Links, either internal or outbound, can be marked as dofollow or nofollow. A dofollow link is the default. It’s just a normal link. No attribute is required to make a link follow.
A no-follow link is the alternative. By making a link nofollow, you’re basically telling Google that this particular link should not be be given any credit in regards to rankings in search results.
So when should you make an outbound link nofollow? Let’s find out.
What Are Nofollow Links?
The no-follow attribute was first introduced by Google in 2005. The idea behind the nofollow attribute was to downgrade spam links such as blog comments.
This is how you can mark a link as nofollow:
<a href="https://blogpioneer.com" rel="nofollow">Nofollow link</a>
But over the years, the nofollow attribute has become a victim of its own success and has been heavily misused. Or perhaps I should say, overused.
Backlinks Have Become a Commodity
When nofollow was introduced, a normal link was always follow. Nofollow was the exception. But because backlinks have become a bit of a commodity, many bloggers and webmasters are reluctant to include (dofollow) links in their content.
It’s like giving away expensive things. So they mark their outbound links as no-follow. As a result, the no-follow attribute is not the exception anymore. For them, nofollow has become the standard.
And then there are bloggers who actually believe nofollow is the default. They have somehow learnt that links should always be made nofollow for no particular reason.
When Should You Make Links Nofollow?
A link should, by default, always be follow. And it effectively is, because if you don’t add the no-follow attribute, that outbound link is a dofollow link.
We really shouldn’t be adding the nofollow attribute to an outbound link unless we have a valid reason to do so.
Here is a list of situations where I would typically use the nofollow attribute for an outbound link.
1. Affiliate Links
Affiliate links deserve no credit. They are there for only one reason, and that is to make sales. Also, Google doesn’t like it much when your site is overloaded with affiliate links.
So affiliate links, such as links to Amazon, should always be made nofollow.
2. Paid Links
Similar to affiliate links, paid links should also be marked as nofollow, otherwise you may risk a penalty from Google.
It is actually against Google T&C’s to add paid backlinks to content, so it’s best to mark them as nofollow if you want to keep your rankings in place.
Paid links can be links in sponsored posts, but also backlinks that others ask you to include in your content as if they were natural links.
3. Multiple Links from One Article to the Same Domain
Whenever I link out to a website more than once from one and the same article, I typically only keep one of them as dofollow.
I mean, one credited link is more than enough.
4. Too Many Links Pointing to the Same Site
I apply a similar principle site-wide. If I find that I’m linking to certain sites often, I usually go through my whole site and mark some of these links as nofollow.
It’s all about balance.
5. Links to Untrustworthy or Spammy Sites
Why would you link to a dodgy site in the first place? Good point, hardly ever happens, but if it does, I will always use the no-follow attribute.
6. Links to Sites That Are Totally Unrelated to Your Site
If I absolutely must link to a website that has nothing to do with mine from a content perspective, I will consider marking that link as a nofollow outbound link.
7. Links in Blog Comments
Outbound links don’t belong in comments in the first place, but if you do happen to approve a comment with a link in it, make sure the nofollow attribute is added.
8. Sites That Already Have Gazillions of Links
Sites like Wikipedia typically have a huge amount of backlinks. They really don’t need any more backlinks to maintain or increase their authority.
I personally find linking to a huge site like Wikipedia a bit unoriginal. It often feels like a default thing to do. I prefer to look a bit further and find a better, alternative resource.
If I do end up linking to one of these huge sites, I don’t necessarily add the nofollow attribute. But I do think twice about it.
If I find that I am linking out to these sites too often then I either try and replace some of these links or I add the nofollow attribute to some of them. Again, this is a balance thing.
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Final Thoughts on Using Nofollow Links
Be a good Internet citizen and add dofollow outbound links to your site. Links are not scary and should also not be treated as a commodity.
Add links to sources that complement your own content. It provides a better user experience and Google appreciates it too.