Google: No Nofollow Linking Penalty

Jul 2, 2012 • 8:45 am | comments (36) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

nofollowDo you have an awful lot of sites linking to you with the nofollow attribute appended to the link? Are you worried Google uses that as a signal to not trust your site? Google's John Mueller said don't worry, it won't hurt you.

In a Google Webmaster Help thread, John Mueller of Google said having a lot of links with nofollows pointing to you won't have a negative impact on your site.

John wrote:

Having links (even a large number of them) with rel=nofollow pointing to your site does not negatively affect your site. We take these links out of our PageRank calculations, and out of our algorithms when they use links.

It obviously won't help you either but it shouldn't hurt.

I am a bit surprised by this, because if 90% of the links pointing to my site were nofollowed, I'd think that would raise a red flag. Of course, assuming I had a substantial number of links.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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07/02/2012 01:00 pm

I guess with more and more average Joe's becoming aware of PageRank, they're no following more and more not wanting to lower the link juice on their page.

Praveen Sharma

07/02/2012 01:05 pm

But why are you surprised.. may be a site owner doesn't want crawler to crawl their links.. and for that if you flag it as red, then it would be unfair to the site owner...

Jason Keith Mailley

07/02/2012 01:13 pm

If it were, any small entrepreneur that would be active on the social networks and blogs would get penalized.


07/02/2012 01:29 pm

This is yet another reason why the nofollow has been so bad for the web. It gave search engines a short cut to ignore a lot of links, but ultimately gave spammers a need to hit many more targets to accomplish their goals. It is trivial for a spammer to up their list from 1000 to 100000 targets. Moreover, it gave spammers an easy opportunity to determine which sites were worth spamming. The search engines seems to have forgotten that the worst part about spam is not the impact it has on rankings, it is the impact it has on web communities that become inundated by it. It can literally destroy forums. The better solution all along was to actually find a way to devalue ALL spam link sources, or to find a way for webmasters to privately disclose their untrustworthy link spots (ie: in GWT or BWT)

Jon Wade

07/02/2012 02:04 pm

this makes perfect sense. If there was a penalty, then any new business / website which does a lot of advertising will get a penalty for only having nofollow links. That would be daft. Also, and this may come as a bit of surprise to some, many people comment on blogs because they enjoy engaging with other people, not because they are after links. Again, it would be a bit unfair to frown upon activity such as talking to people online!


07/02/2012 02:46 pm

Wouldn't Google be in even more deep Voodoo with regulators if they didn't discount the nofollows as this 'tool' could be a direct weapon against ad competition?


07/02/2012 02:59 pm

The is no way to spam website, if the owner doesn't allow to spam.

K Huffman

07/02/2012 04:06 pm

Is there any reason why I shouldn't have my entire site set to nofollow on every link?

Andrew Isidoro

07/02/2012 04:12 pm

But surely through engagement you'd build yourself up as a contributor or even an authority, which would in itself garner links to your website?

Jon Wade

07/02/2012 05:22 pm

Maybe you would, although I would guess that you would have a lot more discussions through blogs than natural links as a result of people reading your comments, following your links and deciding to blog about something you covered. It probably changes a lot between different topics.

Jeremy Pendleton

07/02/2012 05:44 pm

This also helps with allowing those few terrible black SEO companies that try to take down a competitors website by using negative SEO tactics. I like that it's not penalizing those unfortunate businesses

James Burrow

07/02/2012 06:09 pm


SEO Los Angeles

07/02/2012 06:16 pm

Wouldn't Google be in even more deep Voodoo with regulators if they didn't discount the nofollows as this 'tool' could be a direct weapon against ad competition?


07/02/2012 08:16 pm

Yeah, another professional ... James Burrow ‏on Twitter : Finally just paid a guy in Brazil to convert my ancient Drupal 5.x site to Wordpress. $40 well spent. LOL )) SEOs, why are you sooooooooooooo stup........... unprofessional ???


07/02/2012 08:32 pm

Either we have a glitch here or you repeated my comment....or perhaps all of your message didn't get posted. :-)


07/02/2012 09:35 pm

You will hurt yourself if you are no-following internal links though, more info here:

Rick Parish

07/02/2012 11:32 pm

Some of the common places you’ll see nofollow links is in any kind of paid link (if a paid link doesn’t have the rel=nofollow attribute, Google could punish your site) and comments on blogs and forums, where the site doesn’t necessarily trust any link that any random person might post (the idea here being to discourage link spam). ???? So Google could punish this blog? Most of its ads do not have NO FOLLOW? But this site ranks #1 I dont think there are rules in the Google Algo Regulators do need to step in and audit google

Anti Anti-SEO

07/03/2012 05:27 am

What has that got to do with James comments? You're hiding behind a fake name. Come out in open then make ridiculous comments. If you want to make a point then do it in the context of this post don't go about sniffing on twitter etc. If you're man enough then tell everyone who you are. I DARE you!


