Nofollow Links: What They Are + Impact on Internal Linking

Joel CariñoWritten by Joel Cariño|Last updated: 19 June 2024

What are Nofollow Links?


Nofollow links are links that are qualified with a rel=”nofollow” attribute. The nofollow tag is an HTML instruction that tells search engine crawlers to ignore the link, preventing them from crawling the linked page. 

Links are well-known ranking signals and are considered votes of confidence from referring domains or pages. However, one difference between nofollow and dofollow links is that using nofollow links prevents the transfer of link juice or PageRank between the links.

In other words, nofollow links offer zero value as far as SEO is concerned and do not directly boost search engine rankings.


How Do Nofollow Links Work?


Nofollow links on your website appear as any other links. There’s no way to determine whether a link is nofollow unless you review the page source or use specialized software.

For instance, this blue hyperlink is a nofollow link with an HTML that looks like this:

<a href= “https://www.linkstorm.io” target=“_blank” rel =“nofollow”>blue hyperlink</a>

The presence of the rel=“nofollow” attribute in the HTML element indicates that the link is nofollow. 


Nofollow vs Dofollow Links: What’s the Difference?


To the everyday user, nofollow and dofollow links are the same. Both links are still entry points for referral traffic, allowing users to explore the linked page normally.

However, three key differences separate nofollow from dofollow links:


1. HTML Element Structure


Dofollow links have a different HTML structure compared to links that are nofollowed. A link is considered nofollow if it contains the rel=“nofollow” attribute, which instructs search engine crawlers to ignore the link.

On the other hand, the HTML of dofollow links lacks the nofollow attribute. For instance, this other blue hyperlink is a dofollow with an HTML that looks like this:

<a href= “https://www.linkstorm.io” target=“_blank” >other blue hyperlink</a>

Dofollow links tell search engines that the linked URL is crawlable. This enables web crawlers to access the page, boosting the site’s crawling and indexing efficiency, especially for new pages.


2. SEO Value


Ever wonder why dofollow backlinks are highly sought after in link building campaigns? An unwritten rule requires the vendor to qualify paid links as dofollow when buying or selling links.

Aside from allowing web crawlers to enter the linked page, dofollow links also pass PageRank or link equity from the source to the target page. This almost always results in a measurable boost in SEO performance, evidenced by the improvement in ranking in SERPs. 

Meanwhile, nofollow links do not influence the SEO performance of the target page. Most of the time, website owners only use the nofollow tag when they want to cite external links but wish not to associate with the linked pages.

Graphical representation of how Googlebot responds to nofollow links


3. Link Decay Rate


Link decay, or link rot, occurs when hyperlinks cease to point to the originally targeted page. This is often a result of site restructuring, page deletion, or domain expiration. 

A collection of case studies suggests that link rot is an inevitable process for all types of links. 

However, a recent study by Linkody suggested that nofollow links decay faster than dofollow links. The researchers found that nofollow links have a 16-18% lower survival rate than dofollow links.

The case study stresses the importance of maintaining dofollow links as a crucial requirement during link exchanges. Moreover, dofollow must also be the golden standard for internal linking efforts.


Are Nofollow Links Important for SEO?


It is easy to dismiss nofollow links as unimportant for SEO, considering they transfer zero PageRank from the source page. However, the value of nofollow links extends past their inherent SEO contribution. Here are two instances when nofollow links become important for SEO:

According to Google, links must be qualified properly. For example, paid links must be set as nofollow or sponsored (rel=”sponsored”) for transparency in the link purchase. This safeguards vendors and buyers from suffering a Google penalty, which may result in page or domain de-indexing.

Moreover, nofollow links are part of a natural-looking link profile. A link profile filled with dofollow links may appear spammy in Google’s eyes, which might risk triggering its link spam algorithm. Indirectly, nofollow links impact SEO by preventing Google from penalizing a website. A balance of nofollow and dofollow links is crucial to throw Google off the website’s scent. 

While nofollow links do not influence the search engine rankings, they are still important in a website’s overall SEO health and longevity.


How Do You Find Nofollow Links on a Website?


