What Role Does the Nofollow Attribute Play in the Management of Link Equity, and When Should It Be Applied?


The nofollow attribute is used to instruct search engines not to pass link equity, or "link juice," through a hyperlink. It is commonly applied to links that are paid or untrusted to prevent them from influencing search engine rankings. This guide explains the purpose and best use cases for the nofollow attribute in managing link equity.

Link equity, also known as "link juice," refers to the value or authority that is transferred from one webpage to another through hyperlinks. High-quality backlinks from authoritative sites can improve a page's ranking in search engine results.

The Nofollow Attribute

The nofollow attribute, introduced by Google in 2005, is an HTML attribute used to signal to search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the ranking of the link target in the search engine's index. The syntax is: <a href="URL" rel="nofollow">Link Text</a>.

When the nofollow attribute is added to a link, it tells search engine crawlers like Googlebot not to pass any link equity to the target page. This helps webmasters control their outbound link profile and prevent the manipulation of link-based ranking signals.

When to Apply Nofollow

One of the primary use cases for the nofollow attribute is on links associated with paid sponsorships or advertisements. Google’s guidelines explicitly state that failing to nofollow paid links can result in penalties or a loss of ranking [Qualify your outbound links, 2021].

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

User-Generated Content (UGC)

Links in user-generated content such as comments, forum posts, or profile bios are highly susceptible to spam. Applying the nofollow attribute to these links helps in safeguarding against unwanted SEO consequences [Evolving “nofollow” – new ways to identify the nature of links, 2019].

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

Untrusted Content

Websites may want to link to sources that are not completely trustworthy or could be considered low quality. Applying the nofollow attribute helps ensure that these links do not pass authority to potentially dubious pages [Link Schemes, 2022].

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

Specific Examples and Practices

Affiliate marketing links should also use the nofollow attribute. This ensures compliance with search engine guidelines and prevents the manipulation of search rankings.

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

Widgets and Infographics

Links embedded in widgets or infographics provided by third parties should employ the nofollow attribute to avoid passing unintended link equity [Google's Link Schemes, 2022].

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


The nofollow attribute plays a crucial role in managing link equity and maintaining search engine optimization (SEO) integrity. By using the nofollow attribute on paid, untrusted, or user-generated links, webmasters can better control their site's link profile and comply with search engine guidelines.