NoFollow links are common practice for a number of blogs and social sites. The ability to add the rel=”nofollow” tag makes it so no link “juice” from the pagerank passes via that link to it’s destination page. There are many different reasons to do this, but the point of this quick post is to go over the question of whether NoFollow links are beneficial for SEO. And the answer is yes and no.
Because NoFollow links do not pass pagerank and according to Matt Cutts do not have an impact on rankings, the simple black and white answer no, there is no benefit to using them for SEO. But we wouldn’t be good SEO consultants if A) we stopped and didn’t analyze other possible benefits and B) we always listen to Google.
On the point about NoFollow links and how/why they don’t help SEO, here is a piece from a LinkedIn conversation on the topic:
“Just because Google shows NOFOLLOW links in WMT does not mean that they “help” your site’s rankings in any way. What is shown in WMT is simply a sample of links to your site “that Google knows about”. They intentially mix those that don’t count (like NOFOLLOW) in with your good links in the sample so that you cannot reverse engineer their algorithm and cannot simply look at WMT to see what they count or don’t count.
WMT has historically always shown NOFOLLOW links as well as links from URLs on other sites known to be penalized by Google. Neither of these types of links will help your rankings. So the meer fact that they appear in WMT is really irrelevant.
NOFOLLOW links from any site (regardless of whether they are blogs, wikipedia, or social profiles) have no direct affect on Google rankings. Their affect on SEO and rankings is only indirect…
IF (big IF in most cases) the links actually drive traffic to the site AND (big AND in most cases) those people following the link in turn decide to link to you somwhere else on the web with a FOLLOWed link THEN (and pretty much only then) you may reap SEO benefits from such links… but again, it’s indirect. The NOFOLLOW link itself does not help.”
So the point of this snippet from the thread is that there is no direct impact on rankings and SEO from NoFollow links and in a sterile world where we speak like robots and everything is black and white, I agree. All poking aside, I wouldn’t spend my time all day every day building nofollow links or paying others to do so with the hope that those links themselves would increase my rankings. But, Just a question, isn’t an “indirect effect” still an effect?
Here’s another angle from the discussion that has a bit of a nuanced perspective:
“I’m not sure how much value they have from a pure link standpoint, but I do believe these social signals play a role in the overall algo. Of course, no one knows for sure except the engines. I have a local real estate agent I work with, for the past several months he’s been lingering at the 4-6 positions for about a dozen top terms for his local/industry. We decided to shift focus from link building to social media for the past 3 months and he’s now ranking #1 for 6 of those 12 terms, with no other link building efforts. I have no idea if this is a direct correlation to the social media activity we began, but I do know the rankings have shot up after several months of no movement, despite an active link building/content campaign.”
Yes! Agreed. Social signals are effecting how sites rank in many cases and even if we don’t know exactly how and what specific role they play in the algorithm, there is a positive correlation. Here is my response from the thread agreeing with the above point and extrapolating:
“ Similar to Gary’s experience, I have a client who is in an extremely competitive local niche and in terms of their DA, link profile, content, onsite optimization, etc., they shouldn’t really be on the first page of the SERPS – especially in terms of their backlink profile. Now, add in the social signals we’ve been building and creating – primarily on Twitter and Facebook, and they have a solid position at 5 or 6.
Both times we’ve stopped the social signals for around 4 weeks they drop down to the bottom of page one or top of page 2 – which makes a big difference in their traffic obviously.
Yes, no one can unequivocally say what and how no follow links and social signals impact the algorithm, but experience does tell me that there is a relationship. Yes, Google has mentioned that there is no impact of Nofollow links on rankings, but A) to be quite honest, a complex algorithm that is 100% proprietary and secret summed up by Matt Cutts in short videos doesn’t make me feel certain. At the very least, as has been mentioned, there is an indirect relationship – even if it’s just that these Nofollow profile links allow people to traverse them and visit our sites – which is supposedly a metric that the algorithm does take into account – traffic.
As part of a practice for many of our clients, we’ll build out a base of social profiles that are branded and include links to their sites. At the very least it’s real estate and potentially, a path back to their site – especially if they are sharing content on them.
Most social profile links are Nofollow, BUT, here’s a tip. Some of the RSS feeds from the profiles of these social sharing sites turn Nofollow links info Dofollow links.
The bottom line for me is a natural and organic link profile which does include nofollow links. If you were in a competitive niche and you ranked well, but had no nofollow links, I wouldn’t be surprised if G cut you down at some point.”
So to sum it up without dragging it out, yes, social links – even if they are Dofollow – seem to be beneficial to SEO. Although possibly a more accurate statement might be: Dofollow links are beneficial to Inbound Marketing.
You can read the entire discussion here from LinkedIn.
Oh and by the way, the social sharing site that turns Nofollow links into Dofollow links in their feeds of your user profile is………Diigo
Last but not least, here is Matt Cutts looking like a chubby buddhist talking about NoFollow Links. Related and not related to this post: