To Follow Or Nofollow: That Is the Link Question

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn commission from product purchased through these links. Because this is an affiliate marketing blog, so, #duh.

One of the reasons I often recommend the PrettyLink Pro WordPress plugin to bloggers is because you can set it to automatically nofollow the links you create. All too often, when I'm explaining this functionality, I get asked what the big deal is with creating a nofollow link.

So, obviously, it's time to lay it out.

And TBH, it's taken me a while to fully understand it myself, but what it all boils down to is link juice and what makes the Google Machine happy.

You'll see nofollow links referred to as nofollow or rel=nofollow.

The latter is a part of HTML command — the rel= is being a bossypants and commanding the link to be nofollowed. But this isn't the best way to explain it, because I'm not a profesh at this. So, I asked Daniel, Apogee's CTO, who is.

The latter is part of the HTML markup. On an HTML tag, things like the “rel=” bit are called attributes. Usually the web browser reads attributes to know how best to render — or display — the web page. In this case, Googlebot sees “rel=nofollow” and knows that the link should not be followed.

HTML is sometimes hard (for me) so I try to stay away from it lest I break the internet—and not in a good way. I let PrettyLink do the job for me. Thanks, PrettyLink!

Anyway, the Google Machine basically looks at links to sites as a thumbs up for that site, and the more of these thumbs up, the higher the site ranks in search.

But there are times when you may not want to be generous with those thumbs.

So you make your links nofollows, the Goog crawl bots don't follow the link and that site does not benefit from your link juice. Make sense? Good. Stick with me.


How do you know when to give the link juice and when to nofollow?

Basically there are two general rules:

If you're writing a not-so-favorable review / post, you may not want to give them link juice.

Look at it this way: If you're writing a sketchy review of a site, do you really want to tell Google “Yeah, they're all right, even if my post says otherwise”? Nah, probably not. If you don't trust it, don't follow it.

If you're compensated for the post — whether it's paid, affiliate links or otherwise — you should probs nofollow.

This one is important, though there have been conflicting reports out there saying Google can tell the difference between paid vs. not paid links and nofollow is irrelevant. But I'd personally rather be safe than sorry, you know? And I sure as shit would like to avoid a Google penalization if I can help it. It's totally something that can happen if you get flagged for having unnatural links. And it's a bitch and a half to fix that.

So, what if you want to give the site link juice?

As long as it doesn't fall victim to one of the above criteria, get it on! Especially if it's another blogger, a photographer or some really awesome shit you want to share with the world. Share on, yo! Scream it from the rooftops. Let the awesomeness be known!

In general, as with most things in blogging and marketing and well, life, make good choices and follow the rules.