Can The Nofollow Tag Hurt Ones Rankings?

Mar 30, 2007 • 7:12 am | comments (15) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

There is an interesting thread at WebmasterWorld about a site that appears to be losing ground in Google because they used the nofollow attribute for linking to some of their internal pages. For example, they nofollowed links to their privacy policy, contact us page, user agreement, terms of service and so on.

theBear, someone I really respect in the forums, responded saying something very true:

Only part of which is strictly PR related, depending on how Google looks at things the related link text should be made moot, the page that is doing the link just had an update done to it, and the page linked to should have also lost an IBL. So could this affect ranking etc? Yup.

Then WebmasterWorld administrator, Tedster, response with more food for thought:

Let's take a very naive look at this. The rel=nofollow attribute was introduced to combat blog comment spam. It was supposed to mean "I don't vouch for this link."

What message does that send if the link goes to one of the pages on your own site - especially to contact information which certainly you would "vouch for"? I think the message is very clear: "I'm trying to manipulate Google's rankings for my urls."

But let me add one more twist to this. In the past I reported how Google handles the nofollow attribute. Specifically, that Google will not crawl a link that has the nofollow attribute on it. Adam Lasnik of Google specifically said that. But of course, Google will crawl the same URL if it is linked to elsewhere, without the nofollow attribute.

So, if Google won't crawl a link that has the nofollow attribute associated. And if these pages are not linked to from other sources (typically a privacy policy, contact us page, user agreement, terms of service type of page), then they won't do well in the search results. Plus, those pages (the ones that are linked to using the nofollow tag) will not benefit your other pages on the site.

All in all, the theory has some substance. But I can see an argument against all three points in this article. Kind of makes for a good thread.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Peter van der Graaf

03/30/2007 12:31 pm

Most search engines are all about focus. You might hope that the nofollow attribute on some links will increase focus on the remaining ones. Do you think this is the case?

Milan Kryl

03/30/2007 01:01 pm

If you don't want to crawl some sites - always you can add them to robots.txt file. ;)

Michael Martinez

03/30/2007 03:46 pm

Well, since the original poster arbitrarily rules out any discussion of possible alternative explanations, the entire premise is completely without merit. Yet another WMW discussion that really isn't worth reading further into, in my humblest opinion. For the record, anyone who wants to NOFOLLOW their own content deserves to lose rankings regardless of whether that is the cause.

Barry Schwartz

03/30/2007 03:49 pm

Michael, Honestly - you need to stop it. For a second, look at the concept of what I am pulling out the thread. Stop showing hate for WMW. Just look at what I am summarizing and theorizing. Do you have anything to add now? If not, then no need to reply.

Steven Bradley

03/30/2007 07:57 pm

Interesting Barry. I'm not really sure why someone would want to nofollow internal links, but the theories above do make sense. One thing though is that despite Google's claims I see evidence all the time they do crawl links that have nofollow applied. I see them showing up all the time in backlink checks. They may not count for much, but they do appear to be followed despited the attribute. Recently I was looking at a site that had very little in the way of links other than a few hundred nofollowed blog comments and the homepage of the site ranked well for the anchor text in those nofollowed links

James Matthews

03/30/2007 09:35 pm

funny wikipedia isn't having these issues!

Barry Schwartz

03/30/2007 09:53 pm

Wikipedia doesn't use the nofollow on internal links, only external links.


03/31/2007 02:36 am

Rel=nofollow is technically equivalent to robots.txt disallow. I don't hear anyone telling me I shouldn't use robots.txt.

Lea de Groot

03/31/2007 09:35 am

Halfdeck: no, I wouldn't say they are equivalent - a meta robots noindex is fairly close to a robots.txt disallow, but a rel=nofollow says 'I don't mean anything by this link'. ie the rel=nofollow talks about the link while robots and meta robots talk about the page.

David Eaves

04/01/2007 02:55 pm

I have studied the effect of nofollowed links and I am pretty positive that they work fine with MSN and I am also pretty positive that even though Yahoo follows them and shows them as backlinks they do nothing at all, same with Google no affect whatsoever.

No Name

05/16/2007 02:56 pm

I have tried it and yes it does work with MSN, Yahoo and also Google.


11/14/2007 06:00 am

I found this on the search engines. I hope Im not 6 months behind an answer. I have a site with over 100 links on each page. They have useful placement so I really dont want to cut them out. I hear that too many links (100+) can cause problems. Now a lot of the pages overlap links. I chose to use nofollow on a lot of them to reduce the amount of apparent links. Page 1 has a follow link to page 3 page 2 has a nofollow link to page 3 I am assuming that page 3 will be followed by the googlebot from the 1st page, but the second example is just for the viewers. A robot.txt doesnt help because I want the page followed. I dont want google to follow all my links on a particular page but I want all the pages crawled. I dont know whether nofollow means ignore link or if it counts my efforts as a no vote for my internal link

No Name

01/17/2008 10:16 am

You shouldn't have more than 100 links on one page to other websites; inbound links don't count. I used nofollow attribute linking to some inner pages on my site and this caused them to be un-indexed. One should never do it.

No Name

07/10/2008 10:03 am

Adding a robots.txt file definitely helps, if the search engine is in co-operation. The no follow instructs search engines that the hyperlink should not affect the rankings of the link to prevent spam.

Alexandra Brian

01/24/2011 05:49 am

No follow attribute is like you want to cross the river but you don't have bridge. it's just work for search engines but for the purspective of people it helps you in every case because if some one see your link like your post or article he/she will swim to come and see y0our site across the river.

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