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Yet again, we’ve had a visitor ask a question that just can’t be answered in one paragraph, nor even one post. But I hope that this long treatment of the question will help clarify when you should and should not use nofollow on links.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of nofollow link?
I think to answer this question; you have to understand a little bit of the history around the nofollow attribute. Google decided a few years ago that people were abusing links since they had made public that they were a part of the Google algorithm. Google singlehandedly decided to create this attribute. The idea was, you could use this attribute to signal to Google that you didn’t want them to count this link when they were evaluating your site’s inbound links.
It was originally meant to be used for paid links, where you had control over the inbound link. Then Google started penalizing people for having too many links pointing to them that were deemed “unnatural”, such as directories, link exchanges, press releases, guest posts… it seems like every time you turn around now; there’s another link type you’re “supposed” to make nofollow.
What all this madness ignores is that links are the fundamental building blocks of the World Wide Web – born 25 years ago this year , in fact. Before search engines, the number one way people found new sites was by following links. But because the number one place most people start on the web now is a search engine (although it’s rapidly being overtaken by social and apps), Google feels perfectly at ease with dictating how we should link to each other.
As you can probably tell, I’m not a fan of this. I believe interactions should be natural; that sites that provide high-quality experiences and traffic should be able to link to anyone any way that they please. If your site doesn’t do these things, then you have other problems beyond what type of link attributes to use.
But I haven’t answered the question.
Nofollow links do not pass PageRank. Therefore, using a nofollow link means that link won’t pass PageRank (a Google-only measurement of the quantity and quality of links) to another page. This means, on the one hand, that Google cannot penalize you for linking to a site that’s known to be a low-quality site. They also can’t penalize you for linking out too much (yes, that’s actually happened). On the other hand, this also means that a link from your site bears no value to other sites, which means they’re much less likely to include you in announcements of new products or exciting developments unless you already have a very large user base.
Many of the largest sites like CNN and NFL now place nofollow on ALL their outbound links. This means that a link on their site has no value regarding PageRank. However, they still have value – very high value – because of the quality and size of their user base. Never forget, even a nofollow link has value, because it gives potential visitors the opportunity to visit your site and expands awareness. Even a mention on a site without a link is valuable for raising awareness.
All this sounds confusing because it is. There are no hard and fast rules to apply when deciding whether to link out to sites or not. However, I can provide you with a few good guidelines: