Have you developed a case of “nofollow” tunnel vision?

By Kim Ross
Have you developed a case of “nofollow” tunnel vision?


Have you ever found yourself passing over chances for building links to your site just because they are 'nofollow' links?

Time and again, we see people who have developed a case of tunnel vision - seeing only followed links as useful, and ignoring nofollow links altogether.

Come on, you know I'm right. I can hear your words echoing through the dark, narrow tunnel:

"I'm not going to waste my time creating links on sites with nofollow links, because it's not going to help my search engine rankings."

If you're unsure what I'm on about here, I'm going to turn my flashlight on for you...

Normally, a link from another site would help your search engine rankings. However, a link with the attribute ‘nofollow' doesn't.

Just because nofollow links don't hold much value in the way of SEO, doesn't mean they're not valuable in other ways.

Let's take a step back and consider the purpose of SEO: To get your site noticed, traffic to your page, and sales converted. Right?

If I were to ask you to tell me another technique you could use to get traffic, you'd probably say PPC, and you'd be right.

SEO and PPC are both very effective techniques, but let's not forget what they are - techniques for getting traffic to your site.

A nofollow link can ALSO give you traffic.

It is surprisingly easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you're so heavily focussed on moving up the SERPS. But yes, there are other ways of getting traffic to your site - ways that don't involve the search engines at all!

I think a lot of us operate under the belief that the search engines are the starting point for all traffic: As if Google is the center of the universe, and everything else is just spinning around it. 

But here's a newsflash for you: A lot of people might not even visit a search engine in a given day.

Take me for instance. Outside of work hours, I'll hop online when I'm bored and browse the same sites every time. That means a visit to Facebook, Trade Me (a New Zealand equivalent of eBay), and Youtube. I can (and do) also get easily side-tracked by something that has caught my attention from these places.

Sure, it's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I don't think I'm the only one with these kinds of web habits...

So what does this mean? It means that if you only have eyes for the search engines, you're missing out on a huge torrent of traffic. While you're keeping your eyes peeled for the "followed" links, you're passing over the social media sites, forums and blogs that have targeted and enthusiastic readership.

If you place links where your target market is likely to travel straight to your site, this single high traffic link could do you a whole lot more good than 60 followed links that moved you from place 76 to 67 in the SERPs!

I'm not encouraging you here to throw your SEO campaign out the window. The rewards of a successful SEO campaign are likely to be long-lasting and fairly stable, and traffic from the search engines is likely to be pretty targeted.

Plus, there's likely to be a bit of work involved in finding appropriate sites with suitable (and responsive) traffic to target.

It's also likely that this sort of traffic will be "here today, gone tomorrow", thanks to the fast moving pace of social media. But the same could be said for PPC to some extent, and at least this is free!

So just make sure you're not losing sight of your real goal when you pass over that forum, blog or social media site with the nofollow links.

Take a few steps back, blink a few times, and see the entire picture.

Check out our Social Snoop tool for finding social media sites to target. Just be sure to ignore that "nofollow" indicator!

Wynne 14 years ago
Personally I don't care if a link is nofollow or dofollow. I think the whole nofollow thing has been spin-doctored by google in the first place. Afterall they are the only ones who supposedly obey this stupid tag.

Here's what I think, and note that this is only my opinion. I think google historically had problem with distinguishing between quality followable links within posts, and lower quality links in the comments sections of websites. They probably noticed that some sites were getting undue Kudos for comment link spamming, and sites that got legit links from within the body of articles were getting their link-love diluted. I am guessing that when they devised the nofollow tag, the google bot was nowhere near the monster algorithm that it is now.

But skip forward to 2010 and now the Caffeine release of google bot is way smarter and much quicker. It has skillz to pay the bills and can figure out what is noteworthy on a page and what is kinda background noise. Well, it's never going to be perfect right? And spammers will always find ways to game the system. But what I am saying is that it is now a lot better than it used to be.

