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Do-follow Links vs No-follow Links - Does it really matter?

Do-follow Links vs No-follow Links - Does it really matter?

One of the biggest debates in the SEO world (and one that shows absolutely no signs of ever going away) is the do-follow vs no-follow links debate. There is one camp who stringently argue that the only links worth anything are do-follow ones; on the other hand, there is a group who say that it doesn't really matter.

So who is right and who is wrong? Is there any hard evidence when it comes to do-follow vs no-follow and their importance to the humble affiliate marketer? 

The Do-Follow Links Argument

The proponents of the "do-follow only" camp have a pretty logical argument backing them up. In terms of SEO value ("link juice", to use the nomenclature) Google should theoretically only count do-follow links. Any link that is no-follow has a direct and clear instruction telling search engines to ignore it. Think of the rel=nofollow tag as one of those detour signs you occasionally see. The street is still there, it's just you're being told to pass by it.

The No-Follow Links Argument

On the flip side of the coin, some people believe that no follow links actually do provide some form of link benefit. Over and above this, they can provide great referral traffic from people clicking through your links. An excellent example of useful no follow links are blog comment links. The vast majority of blogs are no follow these days, which was put in place to discourage comment spam. Howevever, a well-place blog comment on a popular blog can deliver hundreds of visitors in a very short space of time. 

Wikipedia is another great example of the usefulness of no follow links. Way back in the day, Wikipedia links were actually do-follow. But then link spammers caught on to the fact that this was a huge authority site that anyone could edit add their own links to. No-follow links were introduced on Wikipedia to directly combat this. However, a link from Wikipedia even today still makes your site look more credible, and more to the point, you can get lots of referral traffic from it. One of my websites recently got a link from Wikipedia (it was credited as a source) on a fairly obscure article, but that single little link still sends around 100 visitors a month. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

The Evidence

There isn't really much solid evidence to back any side of this argument up. In fact, when it comes to SEO everything is an inexact science. What works for one person may not necessarily work for you. That being said, I strongly urge you to take a "balanced" and holistic approach to link building.

Build a stable of quality, context-relevant do-follow links to your website to boost it up the search engine rankings. Guest blogging, blog networks, web directories, and article marketing, these are just a few ways to get do follow links to your site that will help deliver that all important link juice. Check out the Affilorama SEO lessons for more great link building ideas.

Then, once you've done that, start building some no follow links from blog commenting, forums (some forums are no follow) and other places that are going to deliver you high quantities of referral traffic. If you can pre-sell effectively then big bucks await from quality referral traffic. Having an opt-in newsletter list is even better, as you can seize that traffic and keep them in your sales loop over and over again.

The Conclusion

The conclusion is simple - do-follow links provide better "link juice" for boosting your website up the search engine rankings. This cannot be denied. However, no-follow links can often be highly context-relevant, and come from sources that are likely to generate greater levels of referral traffic. In addition to this, search engines are more likely to regard a mixture of both types of links as following a "natural" link profile. This is a good thing, as an unnatural link profile is much more likely to see you booted from the front page of Google for SEO malpractice.

Therefore, it is prudent practice to balance do-follow links with no-follow ones. I wouldn't stress too much about whether the links you are getting are do-follow or no-follow. In fact, I wouldn't stress about it at all. Why? The reason is simple - if you are actually out there actively building links to your site, you are taking action, and that counts for more than anything.

What are your personal thoughts on the do-follow vs no-follow links debate? I'm sure your opinion probably differs greatly from mine, and I'd absolutely love to hear it. Just leave a comment below and get the discussion started. 

163 Comments Add your comment

View all 163 comments (Currently displaying latest 50)

  • Reply Jean Hanna • 595 days ago

    I've been reading, writing and testing Do-Follow and No-Follow links for a loooong time. You know what Sam, I see no follow links as references, maybe Google crawlers sees them more as references too and note direct votes. References in a blog/article/book/magazine/site are always there in one way or another, but internautes are not really looking for these references, they're looking for content/ product/service/game etc.... I'll give you an example: You wrote a blog, you used too many references and you gave them credit. Your blog became famous and your name became known. People or users became interested in the book's story (Content) and the author (web address/ url). Therefor the referances become important and will be clicked on. Not to make the comment longer than it should be, as another SEO professional, I join my vote to yours for the importance of both do-follow and no-follow links.
    As SEO Professionals we should concentrate more on providing our clients with top content and attractive texts as well as value comments that could be used as references, and this will create a positive digital/internet word of mouth.
    I'm surprised i only fell on this article now. Good job and keep up the good work buddy!
    ***Please forgive me for any mistakes in my comment, i am writing from a mobile device with extremely small buttons.
    You Rock!

