What Are the Implications of Using Nofollow on Internal Links Versus External Links in Terms of SEO Best Practices?


The use of "nofollow" on internal and external links has distinct implications for SEO. Internally, it can potentially hinder the flow of PageRank and affect how search engines understand the structure of your website. Externally, it helps manage the distribution of link equity and control the association with linked content.

Understanding "Nofollow"

The <rel="nofollow"> attribute provides a way to tell search engines not to pass any rank or influence to the linked page. Initially introduced by Google in 2005, it serves as a guideline primarily to manage spam and untrusted content.

Using "nofollow" on internal links can lead to "link equity" issues. Link equity (or PageRank) is a critical factor as it represents the value passed through links. Internal "nofollow" links prevent the flow of this value within your own website:

  • Decreased Crawling Efficiency - Search engines may not index significant parts of your site because "nofollow" signals them not to follow those links, potentially rendering parts of your site invisible to search engines [Google Search Central, 2023].
  • Site Structure Clarity - Internal links help search engines understand your website's architecture. "Nofollow" obstructs this, impacting the site's SEO performance [Moz, 2023].

When to Use "Nofollow" Internally

Despite these drawbacks, there are contexts where "nofollow" on internal links might be justified:

"Nofollow" on external links allows you to control the flow of link equity to other domains, especially in situations where:

  • Untrusted Sources - Using "nofollow" prevents passing credibility to unknown or untrusted sites [Google Search Central, 2023].
  • Non-Endorsement - Indicates a non-endorsement of the linked page, useful for user-generated content or comment sections [Forbes, 2022].

Using "nofollow" is a best practice to signal paid or sponsored links, aligning with Google's guidelines to maintain transparency and avoid penalties [Search Engine Land, 2019].

SEO Impact and Best Practices

  • Maintaining credibility by using "nofollow" judiciously on external, untrusted links.
  • Marking sponsored content to comply with search engine guidelines [Google, 2019].

Examples of Effective "Nofollow" Use

Consider a situation where a website allows user comments. Links within these comments might not always be trustworthy. By applying "nofollow" to these, the site owner ensures that link equity is not passed to potentially harmful sites. Similarly, for affiliate links or paid endorsements, using "nofollow" helps to maintain transparency and compliance with guidelines.


Effectively managing the "nofollow" attribute in internal and external links is crucial for SEO. While internal use of "nofollow" should be limited to avoid hampering site structure and link equity, externally, it helps manage link value and maintain credibility by insulating your site from untrusted or paid links. Proper usage maintains your SEO health and aligns with search engine guidelines, optimizing visibility and trustworthiness.


  • [Google Search Central, 2023] Google. (2023). "Qualify Your Outbound Links." Google Developers.
  • [Search Engine Journal, 2022] Ellen, B. (2022). "The Complete Guide to Nofollow Links." Search Engine Journal.
  • [Moz, 2023] Moz. (2023). "Internal Links." Moz Learn SEO.
  • [Forbes, 2022] Forbes Agency Council. (2022). "An SEO Guide To Do-Follow And No-Follow Links." Forbes.
  • [Search Engine Land, 2019] Sullivan, D. (2019). "Google introduces new link attributes, their impact on SEO." Search Engine Land.
  • [Google, 2019] Google. (2019). "Evolving ‘nofollow’ – new ways to identify the nature of links." Google Search Blog.