Because of this I am betting that the dofollow / nofollow argument is now mute. First of all link spammers have figured out that there is indeed link juice flowing through nofollow tags, it's just that it is drastically reduced. Also, I'm guessing that the latest google bot has it's own sophisticated algorithm for weighting a link from within a post to a link from within comments (regardless of the follow tag). So in effect the best quality links are getting the most love which is what google wanted all along.

Matt Cutts goes on to say that it is also pointless using page rank sculping within your own site architecture (i.e. using nofollow tags for controlling the flow of page rank throughout your own site). You may as well forget using nofollow tags within your own site linking structure. Just make sure your pages link together in meaningful ways and use anchor text in the correct way to link to your own internal pages.

But anyway, back on point: If link spammers ignore nofollow, and google lets some link juice through nofollow links anyway (who knows? and note this is just my opinion), then why do we even bother using the stupid tag? The only reason I can think of to keep using it on blog comments is because most people don't know what the heck is going on with it, and it is probably a safety catch to keep the masses from link spamming comments.

Here's my own 2 cents on the subject (nofollow dofollow google article).
Kim Ross 14 years ago
So you are suggesting that the nofollow tag is now redundant to Google? Your speculation is really interesting Wynne, and in some ways I could be inclined to agree with you... but who really knows? It's the unknown that keeps us all guessing, and causes many to be cautious and hung up on the nofollow tags (and maybe that's what Google wants). But you're quite right, we should definitely relax over the nofollow link tags!
Wynne 14 years ago
Hey Kim,
I'm sure the nofollow tag still has some affect... for instance protecting the reputation of your blog, and giving a no-confidence vote for all outgoing comment links. But if you were a good moderator and had good antispam plugins then this shouldn't be an issue.

You're right though, if there is one thing that is true - it's that google tries to keep everyone in the dark and believing myths as much as possible to deter them from gaming their ranking system.
Kathaleen Dunford 14 years ago
Personally, I don't worry about whether a link is nofollow or dofollow. I am more concerned with fostering an environment whereby we support, encourage and learn from each other. Such an environment opens up room for discussions and if those discussions are educational then that has to be a good thing. Right? Plus, as Kim said, it is possible that nofollow links can create a flow of free traffic to your website. So, in my books, both types of links are valuable.
James Cameron 14 years ago
Im a believer in no-follow link juice, like Kim writes, its still a traffic generator. And my philosophy is, what if that site becomes 'follow' one day?

If it happens you've got a well established link sitting, waiting, for very little effort, that could could have otherwise passed by.
Kathy Pop 14 years ago
Whether they count or don't count, doesn't matter too muxh to me. I have commented on sites that were nofollow and maybe it didn't count as a backlink- BUT my posts did show up on a search on the topic, which to me is almost as good.
canihelp 14 years ago
Hello Kim; I have to admit I've been wrapped up in dofollow links.
Thank you for the eye opener post. This is why I really enjoy this site.
Thank again
14 years ago
This post helps me alot. I've been trying to do strictly dofollow.
Thank you for the info.
14 years ago
Recently watch a presentation hosted by Affilorama and the subject of no-follow came up as it concerns posting to Blogs. What made so much sense was the quote from the presenter " traffic is traffic" and even if there is a no-follow tag, it still can produce traffic which after all is what affiliate marketing is all about.

Weesensuerwom 14 years ago
Theo Taoushiani 14 years ago
I have been building links to both dofollow and nofollow blogs. IMO a link from
nofollow blog can't hurt even if it's not counted as a backlink as such.
PS! @Weesensuerwom come on dude, take 2 minutes to leave a decent reply. It's because
of people like you that nofollow was introduced in the first place.
Greg 13 years ago
I think people are far too quick to overlook nofollow. A lot of people look at the fact that they don't pass PR as a negative sign, but there's nothing saying that they still aren't used in the algorithms somewhere. Considering how important social links are becoming, I wouldn't be surprised to see nofollow links included somewhere as they are still a good indication of the sites social network. If you communicate well and add the the discussion I think you will likely see some reward.
Kevin J Railsback 13 years ago
I'm just getting into this whole backlink thing so it's still pretty new to me.
I guess I'll just continue to try and create great content for my site and try to figure it out as I go.