07/03/2012 07:06 am

i already changed my hundreds of thousands sitewide link farm links to nofollow back in 2009 and didnt receive any love letter from google yet...

Malcolm Gibb

07/03/2012 11:47 am

I agree with what Google says. I always thought that nofollow links may have had a small benefit as they are still sources of referrals, but I am glad they have came out and said that nofollow links do no negatively impact sites as my own site has a dreadful percentage of nofollow links purely because I engage with blogs a lot and comment on good articles. Nearly every blog uses nofollow these days so penalising those who engage seems counter-productive. Nofollow no longer represents untrustworthy sources, especially since it was abused to shape page rank.


07/03/2012 01:19 pm

Well, probably for you, as a SEO, this Twitter post tells nothing. For me it makes obvious, that James Burrow didn't create a piece of code in his life. Means his statement above doesn't make sense. His "knowledges" are based on yellow press articles about hackers, nothing else. Unfortunately, this is usual story of so-called SEOs and I'm glad that Google took steps to make industry more competitive and as a result more professional.

Faisal Qureshi

07/03/2012 03:44 pm

I feel much relax now by reading this post as my blog post also have many dofollow back links.

Gregory Smith

07/03/2012 04:06 pm

Who thought this did generate a penalty?

Gregory Smith

07/03/2012 04:08 pm

Sure there is plenty of reason's to not use those plugins that add the rel="nofollow" attribute to every link. Why would you no follow your own links, pointing to your other pages?

Gigantic Idiot

07/03/2012 04:20 pm

What about for external links?

Broken Condor

07/03/2012 04:21 pm

More likely, spam. "SEO Los Angeles"

Miguel Salcido

07/03/2012 05:55 pm

What no one seems to be discussing here is what about the impact on anchor text? If you have 80% nofollow links with exact match anchor text, can that trigger a penalty? What about folks that try to balance out exact match anchor text with branded nofollow links, will this work???

Pete Arkwright

07/03/2012 06:15 pm

and if they change their mind in the future????????????


07/04/2012 01:35 pm

Happy Fourth of July everyone, I never really pay attention which blogs are do follow-which ones are not, I just enjoy leaving comments whenever and wherever.

Gregory Lancaster

07/08/2012 03:16 am

Dont believe what John said. Google does not tell the truth about much, and I doubt this is accurate.

Rahman Mehraby

07/09/2012 04:14 pm

Maybe you get penalized for lots of nofollow links,but I tell you when it could happen: There are lots of scam terrible, useless services with big names and top rankings who play those old tricks of "250 links in a fraction of a second to your site"! Yes, I'm talking about old-fashioned and outdated mass directory submission services. I've seen one of their advertisements in a credible website!! Yes, 250 "nofollow" links in one second with similar anchor text won't do much help. Also, John Mueller talks about no positive/negative effect on PageRank. Do we care more about our search engine rankings or PageRanks? Rahman Mehraby TRAVELIST.BIZ


07/16/2012 08:50 pm

It makes sense, don't worry about this. We use nofollow attributes on links between our sites and it doesn't affect our ranking. Fortunately, there is a way to tell Google "Please ignore this link" even if it doesn't listen to you... ;)

David G.

07/28/2012 05:40 am

I agree, people are way too worried about this. Maybe it won't help a ton, but it's not going to hurt. If it did, then YOU wouldn't even have to do anything to get your site slammed in the rankings - people linking to your content could hurt you.

Aamir Usman

11/02/2012 09:48 am

I have ruined my site by putting nofollow tag on internal links, at least this is what I think and I want help from you guys. My site is going deeper and deeper day by day in Google search engine (bing ranking is still stable.). My site has gone to 10th page for a keyword for which it was ranking on 1st or 2nd position. I read few months back on Yoast's site that we should place nofollow tag on Tags and even on Categories list esp on single page. I applied nofollow tag to my all categories on single post, which are serving as a navigation menu on my blog. When viewing archive page/category page or homepage, nofollow tag was removed from this menu made up of only categories. It seems this act has ruined the page ranking, site crawling and even the whole site ranking. One more thing which I did in recent past was the change of permalink. I changed permalink about 8 months ago and then re-changed to a new permalink after 3 months of that change. Now I am thinking what action caused all the issues I have described above. Please tell me what to do now and how to recover from this issue.

Ngan Tengyuen

12/09/2012 03:59 pm

The no-follow tag is an interesting one. The Google webmaster’s area shows me that a number of sites are linking to me (blogs). These are definitely nofollow links as I double-checked the source-code.

vishnu kumar

01/03/2013 10:17 am

Feeling relaxed now... I hardly get any do follow link...

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