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What are dofollow and nofollow links?

Not all links are the same when it comes to search engine optimization. When pages link to each other they are essentially vouching for the other site and help to increase its authority.  Mostly.  This is where the different link types come in.  Some links will pass this authority on to the page linked to and some links do not.  In this article, we will discuss what the difference is between dofollow and nofollow links and how to check dofollow and nofollow links.

A link is a HTML label that lets visitors click on it to be led to another site.  Below is an example of a regular link.  This uses the “a” HTML tag to represent a hyperlink.

Example dofollow link

As you can see, there are several parts to a link.  The main part is the <a> tag and corresponding </a> closing tag.  Between these tags is the text that will be displayed in the link.  There is also an attribute to the tag which is the ‘href’ attribute.  This tells the browser the URL to go to when the link is clicked.

The link displayed above is a dofollow link.  This is because when a search engine crawls your site and comes across this link it will know that it can follow this link to the next page.  Search engines like Google will see this as the linking site passing some of its authority to the linked site.

Dofollow links are great for search engine optimization because this will help your site gain authority with search engines and help you climb in rank on the search engine results pages.  Gaining Dofollow links from high authority sites is a major part of search engine optimization and is called your backlink strategy.  This process can take some time because it must be organic.  This means that if Google notices a ton of new backlinks in a short period of time then it see this as spammy and it will hurt your search engine optimization efforts.

So what is a nofollow link?

Nofollow links are links with another attribute that tells search engine bots not to follow the link.  The code for this type of link looks like this:

To create a nofollow link simply add the rel attribute which is the relationship attribute.  This tells browsers and search engine bots the relationship between the current site and the site linked to in the link.  If the relationship attribute is set to “nofollow” then it tells the search engine bots to not follow the link.

Why this is important for SEO

It should be obvious that you want as many dofollow links from highly-authoritative and relevant sites as you can in order to boost your websites authority and improve your ranking in the search engine results pages.

But first a word of caution!  You do not want your entire backlink profile to be only dofollow links.  This appears unnatural to Google and could get your site labelled as spammy and hurt your search engine optimization efforts.

There is no “best” ratio for the amount of dofollow vs nofollow links in your backlink profile.  Search engines like Alexa have stated that their top sites typically have a 75/25 ratio where 75% of the links are dofollow and 25% are nofollow links.

Follow vs Nofollow Ratio

Having a healthy backlink profile can help your rankings with search engines tremendously.  As you are searching for sites that might be good candidates to get a backlink from, you will need to take a few things under consideration.

  • Is this website relevant to my niche?
  • Does the site get a decent amount of traffic?
  • Could this site be considered spammy?
  • What types of links do the sites use to link to other sites?

This article will help to answer the last question.  The other questions will be answered in other articles and should be available soon.

How to check if a link is dofollow or nofollow

There are a couple of ways to see if a link is dofollow or nofollow.  The first method is a little technical while the second method can be used by anyone.  Which one you choose is up to you and how much into the code you want to get.

Developer Tools Inspect Method

The two major browsers have developer consoles which lets you view the underlying code for the web page you are currently browsing.  They also have an element inspect function that lets you point at an element on the page and inspect the code that displays the element.

We can use this to see the HTML tag for a link to see if it is a nofollow link or a dofollow link.  To open the developer console on either Firefox or Chrome use this keyboard combination:

					Windows: [CTRL][SHIFT] + [C]
Mac: [CTRL][OPTION] + [C]

This will open the developer tools for your browser.  An example from Firefox’s Developer Tools is shown below:

Developer Tools Example

Use your mouse to highlight the link and click on it.  In this example, I clicked on the Domains link.

Highlighting a link in developer tools

After you click on the link, you will see the HTML code element highlighted in the inspector window:

hyperlink code

This example demonstrates a dofollow link since there is no rel=”nofollow” in the hyperlink code.

Using this method is a bit cumbersome and really only appeals to web developers who are testing code.  The next method is much easier and quicker.

Browser Plugin Method

To use this method you simply need to install a browser plugin that will highlight any nofollow links it finds on a page.

Click here to get the Chrome version of the nofollow plugin.

Click here to get the Firefox version of the nofollow plugin.

After you install the plugin and enable it you will begin to see pages that have red-dashed boxes around some links.  The example below is from an article I found on and shows that there are several nofollow links in the article.

Nofollow link wordpress plugin

The nofollow links in the article have a red dashed box around them.  


This article explained the difference between dofollow and nofollow links, explained why dofollow links are important for search engine optimization, and gave a couple of methods on how to check dofollow and nofollow links.  

It should be noted that there is some debate as to whether nofollow links actually can help your SEO or not.  In either case, you should still have a healthy mix of dofollow and nofollow links in your backlink profile.

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