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Follow Versus No Follow Links: What’s the Difference?

Posted inMarketing, Search Engine Optimization

Not All Inbound Backlinks Are the Same

In the wild, often frustrating, and ever-changing world of SEO, it’s important to understand that when an outside website links to your website, it can either be a “follow” or a “no follow” hyperlink. Both are examples of backlinks, which is simply one website linking to another website. Think of a backlink as one ring of a chain, the more links you get, the longer your chain. Google takes notice of each link in your chain, both the quantity and the quality. The longer the chain, the higher the search engine entity ranks your website. 

A follow link (written in code language as href=) means that another website is trusting you to possess relevant, valuable information and that Google should give you a boost in rankings as a result. A no follow link (written in code language as rel=”nofollow”) basically says, “Sure, I’ll endorse you as a reputable source of information, but I’m not sharing my website’s clout with you.” 

In a perfect world, all links to our website would be “follow” links and we’d drown in all that wonderful link juice to boost our Domain Authority to a perfect score of 100. 

But alas, that is not so. 

If Wikipedia, the constantly-updated encyclopedia of just about everything, didn’t issue no follow links to their external sources, they would be inundated with users embedding follow links into the content left and right. Therefore, Wikipedia automatically assigns the “nofollow” attribute to user-submitted hyperlinks. It’s important to remember that follow links are earned, not made.

It may seem that every link should be a follow link, but without no follow links, spam links would reign supreme. In the past you’ve probably seen bizarre comments on blogs that have all types of irrelevant, random URLs pasted in the comments. This was a way for spammers to trick search engines into thinking a website had a lot of inbound links to artificially boost its rankings. 

So how do you get follow links? By writing really awesome, quality, shareable content that other websites would want to use as a reference. You can also request to write a guest post on a relevant website’s blog and place a link there. Remember, good content leads to good SEO. 

While receiving a referral backlink that is a no follow won’t boost your SEO, don’t be completely discouraged as this still counts as referral traffic to your website, which is still a good thing! Getting more visitors to your website is an excellent metric to grow. To find out which websites have linked to your website’s content you must have Google Analytics enabled on your website. Within Google Analytics, select “Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals”, and the top referral sources will be shown (edit dates to change the time frame). 

You might be curious how to tell if a link is a follow or a no follow. It’s very simple, just right click on a URL (or two finger click and hold on Mac), then a new box should appear and click “Inspect”. A box will pop up to the right and then look at the highlighted code. If the line of code reads href= and does not include “no follow”, it will be a follow link. However, if the line of code reads rel=”nofollow”, that means it is a no follow link.

The lesson here is that if you get a backlink referral to your website, be it a follow or a no follow, you should be happy! Keep creating and putting out great content and the links will come in due course. 

Need help with your SEO? Contact us at PIN Business Network and we’ll audit your website and work with you on improving your site’s health, organic traffic, keyword rankings, on-page content, and more!