What is rel=”no follow” and when to use it

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The rel=”no follow” tag was introduced by the major search engines in 2005 to fight spam and allow publishers to prevent outbound links from receiving ‘votes’ in favour of the content. So why would editors want to avoid passing votes? Well if search engines believe that outbound links have been paid, or are in anyway trying to influence search engine rankings, then they can penalise the site. Google is notorious for sending out webmaster penalties and removing sites from its index because it believes websites have unnatural link profiles.

So what’s the difference between a followed and no followed link?

Here’s what a following link looks like:

<a href=”http://www.davidvidgen.co.uk/”>anchor text</a>

and here is what a no follow link looks like:

<a href=”http://www.davidvidgen.co.uk/” rel=”no follow”>anchor text</a>

So when is it best to use?

  • Paid links. If you sell advertising space on your website then you should use the rel=”no follow” tag. This will stop you being penalised by Google.
  • Comments. If you allow comments on your site without moderation, then make sure all outbound links have the rel=”no follow” tag.
  • Embeds & Widgets. If you use third party widgets or infographics on your website and you don’t want to be seen endorsing the owners, then use the rel=”no follow” tag.
  • User Generated Content. If you allow others to contribute to your website, then you should use the rel=”no follow” tag.
  • Other. Where an outbound link is featured on a website, then the rel=”no follow” tag should be considered.

Is it just Google that prohibits paid links? Yes. Bing does not ban paid links, it simply suggests ‘being careful’ – details of Bing’s position can be found here. You can read Google’s position on  rel=”no follow” here.

What does the rel= stand for? It simply stand for ‘relationship’. The follow and rel=”no follow” tag, help you define your relationship with the receiving website.

If you are unsure, we always recommend using the rel=”no follow” option after all, the real purpose of any link is not to pass pagerank, but to generate leads and customers, so in the words of Eric Ward “link wisely”.

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