Link attribute NoFollow / DoFollow - explained simply & understandably

Efficient SEO strategy: The secret behind the "NoFollow" attribute

Written by Editorial

For more than 15 years, we have supported our customers in all digital challenges and contributed significantly to their success.

18 October 2023

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-growing field where details can make all the difference. One such detail is the careful use of link attributes. In this post, we'll specifically go over the NoFollow link attribute. This small but powerful tool helps to control the linkjuice behavior of your website and thus optimize your position in search engine rankings.

Our article will present you the meaning, functionality and usage examples of the NoFollow attribute. In doing so, we will strive to create a better understanding of its effective use in your SEO strategy.

Why the NoFollow attribute?

The NoFollow attribute is an instruction that signals the search engine crawler not to follow a link. According to Google, it was originally introduced to minimize spamming techniques, but it also plays a crucial role in search engine optimization. By setting this attribute, one can prevent linkjuice from being passed on to less important or untrustworthy pages.

History and evolution

The NoFollow attribute was introduced by Google in 2005 as a joint initiative with Yahoo and Microsoft. The goal was to find a solution to the growing problem of comment spam on blogs. The NoFollow attribute has evolved since then and is now used in a variety of use cases.

Efficient SEO strategy: The secret behind the "NoFollow" attribute

How the NoFollow attribute works

This special attribute is inserted directly in the HTML code. For example, if you have the following HTML link: <a href="">Example page</a>, then the application of the NoFollow attribute would look like this: <a href="" rel="nofollow">Example page</a>. Due to the insertion of rel="nofollow" the search engine crawler is informed that it should not follow the link.

Technical aspects

It is important to understand that the NoFollow attribute does not prevent the linked page from being indexed. It only prevents the link from being counted as a recommendation. Search engines use this information to influence the ranking of the target website in search results.

When should you use NoFollow?

The use cases for the NoFollow attribute are many. It is useful for links that lead to pages whose content you cannot fully trust or control. For example, in forums, comment sections, or user-generated content.

Best Practices

Best practices include using NoFollow links in advertising, press releases, and other commercial content. This ensures that your site complies with Google's webmaster guidelines and avoids potential penalties.

Automatic marking of NoFollow links in specific areas

The ability to automatically set NoFollow links proves especially useful in comment sections and forums. That is, all links in the main article can carry the link attribute you set, while all links inserted in the comments are automatically marked as NoFollow.

The implementation of this function depends on the content management system used. Some systems already offer this setting by default, while others require an additional plugin installation. For WordPress users, the "Ultimate Nofollow" plugin is a recommended option. It supports not only the mass marking of links as NoFollow, but also the individual setting for single links.

Efficient SEO strategy: The secret behind the "NoFollow" attribute

NoFollow alternatives and further developments

After more than a decade of pure NoFollow usage, Google has now introduced alternatives and further developments. These include the attributes rel="sponsored" for paid links and rel="ugc" for user-generated content. These provide more context and enable differentiated control of link juice.

NoFollow vs DoFollow: What's the difference?

A basic understanding of the difference between NoFollow and DoFollow is essential for your website's effective link strategy. While the NoFollow attribute signals search engines not to follow a link, a DoFollow link is the exact opposite. Here, no specific instruction is given to the search engine crawler, which means that the link is usually followed and considered a recommendation.

Relevance for the ranking
DoFollow links are valuable from an SEO perspective, as they pass on linkjuice and can thus increase the authority of the linked page. NoFollow links, on the other hand, do not pass on linkjuice and do not directly influence the ranking of the target website. However, both types of links can play a role in the natural link profile of a website and thus indirectly influence the ranking.

Future developments in link attributes: What can we expect?

The chance of introducing new link attributes always remains, especially given the ongoing changes to the algorithms and specifications of search engines like Google.

However, it is hard to say with certainty when and which new attributes might be added in the future. To stay informed, it is advisable to keep an eye on the official communication channels of Google and other search engines. Important updates and new guidelines are usually announced there.

In the fast-moving field of search engine optimization, adaptability and continuous training are indispensable. It is conceivable that specialized or more complex link attributes will be developed in the future. These could be used, for example, to give more precise instructions to search engine crawlers or to respond to new developments in the web environment. In this respect, it is advisable to always stay up to date and adapt one's own SEO strategies accordingly.

Efficient SEO strategy: The secret behind the "NoFollow" attribute

This concludes our overview of the NoFollow link attribute. This tool is much more than just a means against spam; it's a key component in optimizing your website for search engines. By using it wisely, you can protect your site's authority while ensuring that your SEO strategy achieves the desired success.

Thus, knowing and using the NoFollow attribute is a must for every webmaster and SEO specialist. It gives you the opportunity to consciously decide which links you want to follow and which ones you don't, thus allowing you to make your SEO strategy more precise and efficient.

The "noopener noreferrer" link attribute: security aspects independent of SEO

While NoFollow and DoFollow attributes are used specifically for SEO purposes, there are other link attributes that are important for security reasons. The attributes "noopener" and "noreferrer" belong in this category and are often added automatically by content management systems such as WordPress.

What does "noopener" and "noreferrer" mean?

The "noopener" attribute prevents the new page from having access to the window object of the original page. This minimizes the risk of a so-called "tabnapping attack". The additional value "noreferrer" goes one step further by ensuring that no referrer information is transferred when navigating to the new page.
A typical example would be the following HTML link: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer">External page</a>

Why are these attributes important?

These two attributes contribute significantly to the security of a website. "noopener" protects against potentially harmful JavaScript code that could be executed on the linked page. "noreferrer" prevents the target website from gaining access to sensitive referrer information. Neither has anything directly to do with search engine optimization, but should nevertheless be taken into account in any comprehensive web strategy.

Not to be confused with NoFollow

It is important to understand that "noopener" and "noreferrer" do not pursue the same goal as the NoFollow attribute. While NoFollow controls the way in which search engine crawlers interpret a link, "noopener" and "noreferrer" serve to safeguard the user experience. In this respect, these attributes should not be seen as a replacement for SEO-specific attributes such as NoFollow or DoFollow.

Automatic addition in CMS

In many content management systems, especially WordPress, these attributes are automatically added to links that open in a new tab or window. This increases the security of the page without any additional manual effort.

Recommended posts

Looking for a reliable and competent marketing & WordPress agency?

Let's tackle your project together!

Bajorat Media has 4,9 from 5 Stars | 3055 Reviews on