Before I jump into the right way to use nofollow links, I won't assume that every blogger knows what a no follow link is. I didn't know for quite some time! When you use a nofollow link, Google will not transfer page rank or anchor text. (source)
So, why would you want to deny a page this "juice"? There are three reasons, according to Google, why you would want to use a nofollow link:
- You are being paid to share the link. If you are doing a sponsored post, you should be using a nofollow link. Links to a web page have some influence over how that page ranks with Google. So, Google wants to know that a link was paid for because that has a bearing on the "influence". It's the same concept as using a disclosure to let people know your relationship with the brand. Since it is similar to a disclosure, this would apply to any sponsored (even if you only received free product) or affiliate post.
- You don't want to vouch for the content that you are linking to. In other words, you don't trust the site or you're not completely confident about putting a stamp of approval (so to speak) then you want to use a nofollow link. An example of this would be, if someone does a guest post on your blog and links to a site that you are not sure about. (I don't allow third party links for guest posts. You can see my guidelines here.)
- Links that don't need to be crawled. Remember, when you link to something as a dofollow, you are telling Google to follow or index that link. There are some links that there is really no reason to ask Google to index because they are not a priority when it comes to ranking. For example, let's say you have a giveaway registration. There is no reason to have that form make page rank because it has a time clock. Or let's say you have a page that requires a password to access. This would be low priority, as well.
Failure to use nofollow links can (and will) hurt your ranking with Google.
When wouldn't you want to use a nofollow link?
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I was recently checking out links to my site on my webmaster tools dashboard, so I could add bloggers to a search for future roundups on my blog (take this FREE course to find out why and how to do this). I noticed that a blogger, whom I know pretty well, had linked to my site as a nofollow. A nofollow link is not the end of the world but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little disappointing. The reality is, though, it was most likely just a misuse of the nofollow tag and not that this person doesn't value my blog enough to share a little link love.
Again, a nofollow link is not the end of the world. There is still potential for referrals to your blog and you can still be discovered by new readers.
However, linking to other bloggers is something that can be helpful to them. It's a kind gesture and Google acknowledges it as one, as well. If you use nofollow links on anything and everything, it will hurt your ranking with Google. Basically, Google will see you only as a taker, not a giver, and will count it against you. This is why using nofollow links correctly is important.
Something that is quite common with bloggers is to advertise that their guest posts will be nofollow links. Unless you do not trust the guest poster's linked site, they are paying you (or they asked for the post for the purpose of a getting some of that Google juice), you do not need to use a nofollow link. (Especially if you approached them!) There have been instances when I have used nofollow links on a guest post but I do not have a blanket rule about it because these are the exception.
So, to summarize, you should not use a nofollow link if:
You are linking to a reputable source/blogger.
None of the three rules for nofollow links apply.
Now that we know if you are using a nofollow link correctly, how do you actually insert a nofollow link?
Inserting a nofollow link is quite simple but it does require code. How this actually works, depends on the blogging platform you use. In WordPress, you would need to switch to html and find the text you want to link. In Squarespace, copy the paragraph that contains the link and create a "code" box.
Insert the code below where you want the link to appear. Insert the website in place of "www.example.com" and the text that you want link where it says "Linked Text".
<a href="www.example.com" rel="nofollow">Linked Text</a>
Remember, there is nothing wrong with sharing a little Google love with other sites and bloggers, just make sure you're following the rules!