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Hooking Up Your Hyperlink Rel and Not Following It

Jun 3, 2009 / by Seth Ellsworth

nofollowRelnofollow is a cool hyperlink attribute. In the SEO world, we say relnofollow as if it’s a legit word that Webster’s should know about. No, it’s not in the dictionary yet, because there’s an equals sign and some quotation marks in the real version of relnofollow that make relnofollow actual HTML code. It normally looks like this:


Here’s the actual HTML with the correct relnofollow hyperlink attribute usage:

<span style="font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-font-size: 11.0pt;">&lt;a href="<a href="http://www.seo.com/"><span style="color: #000099;">http://www.seo.com</span></a>" rel="nofollow"&gt;No follow link&lt;/a&gt;


When referring to it, we don’t say rel equals quotation mark no follow quotation mark. That would be completely fatuous. If you haven’t guessed, I’m going to be talking about relnofollow and how it relates to your SEO success, so listen up.

First, there’s good ways and stupid ways to use relnofollow. We’ll discuss the good ways in detail, and mention a few bad ways, because you shouldn’t be doing those unless you’re a knucklehead who likes to commit SEO suicide.

In conversations about relnofollow, you will often hear mention of pagerank, or PR as SEOs affectionately refer to it. Pagerank has become an important attribute of overall SEO health, and matters quite a bit when thinking about why the heck we use relnofollow in the first place.

Over time, and through effective on- and off-page search engine optimization, you achieve pagerank, which is Google’s way of declaring how important your site is, or how much authority it has in their index. Pagerank, in Google, is pretty important and shouldn’t be ignored.

Relnofollow allows you to carefully manage and distribute your pagerank across pages of your site, and also the sites that you link to. It allows your search engine indexing to be clean and powerful.

How Does RelNoFollow work?

Quite simply, it tells the search engine spiders to not follow a particular link and to not pass link authority or pagerank to the page that the link points to. If you have pages with many links, you can use relnofollow so that you don’t pass pagerank and you don’t pass authority. Nofollow is critical in managing your sites pagerank and in keeping your site’s SEO attributes clean. By maintaining a high pagerank, and by nofollowing links to shady or semi-shady sites, you can better maintain SEO trust and authority which is critical for search engine success.

Back in 2005, Google started paying attention to relnofollow. You can find this quote on the official Google blog:

“From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel="nofollow") on hyperlinks, those links won't get any credit when we rank websites in our search results.”

Google initially made this move in response to the comment spam that was hammering bloggers. Commenting was the new and improved way to get “unlimited” links. People who wanted links for their site would post comments on random blogs, most of them worthless, and put the anchor text they want to rank for as their name, which is made into a link to their site in most blogging platforms. They would also stuff the comment with links. Google tested out a new tag, which became relnofollow, to combat the spammers. They have suggested the use of relnofollow anywhere that users can post their own links. Since then, there have been many other helpful uses for relnofollow.

Pagerank is passed through links. Incoming links with good authority provide pagerank. Each page of your site has its own pagerank so you can end up with different pageranks throughout your site. Similarly, your outgoing links provide pagerank for other pages of other sites. You may or may not want to pass pagerank to other sites, and you may or may not want to pass pagerank to other pages on your site. Herein lies the uber secret of relnofollow...

Here’s how pagerank is divvied up. If your home page has a page rank of 5 and you have 5 outgoing links, no matter if they point to internal pages of your site or to external pages of other sites, each link will pass 1 point of pagerank to the page that receives that link. Hypothetically, the page that receives that link would gain a pagerank of one. Pagerank affects where Google places your site in the search engine results pages (SERPS). You should focus on passing pagerank to pages that you want to rank well.

NOTE: If you have too many links pointing to other pages the amount of pagerank you pass is limited. If you have a pagerank of 5 and you have 50 outgoing links, each link is worth less pagerank, in this case just one tenth of a rank.

What are some common uses for the rel=”nofollow” tag?

  1. The most common use of relnofollow is to nofollow blog comments. Most blogging platforms do this by default, and you have to either have a plugin or manually change the link attributes to allow blog comment links to be followed.
  2. You probably don’t want to pass pagerank to your privacy policy, terms of service, or disclaimers. Who cares if those rank for anything, ever. Add a simple relnofollow attribute to the hyperlink and you won’t have to worry about spreading your pagerank where it shouldn’t be spread.
  3. A lot of advertisers choose to nofollow the ads that they display on their sites. This way, the sites the ads point to don’t steal pagerank and authority.
  4. On the blacker side of SEO, some webmasters may use relnofollow to cheat out reciprocal link partners (if you do that, I promise it will come back to haunt you). They will perform a link trade. After the link has been verified, they’ll nofollow the link to the unsuspecting webmaster’s site. That way they don’t pass pagerank but they get pagerank from the weaseled webmaster.

Rel=”nofollow” is critical to your site’s SEO health and should be used accordingly. Remember, you want your site to look natural to the search engines, so even with this useful tag, use it wisely and with moderation.

Topics: Blog

Seth Ellsworth

Written by Seth Ellsworth

In adore my wife. Family is where it's at. I ball, as in 'hoopin.' I fly, as in 'fly fishin.' I drive, as in 'drive the golf ball a heckuva long ways.' And I kill SEO. Bling. And I happen to be a professional copywriter (get people to buy more stuff) and internet marketing blingmaster (traffic, conversions, design... not coding).

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