There has been lot of confusion among webmaster/SEO community over the usage of nofollow tag, so I took this as an opportunity to dig in to nofollow intricacy and talk about associated SEO implication of nofollow tag. So what is nofollow? As the name itself suggests nofollow means you are instructing search engine that you don’t guarantee any integrity for a given outbound link so please don’t pass any page rank to this link.
Some questions that need to be answered under nofollow purview are:
- Can we use nofollow for links that connects internal pages of our website?
- Can nofollow stops crawler from tumbling in to the linked page? And do all search engines recognize nofollow?
- For every back link with nofollow tag that connects to our website do we still get any SEO value?
- For every outbound link can we have a default policy of nofollow?
The answer for 1 is yes nofollow can be utilized for links within website and also links pointing to external website. But experts including Matt Cutts suggest that nofollow tag’s internal usage should not be prioritized and we should focus on better things like site structure such that it is user/crawler friendly and let crawler freely percolate to all web pages within your website.
To answer 2 well the primary objective of no follow is to stop squeezing the valuable link juice to the website for which you are not too sure. And most of the search engines including the big 3 recognize the same although there can be exception like ask which is not in line with the Google’s philosophy of nofollow. Also it is being said that Yahoo still crawls to a nofollow links although does not passes any page rank.
Answer for 3 is simple nofollow is not a gospel and think SEO beyond Google’s page rank and link juice. Even if you have back link suffixed with nofollow originated from a website that is rich in traffic of your target audience it still make sense to go ahead with such connectivity e.g. Tweets have default nofollow nature but re-tweets sometimes land in to different website so there is scope of page rank as well as traffic while you are doing social media optimization through Twitter.
Answer for 4 is debatable cult websites like Wikipedia, WordPress, YouTube, Twitter all have adopted nofollow but this has been taken as unethical among webmaster & SEO community in a way that these website rise to top page rank categories with free follow policy across internet and they are shying away in sharing the same. Also if everybody starts using nofollow the whole concept of Google page rank would become meaningless. Although the fact of the matter is nofollow links is 1-2% of total links available so this is not a big issue. So I think nofollow has implication and webmaster/SEO have to device a policy for the same and the underlying idea is to incorporate nofollow for all immaterial links and also dropping nofollow for those links that have contributed to your website and are relevant to your website.