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Can nofollow Hurt Your Website?

For those unfamiliar with nofollow it is a tag you place on links that removes them from Google’s link graph. Google’s crawlers will ignore the link you have placed and won’t collect information to be passed into PageRank.  Nofollow is generally used on your external links when you feel a site is untrustworthy.  It allows you to provide a link to drive traffic to your site without risking negative repercussions if the external site breaks Google’s rules in the future.

With that in mind you don’t nofollow every link that you drop.  If you are reaching out to reputable sites with high PageRank you want crawlers to be guided to your site from the link helping create association between the two sites.  Nofollow allows you to place links across the web without the imminent fear of the host websites turning to the dark side and dragging you down with them.

Two different questions were asked of Google’s Matt Cutts (head of webspam team at Google) concerning the use of nofollow. 



Cutts was asked if there are any possible, negative consequences to the use of nofollow external to your site.  Cutts simply responded, “No, typically nofollow links cannot hurt your site.”  It is a fact that you will not be in trouble with Google’s algorithm in the case of nofollow since the crawlers don’t track your behavior.  The one possible exception that Matt mentioned was if you participated in mass-scale link building that could be considered deceptive or manipulative. Google personal will notice and manually impose penalties.  If you are a spammer using nofollow you don’t need to fear crawlers but the web community calling attention to your efforts, effectively alerting Google.


More recently an individual asked Cutts:

“Does it make sense to use rel=”nofollow” for internal links? Like, for example, to link to your login page? Does it really make a difference?”

Cutts responded, “So for internal links, links within your site, I would try to leave the nofollow off.”  He continued explaining that you want to have the natural flow within your webpage for both users and crawlers alike. Users should be able to easily navigate your site with one click and crawlers link your pages together providing more succinct search results.

He did make the note that there are some “useless” pages in the sense that do not provide valuable content for crawlers like signup or policy pages.  Cutts stated that it doesn’t hurt at all for these pages to be crawled.  If you insist on adding nofollow to these links you may as well not have the pages indexed at all, although having all your pages indexed can be useful for users who want to find a login page, especially if your login is not present on every webpage.  There is no need to use nofollow on your internal pages when it comes to SEO.  It is best to leave it alone.



Use nofollow tags on links you drop when you fear that the host site is untrustworthy.  The nofollow tag instructs web crawlers to not include your link in Google’s link graph and remove it from search results.

You need not fear using nofollow throughout the internet as long as you follow Google’s general rules.  Add to conversations, avoid spam.  If you are involved in a large-scale spamming and you tried to hide using nofollow Google will eventually notice and manually penalize you for it. There is also no need for internal links on your site.  You want both crawlers and users to follow the natural flow through your website.

One of the last things that Cutts continually mentions is that he leaves himself an ‘out’ when it comes to giving explanations because eventually someone will find a clever way to slip through the rules and exploit the set system.  Google’s algorithm will always be changing but the future does not appear to include an update to nofollow use. To learn more about other SEO Updates click here.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk Matt Klingensmith


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