Do No Follow Links Count?

by Tim Hill (aka Doodled)

January 22nd 2013
Most link builders are obsessed with avoiding No Follow links but they are missing a trick.
Most link builders are obsessed with avoiding No Follow links but they are missing a trick.

From my own mailbox, the forums and sites like Yahoo answers there is a constant stream of people looking for websites with 'Do Follow' links because they think that getting a backlink which is marked 'No Follow' counts for nothing.

In this they could not be more wrong.

In this post I'll briefly explain what a 'No Follow' link is incase the term is new to you and then cover what makes a good link - because it isn't anything to do with the 'No Follow' tag!

What is a 'No Follow' Link?

Just in case that first paragraph has made you say 'eh?' I'll cover the jargon.

Any link on a website can, in the code, be marked as "NO FOLLOW" and it is a signal to search engines to do just that.

It can serve two common functions. The first (which is the most popular) is to deter spammers from leaving junk comments on blogs. It has to be because word gets around very quickly when a blog does not have the 'No follow' tag and the blogger is overloaded with spam.

The second is a much more mundane but important use. Lets say you have a page on your site but you want users to be able to click a link to get a printable version. This creates two pages with very similar content which may suggest to the search engines you are trying to game them - making a site twice as big in page numbers by duplicating content. So telling the search engine to ignore the link to your printable version is just good practice.

Do search engines really ignore the 'No Follow' command

In a word, no!

Stop and think about it. Just think about it. If you were building a search engine tomorrow would you say, "Oh, that website has 20 links from very respectable sites but because they are 'no follow' I'll just ignore them"?

Of course not and there is clear proof that they don't either. I manage a number of websites that have links from Wikipedia and guess what? In Google Webmaster Tools it lists these as incoming links even though there are 'No Follow' tags on those links.

So What is a Good Link

Again this comes down to a bit of common sense rather than any speculation you read on some website. If you built a search engine what would you define as a 'good link'?

Despite Google's dominance in the search industry it has to work hard in order to stay ahead and its' engineers ask this question every day in order to make our search experience better, faster and more accurate.

So here are a few pointers as to what a 'good link' would look like:

Is the link on a respectable website?

I've seen many cases where link builders throw up a free WordPress site, fill it with some content that also contains links, and think they've done a good job.

The same goes for microsites, this idea that creating a website called www.keyword.com and then putting links on it that point to your main domain will actually count for something.

Doesn't work! Google looks at these sites and sees that they are nothing in their own right. Giveaways include no incoming links (or incoming links from similar spurious sites), outgoing links but only to one website, poor user behaviour signals and poor spelling and grammar. This last one is to filter the vast amounts of junk spewing onto the internet from India based SEO companies.

And remember, although this is old news now, Google ignores link swapping for obvious reasons and it ignores websites or webpages that are nothing more than link farms or content farms.

Where the link is and where it goes?

Again Google takes this into account to filter random link wheels where a group of websites swap links with each other to try and create an appearance of genuine links. So site A links to site B which links to site C which links to site A.

A link has value if it is on a page about subject X and clicking on that link takes the user to another page about subject X.

This is one of the reasons that blog commenting is seen as such a positive link building activity. Blog posts are text rich. If someone has written on subject X and you can get a link to your page about subject X that's positive.

Do real people follow the link?

This is where so many cheap link builders go wrong. They are just in the market for a link because they think it's important to search engines. But search engines watch humans ...

Take the typical blog comment from an amateur link builder - it will say something like "Great post, thanks for sharing this information, I'm bookmarking it for later".

That's the kind of ego building comment that your average blogger will approve because they don't know better and it makes them feel good!

But will anyone click through from such a comment to find out more about the commenter? Nope. And so the link never gains the value it could.

A well thought out comment, even one that partially disagrees with the post, will spark reader attention and make them want to find out more about the commenter and what they have to offer.

And there are brownie points all round. The blogger gets an even more text rich page which helps them rank higher (which in turn gives your link more 'juice') and you get real visitors who in turn drive up your rankings as well as being genuine people who you can try and convert - be that buying a product or service, signing up to a newsletter or clicking on an ad.

It's better to make two quality blog comments on quality blog posts than 50 one liners on 50 different posts - you're not fooling the search engines, just yourself.

Still looking for Do Follow links?

Well that's up to you but wherever you do find them you will also find a page full of spammy type links. You may get your own link on there to but it will count for nothing.