anchor text and quality is. Nofollow will still show up, but does not count towards their algorithm – so you don’t get “credit”.

    What is even more important is the outgoing links you have on your own site, which similar rules apply. Since outgoing links you actually have control over, you have to be careful on this. But, Felicia is right when she says reputable sites – higher PR, the better. Some ways to do this: article marketing, blog commenting, forums, etc. Does this make sense? I think I will write a post on this since this is do long!! (Felicia – thanks for fixing my “ban”) 🙂

    • Felicia July 7, 2011, 6:36 am

      Thanks for the explanation, Julie.

      BTW, I think the ban problem corrected itself. I think things got a bit screwy when I updated to the latest version of WordPress. I’m glad you’re back!

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