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The internet is a massive megalopolis, connected by virtual roads and bridges called links. These links create relationships between websites, and allow content to be discovered and indexed by search engines. On the surface, all links seem equal, but lurking in the HTML are pieces of code which differentiate some of these links. Search bots read the link code and follow regular (or dofollow) links but they skip over those which are tagged as “nofollow” links. So why does this matter to you and your website? What is the real difference between follow vs. no follow links? Understanding the characteristics and value of links is the first step in constructing a vibrant, balanced backlink system for your website, and then reaping the increased exposure and marketing benefits it offers.
Types of Links
Web crawlers need links to travel from page to page around the internet, where they constantly discover new content. Consumers need links to navigate the internet as well, venturing from site to site, or from page to page within a website. There are essentially three types of links: internal links, external links and backlinks.
Internal links connect pages within your own website, allowing visitors to click and find what they need. They allow users to navigate from page to page, more deeply throughout your website. Internal links also enable web crawlers to access your website’s content and structure in an efficient way. The more efficient things are, the more content will be indexed and recalled in a search.
External links connect one of your website’s pages to a page on another website. They are used to cite resources or related content. Some website owners are reluctant to use external links, thinking that people will exit their website and leave forever, but external links are more of an asset than a liability. They show search engines that your website exhibits EAT (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) because you have referenced other reliable sources.
A backlink is another type of link: an inbound link which connects someone else’s page to a page on your website. Backlinks are a rich source of SEO clout, and a core piece of Google’s ranking algorithm. If you have a high number of backlinks, bridging other websites to your own, this shows the search engine that your website has something valuable and relevant to users. Although backlinks are important, the goal is not to simply get as many links as possible. It is more favorable to gain backlinks that originate from quality websites which connect meaningfully to your pages.
Follow vs. No Follow Links and SEO
Google’s search engine has a metric to calculate the number and quality of backlinks connected to your site. The more quality backlinks your website has, the more “points” or “link juice” you have. This translates into more SEO success and higher rankings on the search results pages. But, not all links are created equal.
A follow or “dofollow” link is just the ordinary, default state of a link. It is the natural type of link that leads a user to your website from another website. The best strategy for obtaining follow links is by creating high quality, original content that gets viewed and shared organically.
No Follow Links
No follow links are different. No follow links came into being when numbers of website owners tried to exploit links to their advantage. Attempting to outsmart the search engines, these individuals would plant links wherever they could, in an effort to add more link juice to their website and artificially boost their rankings. These unethical, unhelpful links would show up in spammy comments and advertising gibberish. This cluttered up the internet and caused Google to introduce the “no follow” attribute for links in 2005.
All links look the same to the average website visitor. However, inside a no follow link is a small piece of code, called an attribute, that tells search engine crawlers not to follow that link. It reads rel=”nofollow”. Links on these types of content are typically the “no follow” kind:
- Social media
- Blog comments
- Sponsored content
- Any WordPress user-submitted content
- Any Wikipedia user-submitted references
- Anything that Google deems “untrustworthy content”
Benefits of No Follow Links
So, if you want to establish your website’s authority and boost rankings, do not waste all of your time leaving self-promoting blog comments that link to your website. However, no follow links are not worthless, because they have the ability to:
- Funnel More Traffic. Although they do not directly promote SEO, they can increase the traffic to your website, leading to more conversions.
- Create Brand Awareness. A well-placed forum post or social media comment can promote your brand, establish your credibility, and lead to more referrals.
- Bring Balance. Your website needs a natural blend of follow and no follow links. In fact, a recent update reported that it is suspicious when a website contains all follow links and none of the no follow links.
Follow vs. No Follow Links – How To Tell Which Is Which
Within Chrome, click View>Developer>View Source on the navigation bar. You can also right click on a page and choose Inspect Element. From there choose Edit>Find and search for “nofollow” in the search box, and all no follows will be highlighted.
To keep track of link types in a more detailed way, you can employ one of the following extensions:
Maintain a Link Balance
A solid balance of follow and no follow backlinks is best, and both types of links should factor into your marketing strategy. While follow links are optimum for SEO, no follow links can drive traffic to your site and spread your brand around. Some experts say that you should have an equal balance of follow and no follow links, and other ranking gurus disagree, but it seems that the most successful websites have a greater number of follow links than no follows, and rest at a ratio of 75:25 in follow to no follow links. With this in mind, consider the following ways to build a balance of backlinks:
- Post consistent, quality content on your website
- Add a blog to your website
- Build internal links within your website’s pages
- Write a guest post for another related website
- Contribute a column to your law school
- Write an article for a community publication
- Comment on social media
- Post content on LinkedIn
- Host a podcast
How Law Quill Can Help
Links are crucial in the structure of the internet and your website. It is important to invest time and thought into the health and balance of your links, since they have the potential to help you reach your marketing goals and bring new client referrals. No follow links can bring prospective clients your way, as well as promote your brand and establish your reputation and reliability. Regular, or follow, links can offer SEO benefits and have the potential to boost your rankings. If your website’s link juice is running dry, consider ways you can increase your link building with some creative new strategies.
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