The Role of Nofollow Links in SEO: Wasted Effort or Strategic Move?

Are nofollow links really a waste of time for SEO specialists? 

This question has been the subject of much debate in the SEO community. While many believe that nofollow links offer no value because they don’t pass on “link juice,” others see strategic advantages in pursuing them. 

So, what’s the truth?

Let’s find out why some SEO specialists might be wasting their efforts on nofollow links and what you need to know about these often misunderstood link-building components.

Understanding Nofollow Links

Nofollow links (NLs) use the rel=”nofollow” attribute in their HTML code. This instructs search engines not to follow or pass authority through these links.

Unlike dofollow links, which transfer “link juice” and boost search engine rankings, nofollow links don’t directly contribute to SEO rankings.

In 2005, Google launched the nofollow attribute to tackle spam issues, particularly in blog comments and forum posts. This move aimed to reduce the impact of low-quality or irrelevant links on search engine rankings.

Yet, despite not directly impacting SEO, 46.9% of SEO specialists still pursue nofollow links.

Why is that?

Nofollow links are crucial for maintaining a natural and diversified link profile

Solely focusing on dofollow links can make a profile look suspicious to search engines, potentially leading to penalties.

Nofollow links can indirectly influence rankings

High-quality, relevant NLs from authoritative sources, like major news websites (BBC, CNN), educational sites (.edu), government domains (.gov), and popular industry blogs, can signal topical relevance and user trust. This is essential for a comprehensive SEO strategy.

Moreover, nofollow links emphasize user experience and content quality. 

A well-rounded SEO strategy includes building nofollow links to increase topical authority and drive traffic. It’s about creating a credible and balanced link profile.

  • Sujith Nair, Content Promotion Specialist at G2, underscores their importance: “Traffic is not the only jackpot.”

This clearly demonstrates that SEO experts recognize the value of nofollow links in an effective SEO strategy.

Common Misconceptions about Nofollow Links

Let’s clear the air about nofollow links. 

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around, leading many to undervalue these types of links. Here, we’ll debunk two of the most common myths and explain why NLs deserve a place in your SEO strategy.

Misconception 1: Nofollow links have no SEO value

Think NLs are worthless because they don’t pass authority? Nope. 

Nofollow links can drive valuable referral traffic and boost your brand’s visibility. This traffic can lead to conversions and increased engagement, indirectly benefiting your SEO efforts. That’s the truth.

Misconception 2: Nofollow links are a waste of time and resources

This misconception misses their indirect benefits. 

NLs contribute to a balanced, natural link profile, helping you avoid search engine penalties. 

Plus, high-authority sites like Forbes and BBC often use nofollow links, which can still enhance your site’s credibility and trustworthiness.

Debunking Misconceptions

Nofollow links can drive referral traffic and contribute to a natural link profile. 

High-quality NLs from authoritative sites like Forbes or Wikipedia can signal relevance and trust to search engines, indirectly benefiting your site’s rankings.

Here’s what SEO experts have to say about nofollow links on LinkedIn:

  • Morgan Taylor, founder of Jolly SEO, highlights that NLs benefit a domain’s backlink profile. They are natural, and some of the most reputable, high-traffic sites only use nofollow links. These links can significantly enhance your domain’s SEO and PR efforts.

  • Nick Biggs, Co-Founder at Linkifi.io, agrees: “Some of the best publications only link nofollow. It’s part of a natural link profile, and nofollow links are still impactful for your rankings.

All in all, NLs might not pass direct authority, but they add strategic value by building a diverse and credible backlink profile. They help signal trust and relevance, which are crucial components of a successful SEO strategy.

Benefits of Nofollow Links

Even though nofollow links often get a bad rap, their benefits can still be surprising to many. Let’s explore why these links deserve more credit in your SEO strategy.

Traffic Generation

Nofollow links can drive significant direct traffic to your website

Imagine a nofollow link on high-traffic sites like Business Insider or BuzzFeed. Even though the link is nofollow, the volume of visitors can bring thousands of potential customers to your site.

For example, a case study by Fractl revealed that a nofollow link from BuzzFeed resulted in a 271% increase in organic traffic for one of their clients​.

Similarly, Teknicks reported that a nofollow link drove 3,922 referrals in a single year, significantly boosting their client’s website traffic​​.

