what is a no follow link

What is a Nofollow link? (Understanding Google’s Algorithm)

Inlinks, backlinks, external links, inbound links – you’ve probably heard these phrases used a lot by SEO professionals, and they all mean the same thing: a link to your website from a website that has a different domain address. The reason inlinks are so important is because they’re a key metric used by Google when determining where to place websites in their search rankings. 

Think of a backlink to your website as an endorsement. A third party website has landed onto your webpage, found the information they’re looking for, and linked to your website to cite its content. The more referring domains (individual websites that link to your site at least once) that link to your website, the bigger the endorsement.

The truth is, Google needs help from webmasters to make sure it displays the relevant content to the searcher. To confirm that a webpage has the content the searcher wants, Google’s algorithm looks at the number of endorsements (backlinks) each webpage has. If it finds a bunch of keyword-relevant pages that have large backlink profiles, Google can be confident it’s displaying the correct webpages. This is what makes backlink acquisition so integral to boosting your search rankings. 

However, not all backlinks are equal, this is where things begin to get a little complicated. In the early days of Google, black hat SEO professionals took advantage of its algorithm by simply creating dozens of new websites and using them to solely provide external links. In response to this Google did two things:

  • It penalised websites that provide an exorbitant amount of backlinks by removing them from their database
  • It also penalised the websites that were receiving these links by tanking their search rankings

To avoid anything like this happening again, Google introduced ‘link classifiers’ that webmasters can add to their external links in order to protect their website. These classifiers are known as Dofollow, Nofollow, Sponsored, and UGC. The way each classifying tag interacts with your site is different, let’s break it down:

Dofollow link tags

Dofollow link classifiers are the original and most commonly used type of link. They pass on a full endorsement of the website they’re linking to, which as we’ve discussed is vital to increasing a page’s search ranking. When conducting any link building exercise these are the links you want to focus on.

Nofollow tags

Nofollow tags were introduced to protect websites from being penalised when linking to external websites. You would use a nofollow tag when you want to link to a website but can’t verify it’s quality. 

For years Google has claimed that using a nofollow tag passes on no endorsement to the linked page and that it won’t help to increase search rankings. This year, they altered their stance to say “it now looks at” nofollow links to get a picture of the page’s content. While this is welcomed news to link builders, it’s clear that they still hold way less value than a dofollow link.

How to Add Nofollow Links in WordPress?

To do this you need to open up the HTML editor of the content you’re working on and add rel=”nofollow” to the end of the anchor text you’ve written. For example:

<a href=”https://atomicdigitalmarketing.co.uk/” rel=”nofollow”>Atomic Digital Marketing</a>

Sponsored tags

Sponsored tags were introduced in February 2020 as the third available type of link classifier. This is another form of nofollow link which is specifically used to mark links that have been bought. It is most commonly used on sponsored guest blog posts and press releases distributed through PR wires.

Paying for links is heavily discouraged by Google. If you need advice on how to build relevant dofollow links you should visit our link acquisition page.

UGC (user generated content) tags

Introduced at the same time as sponsored link classifiers, UGC tags were created to protect websites that have comment sections from being penalised in search rankings. Some black hat SEO professionals will spam comment sections with links to generate backlinks to targeted sites (a tactic that simply does not work). Auto-tagging all comments with the UGC classifier is a way for websites to nofollow these comments.

If your website has a comments section we would highly recommend auto-UGC tagging your links.

What dofollow-to-nofollow ratio should I target?

Around 75% dofollow and 25% nofollow is a good target to aim for. While not as useful, you still need nofollow links in your website’s backlink portfolio. High domain authority pages, such as news outlets, often only provide nofollow links to protect their own site due to the high amounts of content (and links) they publish each day.

Solely having dofollow links will trigger alarm bells at Google and could lead to your site being penalised for not having a natural backlink profile.

Should I only provide nofollow links?

That’s up to you. Google needs dofollow links to calculate its rankings. If you’re confident the website is legit, and you’re not providing a suspicious amount of links to the site, then you have nothing to worry about. Alternatively, if you’re unsure about the website you’re linking to there’s no harm in using the nofollow tag.


When planning your link building campaigns the emphasis should always be on capturing dofollow inlinks from high authority pages. That’s where you will see the best return on investment in terms of rising up Google’s rankings and generating more organic traffic. If you’re outsourcing your SEO management & activity (or running your own campaigns) always pay strict attention to the type of links you’re acquiring, this should be a key metric in any SEO report.

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