How Do Search Engines Treat Dofollow Links Differently From Nofollow Links, Especially in the Context of Link Equity Distribution?


Search engines treat dofollow and nofollow links differently in terms of link equity distribution. Dofollow links pass on link equity (or "link juice") while nofollow links do not. This affects the target page's ranking potential. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for SEO strategies.

Dofollow links are standard hyperlinks that are crawled by search engines and pass on link equity to the linked website. This means the linked site can benefit from the link in terms of search engine rankings.

Nofollow links include a specific attribute: <a rel="nofollow">. This tells search engines not to count these links as endorsements, and thus, they do not pass on link equity to the target site.

Dofollow links contribute to link equity, meaning they help enhance the PageRank of the target page. This is because search engines view each dofollow link as a vote of confidence, which can improve the target page’s authority and relevance.

For example, if a highly authoritative website links to another site using a dofollow link, the receiving site is likely to see an improvement in its search rankings. This is because the search engine interprets the link as an endorsement from a reputable source.

In contrast, nofollow links are designed to prevent the passing of link equity. These links are typically used in scenarios where the source site does not want to vouch for the linked content, such as in user-generated comments, paid advertisements, or untrusted content.

While nofollow links do not directly enhance search engine rankings, they can still drive traffic and potentially increase brand exposure. Therefore, their strategic use is still considered valuable in a comprehensive SEO approach.

Historically, Google treated nofollow links solely as hints rather than direct signals. However, in recent years, Google has stated that it now uses nofollow links as a hint for indexing and ranking purposes, but they still do not pass PageRank. This nuanced treatment indicates that nofollow links might have a more indirect influence on rankings than previously understood.

Google's official documentation provides more details on how they view and handle nofollow links: [Evolving “nofollow” – new ways to identify the nature of links, 2019].

Practical Considerations and Strategies

A well-rounded link profile often includes a mix of dofollow and nofollow links. While dofollow links are essential for passing link equity, nofollow links can enhance the diversity of your link profile and potentially improve visibility through direct traffic.

For example, if you are participating in forum discussions, leaving comments on blogs, or using social media, these platforms often use nofollow links. Although these links won't directly boost your page's rankings, they can create visibility and drive user engagement.

Use nofollow links when linking to potentially untrustworthy content, paid links, or user-generated content. This approach ensures that you are not inadvertently passing link equity to low-quality or irrelevant sites.

Google provides guidelines on the implementation of nofollow and other link attributes to help webmasters manage link equity distribution effectively: [Google's Guidelines on Nofollow, 2023].


Understanding the differences between dofollow and nofollow links is fundamental for effective SEO strategies. Dofollow links pass on link equity and can significantly influence search engine rankings, whereas nofollow links do not pass link equity but can still be valuable for traffic and brand awareness. By strategically using both types of links, you can enhance your site's authority and visibility.