What Is the Purpose of Using Nofollow Attributes on Links, and How Do They Influence Link Equity and SEO?


The purpose of using nofollow attributes on links is primarily to control the flow of link equity and influence search engine optimization (SEO). The nofollow attribute tells search engines not to pass on any ranking benefits, commonly referred to as 'link juice,' to the linked page. Here’s a comprehensive guide explaining its significance and impact on SEO.

What is the nofollow Attribute?

The nofollow attribute is an HTML attribute used to instruct search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the ranking of the linked page in the search engine's index. It is implemented within the anchor tag of a hyperlink in the following way:

<a href="https://example.com" rel="nofollow">Example</a>

Origin and Development

Google introduced the nofollow attribute in 2005 to combat spam and influence search engine result pages (SERPs). Initially, it was primarily used to prevent comment spam in blogs, but its application has since expanded.

Link equity, often referred to as 'link juice,' is the value or authority that a hyperlink transfers from one page to another. This value significantly impacts a page's ranking in search engine results. Normally, when one page links to another, it passes a portion of its authority, enhancing the linked page's ability to rank well.

When a link is tagged with rel="nofollow", search engines such as Google, Bing, and others do not transfer link equity through that link. This means the linked page does not receive a ranking boost. Here’s how it impacts SEO:

  • **Prevents Manipulation:** Site owners can link to external pages without endorsing them, preventing the manipulation of search rankings through paid or low-quality links.
  • **Control of Outbound Links:** Helps in directing the flow of link equity to more valuable or authoritative pages internally or externally.
  • **Preservation of Site Authority:** Maintains the original site’s authority by not passing link equity to potentially harmful or irrelevant external sites.

Common Uses of nofollow

Several scenarios warrant the use of the nofollow attribute:

  1. Paid Links: Links that are part of advertisements or endorsements should carry a nofollow attribute to comply with guidelines and avoid penalties.
  2. Untrusted Content: If a site owner is unsure about the credibility of a linked resource, they might use nofollow to avoid being associated with low-quality content.
  3. User-Generated Content: Blogs, forums, and social platforms often use nofollow to combat spam and avoid unintentionally promoting linked pages.

A balanced approach is crucial to optimizing link equity effectively. While nofollow links protect against spam and manipulation, dofollow links (default links) are essential for improving page rankings and building relationships with other credible websites.

Strategies for Utilization

  • **Use nofollow for Enabling User Comments:** Apply nofollow to links in user-generated content to avoid passing authority to untrusted links.
  • **Internal Linking Strategy:** Use dofollow for internal links to help search engines understand site structure and pass equity to key pages.
  • **Sponsored Content Compliance:** Ensure sponsored or paid content links carry the nofollow attribute to adhere to search engine guidelines and avoid penalties.

Examples of Effective Use

A blog owner might write a product review and include a link to the product page while using rel="nofollow" to comply with advertising policies. Conversely, links to authoritative sources or similar niches without competitive overlap should retain their dofollow status to benefit SEO.

Recent Advancements and Alternatives

Google introduced two alternate attributes: rel="sponsored" and rel="ugc" (User-Generated Content) in 2019. These attributes help Google better understand link nature:

  • rel="sponsored": For links that are part of advertisements or sponsorships.
  • rel="ugc": For links in user-generated content like comments and forum posts.


The nofollow attribute is a powerful tool for controlling link equity and maintaining SEO integrity. By understanding when and how to use it, alongside newer attributes like rel="sponsored" and rel="ugc", webmasters can better manage the flow of authority and ensure compliance with search engine guidelines.