  • Reply kostas Drymiotis594 days ago

    Hello! In my personal and professional opinion both links are important. I did a test with only no follow links and indeed it help to rank better. I made another test with only do follow links and also rank better. The only difference is the amount of no follow backlinks that do the same job as the do follow. Also another think is the relevance. For example a do follow backlink can have the power of 20 no follow backlinks. Also no follow backlinks will not improve your page rank but the do follow will. Also please note that another major factor is the relevancy.

  • Reply Kuhinje po meri591 days ago

    It is a good article.. But I still prefer dofollow above nofollow backlinks. but I don't care to get a good nofollow link. Better somthing then nothing :)

  • Reply iPhone Software588 days ago

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  • Reply Cassie • 587 days ago

    Great, thanks for the thoughts and the reminder not to stress over the type of links you have coming in. On the flip side, I'm trying to figure out what out-going links to no-follow. I'm currently no-following everything except other, relevant non-commercial blogs. Is that overkill? I don't want the search engines to think my links to company sites are paid.

  • Reply Mayra • 587 days ago

    Keep this going please, great job!

  • Reply creations • 585 days ago

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  • Reply Greg • 580 days ago

    Great post as usual!

  • Reply pot effects • 579 days ago

    I do not create a leave a response, however I looked at some of the responses on Do-follow Links vs No-follow Links - Does it really matter? | Affilorama.

    I do have a few questions for you if you do not mind.

    Is it just me or do some of these remarks come across like they are written
    by brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are posting at other social sites, I'd like to follow you. Could you make a list of every one of all your social community pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  • Reply Albuquerque business consulting554 days ago

    As per Google's algorithms do-follow links are more valuable than no-follow.But i must say this is one thing of seo myths.sometimes no-follow links are preferable.

  • Reply Cody • 553 days ago

    My experience has been that there has been some benefit to the no follow links. I have a specific page where the page authority increased by three points based only on no follow links.

  • Reply Lisa Jones542 days ago

    I don't dislike the nofollow attribute- Don't get me wrong it's not a bad thing, it just doesn't give a link any credence and clearly states that the owner has no trust whatsoever in the persons site that he/ she has agreed to link to. It should be noted as well that Google actually takes into account the link juice that would have been passed onto the "nofollowed" site and subtracts that from the site sending the nofollow link. In effect, a nofollow may save you from a "bad neighbourhood" but that is all it'll do.

  • Reply Ritz • 537 days ago


    Great Post. Wanted to understand, how do we come to know if my link to any website is a do follow or no follow.

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  • Reply Richard Bowles527 days ago

    Google constantly talks about 'relevant content'. Probably now some of the most important sites in terms of directing relevant content links (wiki and the like) are no-follow. Strikes me that Google algos are likely to still place some weight on no-follow. When we work for clients, we have a strict SEP policy of building good content and links from sites with good content. This involves a mix of follow and no-follow. However, I'd say it's probably weighted more to no-follow links. Doesn't seem to have done any of our clients any harm...

  • Reply zizzle Green527 days ago

    Very good post managed to explain quite a lot

  • Reply David • 505 days ago

    Most of my backlinks indicated in my Google Webmaster Tools metrics are 'no follow'. I have to assume the presence of these links in GWT means they are factored into the Google ranking algorithm. My websites with such 'no follow' backlinks have page rank as well as visibility in Google search results.

  • Reply Mario Smith • 504 days ago

    I've been researching a lot of information on the topic and your article has helped me a bunch. These comments have been helpful as well. Great Blog :)

  • Reply Backflow Installation497 days ago

    Well, yes dofollow is for page rank and nofollow is also best for getting good traffic.

  • Reply Hugh Grigg • 490 days ago

    I happened to get a little source link from a fairly obscure Wikipedia article (someone else cited my site - I didn't put it there), and that page immediately ranked higher in Google and became a sitelink in the search result for my site. From that it seems pretty clear to me that nofollow links can still carry a lot of weight in Google.

  • Reply Chankey Pathak • 481 days ago

    Thanks but I have one doubt. What's the difference between Text and Text?

  • Reply Lisa • 477 days ago

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • Reply Oyun Gator476 days ago

    It is a very good article. I have to agreed with Sam. But dofollow maybe better in link juice, the best if you get both dofollow and nofollow backlinks.

  • Reply John Puno470 days ago

    Hi Sam,

    Very good article about do follow and no follow links. I have been researching about this topic for a while now and the discussions here give me better understanding about the two.

