If you don’t want to read my story, skip to the heading: “What are dofollow and nofollow links?”.
A couple of weeks ago I got an “exciting” email (or so I thought) from an international online store known for their stylish and affordable clothing!
They told me that they would like me to create a wishlist and write a review on my blog (so, two separate posts). In exchange, I would get to choose $30-worth of products from their online store that they would send to me for FREE, as long as I write the review. I didn’t start my blog with the intention of getting free things (I mean, have you seen the quality of my posts before I found my style in March 2017?) and I have never contacted a company to send me things before. This was, in fact, the first time that I had been contacted by a company to do something like this, so I was excited, grateful and flattered all at once because someone thought that my tiny blog was actually worth something.
The lady that I was dealing with sent me a link to an example of what I would need to write. The example was a blog post about styling a yellow summer dress. I could work with that. While I waited for more information to be sent to me, I spent hours going through the endless amount of clothing on their website. I was picturing how I would style a long-sleeved dress for winter or maybe a pretty playsuit for spring. Eventually, I got the email with all of the final details and I was told to create a wishlist about the new fidget-spinners that they added to their site.
Yes, fidget-spinners. That was pretty anti-climatic and I immediately decided to reject their offer. However, I continued to read the rest of the instructions for interest’s sake. Here’s what really, really upset me:
They told me that I MUST use a dofollow link.
If you don’t understand, I recommend that you continue reading. The following information has been put in very simple terms and, although there is a tonne of more information, I have only included what I considered to be most important for a blogger like myself. Also, at the time that you are reading this, the information included here may already be outdated.
What are dofollow and nofollow links?
According to Google Support,
“Nofollow” provides a way for webmasters to tell search engines “Don’t follow links on this page” or “Don’t follow this specific link.”
In simple words, Google will not acknowledge a nofollow link. Therefore, the linked site’s Domain Authority (DA) score does not increase when included in your blog post. Of course that means that Google does acknowledge a dofollow link and it will increase the linked site’s DA score when included in your blog posts. To your readers, a dofollow and a nofollow link look exactly the same. It is the HTML that is changed.
What is Domain Authority?
Domain Authority (DA) is a score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERP). Domain Authority scores range from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.
Basically, it’s a measurement of how popular your blog is on a scale from 1 to 100. The higher your DA score is, the higher you will appear on the search engine (wouldn’t we all love to appear on the first page of Google?). View your DA score here.
Okay, so far we an say:
nofollow link = no acknowledgement = does not count towards your DA score (it does not increase)
dofollow link = acknowledgement = counts towards your DA score
What does this mean for you as a blogger?
Like the company in my story above, bloggers are often sent products or offered services in exchange for a post with a dofollow link. This will hopefully increase the company’s DA score and put their website closer to page 1 on the search engine. What many bloggers don’t know is that this is against Google’s policy! According to Google, the following can negatively impact your blog’s ranking in search results:
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.
That means that, if a company offers to send you products to review on your blog, you may not use a dofollow link because you haven’t paid for the product. Google sees this as a way of manipulating a site’s PageRank and DA score and therefore increasing search engine spam whilst decreasing the quality of the search engine results. Basically, without these guidelines, Google will be a huge mess of irrelevant links, and your blog can be penalized by decreasing its rank in the search engine.
How do I create dofollow and nofollow links?
It’s actually pretty simple! Most platforms automatically make links dofollow, which means that it will increase that site’s DA score. If you’ve received a product or service for free, you will need to manipulate that link’s HTML. I know of two easy ways to do this. First, change the HTML of the link from
<a href="http://google.co.za/"> Google </a>
<a href="http://google.co.za/"rel="nofollow"> Google </a>
Second, if you’re not comfortable with manipulating the HTML of your blog, you can install a plugin, such as Title And Nofollow For Links for WordPress blogs. You will see a new checkbox, that will make the link nofollow, in the section where you edit links.
How do I increase my DA score?
The best way to influence the Domain Authority metric is to improve your overall SEO. In particular, you should focus on your link profile — which influences MozRank and MozTrust — by getting more links from other well-linked-to pages.
Many companies have a long list of bloggers and, hoping that they are not well-informed about topics such as this, entice you with free things or a bit of money in exchange for dofollow links pointing to their sites in order to increase their own DA score (obviously not caring about the fact that your site may be reported or detected by Google bots, which can drastically decrease your DA score). This is what the company tried to do with me and chances are it has happened (or will happen) to you.
What should I do if a company asks me to use a dofollow link?
You can do whatever you want, really. If you’re okay with your blog being penalized and contributing to irrelevant results in search engines, go ahead and accept the company’s offer. Alternatively, you can give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are not aware of the differences between dofollow and nofollow links (pffft), and then educate them. Lastly, you can reject their offer because chances are they know exactly what dofollow and nofollow links are if they specifically instruct you to use a dofollow link. I STRONGLY recommend sticking to Google’s guidelines.
Okay, so this is a lot of information. Crazily enough, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s enough for now. I hope that you have gained a bit of new knowledge and that I have helped you in some small way. You can read more about link schemes here.