Does The rel="nofollow" Mean Not Follow?

Dec 11, 2006 • 8:26 am | comments (14) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Yahoo Search Engine Optimization

The rel="nofollow" was introduced by the search engines back in 2004 (I believe). Since then we have not had a clear understanding on how exactly each search engine treats them. Some speculate that the rel="nofollow" means that the search engines won't crawl those links. Some say they will crawl them but they won't pass the link on as a vote for the web page it is linking to. Some say the link is completely hidden to search engines.

A DigitalPoint Forums thread shows that confusion in action.

One person said;

I just checked backlinks of one of my sites on yahoo site explorer and noted that the first site being shown in the results is a site which has my link with a "nofollow" attribute.

Does this mean that yahoo doesnt care about rel="nofollow"? Can anybody else check and confirm this from their own sites? And what about MSN?

Others noticed the same thing with Yahoo!

The response that seems to work for him is;

Technically, rel="nofollow" does not mean the search engines won't spider the page. They will follow the link, spider the page and count the link as a backlink. What rel="nofollow" means is "don't trust the link", i.e. don't pass PageRank/TrustRank, etc.

The robots meta tag "nofollow" is different, and really does mean "don't follow links from this page", and has nothing to do with backlinks or PageRank.

That works, but a clear definition from each search engine would be nice.

Forum discussion at DigitalPoint Forums.

There is also a thread from the Google's perspective that is currently active at WebmasterWorld.

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Erik Dafforn

12/11/2006 01:49 pm

Barry, Thanks for bringing this up. There's a lot of confusion out there for people who really pay attention to the issue. Not trying to merely drop a link (pull it if you want), but I <a href="" rel="nofollow">did a writeup</a> recently where some of the "heavyweights" seemed to muddy the waters even further. It's quite frustrating.


12/11/2006 03:35 pm

Posted on the forum about this on 09-14-2006

Barry Schwartz

12/11/2006 03:48 pm

Wrong URL Gabs?


12/11/2006 04:47 pm

Sorry going mad.. This link

Barry Schwartz

12/11/2006 04:52 pm

Sorry for not covering that thread then. Today was a slow forum day...


12/11/2006 05:08 pm

Today is a slow web day..


12/11/2006 05:11 pm

Even my subliminal Xmas background music isn't working.. "So you wish it could be christmas everydaaaay.. click on my ads... When the band start clicking"...... joke btw :D

Eric Enge

12/11/2006 05:38 pm

I saw a discussion that covered this pretty clearly at the recent PubCon in Las Vegas. NoFollow is mis-named. It really should be named "NotAnEndorsement". NoFollow links are crawled. The search engines are always looking to discover more of the web, anyway they can. However, they do not pass any link value to the page linked to. This discussion was in a panel with several of the major search engines present.


12/12/2006 04:19 am

I like to think of the no follow attribute as a semantic tag in that you are telling the engines that you do not trust the site you are linking to. The search engines can then treat that signal in the search engine in a way that optimizes for the relevance of the results. This treatment may and will probably differ among search engines and may also differ over time among one single engine. Trying to figure out what the effects is and using the tag to have a desired effect is the wrong way to look at it. It should be a way of describing content.

Remi van Beekum

12/12/2006 08:14 am

At SES NY 2005, just after the rel=”nofollow” was introduced the Yahoo guy at the ‘Meet the crawlers session’ stated that Yahoo would follow the links, but give them a lower weight in calculating link popularity. That is because most links in rel=”nofollow” tags in for example comments in blogs are in fact links that tell the engines about popularity but the owner of the site can’t be sure about that and tells the engine ‘It’s probably a good link, but don’t trust it completely’. Google and MSN said they would not follow links in the rel=”nofolow” tag.

Jason Cooper

12/12/2006 05:24 pm

I was at PubConn in Vegas and at the website review session Matt Cutts stated "nofollow" simply means "don't pass pagerank" and that the link would still be followed AND that the subsequent pages would be indexed unless otherwise blocked by robots.txt or nofollow,noindex meta tags

Kian Ann

12/14/2006 04:05 am

Actually I'd always thought the nofollow attribute is only followed by Googlebot... is that true?


04/27/2008 11:11 am

I tried to post answers at yahoo answers and included my link at the source box. But later i found out that they are nofollow. was that a waste of time?


02/17/2011 02:18 pm

This is so difficult to build your rank with so many sites with nofollow. It is nice to know now the search engines will spider your site from the link. But would be nice to find a few good edu or gov sites that are dofollow. Thanks for the post.

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