Brand Awareness and Visibility

NLs on popular or authoritative sites can significantly boost your brand’s visibility. Being mentioned on reputable sites like Forbes or The New York Times not only exposes your brand to a broader audience but also enhances your credibility.

For example, a nofollow link from a high-traffic site like Forbes can drive substantial referral traffic to your site. Forbes boasts millions of monthly visitors, meaning even a nofollow link can put your brand in front of a vast audience. 

This kind of visibility is invaluable for establishing your brand as an authority in your niche. Similarly, Wikipedia, which receives billions of page views each month, can lend significant credibility to your brand through NLs.

Diversification of Link Profile

A natural link profile includes both dofollow and nofollow links. Search engines see this balanced mix as a sign of organic growth. 

Overloading your profile with dofollow links can land you in hot water with Google. It can make your site look manipulative, risking penalties.

“Nofollow links help make your link profile look organic, which is crucial for Google when evaluating a site.”

Alex Vostretsov
SEO Team Lead at Admix Global
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A study by Ahrefs supports this.

Top-ranking pages often have a significant portion of NLs. This shows the importance of a natural link profile in maintaining search engine credibility and avoiding penalties.

Relationship Building

Guest posting and collaborations often result in NLs but bring long-term benefits. Building relationships with industry influencers and authoritative sites can open doors to future opportunities.

How can you build strong relationships? 

Start by securing a nofollow link from a reputable blog in your niche. This can pave the way for guest posts, dofollow links, and increased exposure. These connections are invaluable for networking and establishing your brand.

“Everyone wants to get a natural link profile and have the same kinds of links as the best sites. The best sites have nofollow links that users place themselves.”

Vladyslav Demydenko
a Senior SEO Specialist
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Building these relationships with industry influencers and authoritative sites can open doors to significant opportunities down the line.

Indirect SEO Benefits of Nofollow Links

Although NLs might not pass direct link juice, these subtle yet powerful elements can provide significant indirect SEO benefits. 

Here’s how they can enhance your overall SEO strategy.

Crawling and Indexing

Links from high-traffic sites with a nofollow tag can boost your site’s trust with search engines. 

According to Serpstat, nofollow links from high-traffic sites can boost your site’s trust with search engines. Reputable sites linking to your content signal valuable content worth exploring, aiding in quicker indexing and better visibility.

This is particularly helpful for new sites or content needing faster indexing. For instance, a nofollow link from Reddit can lead bots to your content, increasing its chances of being indexed sooner.

Social Signals

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are crucial for driving engagement and content sharing. While these links don’t directly pass SEO value, they help create a natural link profile that search engines prefer. 

As noted by 99signals, nofollow links from reputable sites and social media channels signal your content’s quality and value, indirectly helping your rankings. 

High-traffic social media sites can generate significant visibility and referral traffic, boosting your SEO through increased user interaction and potential follow links from other sources.

Content Validation

NLs from trusted sites like Forbes or The New York Times act as powerful endorsements for your content. While they don’t pass direct SEO value or “link juice,” they significantly boost your content’s credibility. 

This validation is key to establishing authority in your field.

As confirmed by Search Engine Journal, mentions from authoritative sites can significantly enhance your brand’s reputation. These endorsements drive organic growth through increased recognition and referral traffic. This helps create a natural link profile that search engines favor.

These mentions boost credibility, leading to higher user trust and engagement. This, in turn, encourages more organic linking and sharing, benefiting your SEO.

Kyle Roof’s Insight: A Surprising Revelation

Kyle Roof, an SEO expert at High Voltage SEO, uncovered a surprising fact about nofollow links. 

In a test, a nofollow link from a high-traffic page boosted the linked page from the middle of the search results to the top spot. 

This shows the crucial role of the context and source of nofollow links. Sites like Connectively (ex-HARO), where high-authority sites often use NLs, can still provide substantial SEO benefits.

More Fresh Insights

Serhii Belinskyi, Founder & CEO at Exagra Ltd, offers a fresh perspective on nofollow links.

Despite their lack of direct SEO value, Belinskyi notes that nofollow links can significantly boost brand visibility. They diversify your backlink profile and add crucial contextual relevancy.