There are no surface-level indicators to tell if links are dofollow or not. You need to look at the website’s HTML or use dedicated SEO tools to isolate nofollow links from other links.

Below is everything you need to know to find nofollow links on a website:


Manual Process: Checking the page source of a web page


Viewing the page source is the no-nonsense approach for checking the link’s rel attribute. However, the slow process and sheer amount of on-screen content might overwhelm the casual user.

Site owners must visit each web page after another to check for nofollow links. This is time-consuming for users who manage over a thousand web pages. 

Here’s how it works:

On a web page, right-click and click “View page source,” or you may simply press ctrl + u. Let’s look at an example below. Say you want to check the rel attribute of the anchor text “Best Practices for Optimizing Anchor Texts.”

Screenshot of LinkStorm content with View page source option


View the page source and press ctrl + f to search for a specific phrase in the HTML. This will help you find the link better since the link’s anchor text is part of the HTML element. Insert the anchor text on the find bar, as shown below:

Screenshot of ctrl + f with anchor text


The above will likely reveal the link’s HTML element. You can then review the element’s attributes to determine whether the link is qualified as nofollow.

Sample HTML for the anchor text 'Best Practices for Optimizing Anchor Texts'


Below is what’s written on the screenshot:


<a href= “https://linkstorm,io/resources/anchor-text”><strong><em> </em></strong><strong><em>Best Practices for Optimizing Anchor Texts</em><strong></a>


As shown, the absence of the rel=”nofollow” attribute means the link is dofollow. 

(Note: To avoid confusion, the <strong> tag indicates the text is in bold, while the <em> tag tells us that the anchor text is italicized. If you look at the link, the anchor text “Best Practices for Optimizing Anchor Texts” is in bold and italics.)

Unfortunately, viewing the page source is a manual process. To find all unfollow links on a site, you must visit the page source of every web page.

That’s where a specialized tool comes in…


Automatic Process: Using LinkStorm


LinkStorm is an all-in-one internal linking toolkit designed to help users streamline their internal linking efforts. The software helps find internal linking gaps and uncover internal link issues persisting throughout a website. They can also help site owners easily discover all site-wide nofollow links, both internal and external.


How to Find Nofollow Internal Links with LinkStorm


From the LinkStorm dashboard, click the Issues tab:

Screenshot of LinkStorm's dashboard with arrow to the Issues tab


Then, from the internal link issues options, select No Follow.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's Issues tab with arrow to the No Follow option


This reveals all of the nofollow internal links throughout your website, showing the Source Page and Target URL.

Screenshot of Linkody's nofollow links taken from the LinkStorm Issues Tab dashboard


In case you are wondering, nofollow links are listed on the Issues tab because qualifying internal links with a nofollow attribute makes no sense. 


How to Find Nofollow External Links with LinkStorm


From LinkStorm’s dashboard, click the Links tab.

Screenshot of LinkStorm's dashboard with arrow to the Links tab


Then, select External from the options below. Set the leftmost dropdown option to No Follow, check only the “URL From” and “URL To” from the Options dropdown, and click Apply.

How to find externally pointing links with LinkStorm's Links tab


This will list all of the externally pointing links qualified with a nofollow attribute:

Linkody's external links with nofollow attributes


Users can then go through the list and make the links dofollow if mistakenly qualified with a rel=”nofollow” attribute. 


Key Takeaways


Nofollow links are good in a backlink profile when properly balanced alongside dofollow links. This helps maintain a natural-looking link profile for search engines such as Google. 

However, this narrative changes entirely with internal linking campaigns. Qualifying internal links with nofollow tags makes no sense since they do not benefit your site’s SEO performance. 

Finding and correcting nofollow internal links is one way to ensure link juice is properly distributed throughout a website. This is where LinkStorm comes in.

LinkStorm is a specialized internal linking software designed to help users manage their internal linking campaigns. From suggesting internal link opportunities to resolving issues like nofollow links, this tool is a reliable ally for website owners and SEO specialists alike!

Check LinkStorm’s pricing page to find which plan best suits your business.

Get a complete picture of your internal linking.
Build relevant links. Fix internal link issues.

Try it with your website!