    Well, may this year be fruitful for all of us! Thanks for sharing.


  • Reply Ben Linus • 459 days ago

    I totally agree with Sam, a backlink is a backlink is a backlink. I will happily take them anyway I can get them. My last blog which was built just a month or two ago linkapedia is number one in Google and was done so by using a combination of do follow and nofollow backlinks. The traffic by being in the number one spot on Google has really started to pickup. I have had really good luck getting ranked in first and second place following this simple strategy in very short time with this and a few other blogs.

  • Reply SpringBrett • 456 days ago

    It's hard to hard to believe that no follow links are important. But I guess this is the thing with ranking factors, you just don't know anything for sure.

  • Reply Laura Wolf422 days ago

    Due to the latest updates, now there is a need for nofollow links as well as dofollow. Indeed, if you want to get traffic, chances are that you will get more of these from nofollow links.

  • Reply Albert • 407 days ago

    I think No follow links fro images are not good practice. Because google webmaster shows no follow tags for images. Please tell me is this right to do image no follow?

  • Reply Mary Lucas • 388 days ago

    I generally do both, though it's getting very hard to find blogs that are do follow as you say. Even if you do find them that doesn't mean they will still be do follow tomorrow. I think Google needs to (and probably does) take into account how hard it is getting. I bet no follow links do indeed pass some link juice, albeit not as much as do follow. So many differing opinions however, one can really never know.

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  • Reply fixmart iphone315 days ago

    I use the links that are not consecutive and it works fine

  • Reply Chris Naish • 268 days ago

    Hi Samuel,

    You're right about this debate never going away me thinks. lol

    I did an experiment on sidebar links with Andy Bailey from CommentLuv on whether or not sidebar links can hurt your site and we utilized a nofollow link followed by a dofollow link to see what the effects would be.

    This was about the same time you originally posted this article so my info is a little dated but it's the closest thing I've seen to evidence on dofollow/nofollow links working and how well each works.

    Hate to be a link dropper but I think you'll find it highly relevant to your article.



  • Reply ajeet singh252 days ago

    This article states transparency in no follow and do follow. This is obvious that we get back-link form both the link building. And it's highly acceptable that do follow back links are more traffics drawn and make increase SERP.

    Ajeet Singh

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  • Reply hudixt dixit144 days ago

    Which cms are you using for this site and do nofollow links matters to you

    Samuel Frost141 days ago

    Hi we are using a custom CMS for Affilorama based on CakePHP - do you like the theme of the site?

    As far as the second part of your question goes, I don't really have any objections at all to no-follow links (and my opinion has not changed since I wrote this blog post over a year ago).

    I still target no-follow links with great frequency for all my websites, but I also never turn down a good do-follow link.

    Perhaps the biggest difference is that I spend more time these days focusing on creating content and delivering it in unique ways, as well as email marketing. I strongly believe that the days of putting linking before content are coming to an end, as I outlined here:


    And here: http://www.affilorama.com/blog/is-seo-dead

    Let me know if you have any more questions.

  • Reply Sanjev • 135 days ago

    Thanks great info man
    I need some more SEO tips for my website

  • Reply Kundan • 85 days ago

    I have read the differences between the do follow and no follow link and I have read that do follow links help you to increase your Google page rank where as no follow link will prevent you from spammer. But the question is I am going to link to a website how will I know that the website will give me a do follow or no follow link. I have also read that I can go to the page source and look for rel="nofollow" link. When I checked than most of the site has nofollow link

  • Reply Ravi 80 days ago

    We provide SEO for small firms and individuals. As buying do-follow links is ruled out due the paucity of funds & not many sites willing to link out to us, the no-follow links have become the mainstay.Your site has always been a source of learning for us. What we learn here , we try to put it in practice. Thanks again for showing the way...

  • Reply sandro • 75 days ago

    I want to to thank you for your help it was good information for me.

    and 1 more question , does no follow links hurm my site?

    Cassandra Outlaw • 59 days ago

    As far as I know, nofollow links does not hurt. But spam will definitely hurt. Most importantly, you should remember "SEO is not like mathematics that you use certain formula and the problem is solved". :)

  • Reply Muriel • 71 days ago

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    Cecille Loorluis62 days ago

    Hi Muriel,

    Thanks for your comment!

    I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion caused. If you've already registered to Affilorama, then you are subscribed to the Affilorama newsletter.

    Please get in touch with us through the contact form on our support page (http://www.affilorama.com/support) if you're not receiving any Affilorama newsletters.

    Hope that helps. Have a good day!

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