Belinskyi shared an example where nofollow links from high-authority sites enhanced outreach efforts. These links helped convince other webmasters to provide backlinks, proving their indirect value.

Practical Strategies for Nofollow Link Building

Building nofollow links effectively requires smart strategies: 

  • Engaging in forums like Reddit and Quora boosts traffic and brand awareness.
  • Guest blogging on reputable sites enhances credibility.
  • Press releases and influencer collaborations increase visibility and trust. 

Let’s find out how each of these practical strategies can help you with nofollow link building in more detail.

Engaging in Forums and Communities

Active participation in forums and communities is a powerful strategy. 

Share insightful comments and answers to establish authority and build relationships. Engaging on platforms like Reddit and Quora can lead to nofollow links that drive traffic and boost brand awareness.

Trusted forums are frequented by search engines, ensuring your site gains indirect visibility. According to Semrush, popular forums like Reddit and Warrior Forum offer ample opportunities for engagement and link building.

This approach not only drives traffic but also enhances your brand’s credibility and presence online.

Guest Blogging

Even with NLs, guest posts on reputable blogs boost your online presence. 

High-quality contributions to sites like Medium or industry-specific blogs attract a wider audience and encourage social sharing.

This tactic enhances brand credibility and can lead to natural backlinks over time. According to Ahrefs, guest blogging helps reach new audiences and build industry relationships, improving your domain authority and search engine rankings.

Backlinko emphasizes that guest blogging positions you as an expert in your field, further enhancing your brand’s visibility and trustworthiness.

Press Releases and Media Coverage

Press releases often lead to nofollow links from top media sites. 

When major outlets cover your news, your brand’s visibility increases. Platforms like PR Newswire or Business Wire use nofollow links to avoid manipulation. Despite this, the traffic and authority gained are significant.

These mentions validate your content and enhance your reputation. 

According to Search Engine Journal, while NLs from press releases do not directly impact SEO rankings, they can drive significant traffic and increase brand awareness, indirectly benefiting your SEO efforts. 

Meltwater emphasizes using press releases strategically and ensuring they are newsworthy to capture media attention and secure high-quality coverage.

Social Media and Influencer Marketing

Social media and influencer collaborations are vital for modern link-building strategies. 

Nofollow links from platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn drive significant traffic to your website. 

When influencers share your content, it adds credibility and expands your reach.

Boosting Brand Awareness

According to SproutSocial, influencer marketing significantly increases brand awareness. 

Influencers have built trust with their followers, making their endorsements powerful for brand recognition. Strategic partnerships can amplify your brand’s reach and convert one-time buyers into loyal customers.

Enhancing Credibility

Working with influencers who are passionate about your niche ensures resonant content. 

This boosts your brand’s credibility, as influencers are seen as trusted authorities. Successful collaborations require careful planning and clear goals for maximum impact (Ainfluencer).

SEO Benefits

Influencer marketing can indirectly boost SEO by increasing brand mentions and generating backlinks. 

While these links are often nofollow, the increased traffic and engagement can enhance your site’s overall SEO. According to WebFx, this leads to more opportunities for backlinks and social shares, which are valuable for improving search engine rankings.

Proven Success

Massive companies leverage influencer marketing effectively.

For example, Gap uses Instagram posts,

and British Airways’ “UnGround Innovation Lab” involved hosting 100 thought leaders and influencers on a flight to brainstorm solutions for global issues, showcasing the power of collaboration and innovation​ (TINT).

These strategies drive leads, traffic, and conversions, proving that NLs are far from worthless.

Many businesses build NLs through influencer marketing because these mentions and references are precious. Adopting this strategy can boost your digital presence and drive meaningful results.

Final Thoughts

Nofollow links are crucial for a balanced SEO strategy. They enhance brand visibility, drive referral traffic, and help maintain a natural link profile, avoiding search engine penalties.

  • High-authority sites using NLs boost credibility and trust with search engines. These links aid in indexing and crawling, improving overall site visibility.
  • Social media and forums also play a role in building a natural link profile. Engaging on these platforms ensures steady traffic and strengthens brand recognition.

As you can see, nofollow links are essential for a comprehensive SEO approach, supporting credibility, traffic generation, and a diverse link profile. Prioritizing these links brings significant long-term benefits.