Do-follow vs No-follow SEO Backlink Analysis

by | Last updated Jun 12, 2020 | Published on Mar 5, 2020 | SEO

Do you want to improve your website’s visibility in search? According to Google Webmaster Guidelines, there are two ways to help the world’s number one search engine find your site. Ask them to crawl it and, “Make sure that any sites that should know about your pages are aware your site is online.”

In other words, you have to get links from relevant sites without violating Google’s link building rules. In this post, we’re going to focus on the classification of links as dofollow and nofollow. Specifically, we’ll explain:

How these classifications affect the SEO value of a backlink, how to identify dofollow vs nofollow backlinks, and what No-follow/Do-follow percentages appear in the backlink profiles of pages and root domains ranking at the top of SERPs for competitive search terms.

But first, let’s start with the basics.

What is a dofollow backlink?

A dofollow backlink is any link to a website that hasn’t been classified as nofollow, sponsored, or UGC (user-generated content). In the HTML code, a dofollow backlink to your website would look like this.

<a href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/”>Your Website</a>

Dofollow backlinks are the holy grail of link building. If your website receives a dofollow backlink from a website with higher authority in your niche, it would boost your website’s authority and help increase your visibility in search.

What is a nofollow backlink?

A nofollow backlink is any link to a website that has been classified as nofollow. In the HTML code, a dofollow backlink to your website would look like this.

<a href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Your Website</a>

When a link to your website is marked as nofollow, the webmaster is telling Google not to follow the link from their website or associate it to their website. In the past, Google has suggested this classification has been used for a variety of purposes.

As of March 1, 2020, however, Google’s new outbound link classification has gone into effect. In addition to nofollow, webmasters can now use tags specific to sponsored content and user-generated content. For example, you were to purchase an ad from a website, your backlink could be classified as the following.

<a href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/” rel=”sponsored”>Your Website</a>

If you were to make a comment in a forum or blog post, your backlink as the following.

<a href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/” rel=”ugc”>Your Website</a>

Webmasters can also add nofollow to each of these tags to further “hint” to Google that they do not want certain sponsored or UGC links followed.

<a href=”https://www.yourwebsite.com/” rel=”sponsored nofollow”>Your Website</a>

Does a nofollow backlink have value?

Does a nofollow backlink have value? Yes. If you have a backlink to your website that increases your brand visibility and drives a lot of visitors back to your website, then it does have value.

Does a nofollow backlink have SEO value? Maybe. According to Google’s original blog post in September about the new outbound link classification methods, Google’s algorithm will use them as “hints” for ranking purposes.

While it sounds like Google may ignore nofollowed backlinks, that may not be the case. In an episode of Ask Google Webmasters, John Mueller states that “When our systems run across links tagged like this [nofollow], we take note of them, but we don’t forward any of these so-called signals to the linked pages in general. This means we don’t pass any page rank from the link source to the link target.”

Man Demonstrating Value

After watching more Google Webmasters videos, the answer seemed to be consistent from Matt Cutts to other Google webspam team experts. Nofollow links may not help your website rank better in search results. But if you are building links on relevant, high authority websites, those nofollow links will have value in terms of driving referral traffic to your website.

How do I know if a link is dofollow or nofollow?

If you’re looking at a website as a potential link acquisition target, there are a few ways to see if the link you want to get will be dofollow or nofollow. You can start by downloading browser extensions like the Nofollow Chrome extension, which highlights links in red that are nofollowed. If you wanted to get a link on Forbes as an article contributor, you’ll notice that any links within those articles may be nofollowed according to the Nofollow Chrome extension.

Forbes Webpage Anchor Text

Unfortunately, not all browser extensions may catch the new rel=sponsored and rel=ugc backlink classification tags that webmasters are now implementing. The next best way to check is to view the source code of the web page you want to get a link upon.

Check the outbound link code on the page to see if there are any special rel= tags to see what type of link you may end up with. Chrome’s Developer Tools (View > Developer > Developer Tools) can help. Right click on the link you want to check and click Inspect.

Right Click to Inspect Element

This will reveal the Developer Tools, showing the code for the link. If you see the rel tags for nofollow, sponsored, or UGC, you’ll know you won’t be receiving a clean dofollow link.

Inspect Element Google Chrome

If the link will bring you brand visibility and traffic, it’s still worth it for those purposes. It just may not help with passing page rank and increasing your visibility in search.

SEO Backlink Analysis in SERPs for Competitive Search Terms

Google uses a wide range of ranking signals to determine which web pages make it to the top of SERPs (search engine results pages) for a particular search term. While backlinks aren’t the only ranking signal, most competitive analysis will reveal that the top pages in SERPs have a similar number of backlinks.

The following are backlink profile analysis summaries for the top five pages in SERPs for three competitive search terms on google.ca. The data was provided by SEMrush.

SEMrush tools in action

SEO backlink analysis for the top pages for auto insurance:

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https://www.farmers.com/auto/ has 782 (43%) dofollow and 1K (57%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 1.3M (77%) dofollow, 371K (22%) nofollow, 1 (<1%) sponsored, and 45 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://www.libertymutual.com/auto has 1.4K (50%) dofollow and nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 2.1M (95%) dofollow, 111K (4%) nofollow, 1 (<1%) sponsored, and 23 (<1%) UGC backlinks

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https://www.allstate.com/auto-insurance.aspx has 2.3K (54%) dofollow and 2K (46%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 6.2M (87%) dofollow, 874K (12%) nofollow, 8 (<1%) sponsored, and 143 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://www.nationwide.com/personal/insurance/auto/ has 1.1K (56%) dofollow and 874 (44%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 2M (88%) dofollow, 284K (11%) nofollow, 2 (<1%) sponsored, and 319 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://www.esurance.com/insurance/car/ has 1.4K (64%) dofollow and 778 (36%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 123K (73%) dofollow, 44.4K (26%) nofollow, and 37 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

SEO backlink analysis for the top pages for mortgage loan:

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https://www.lendingtree.com/home/mortgage/ has 1.1K (7%) dofollow and 14.1K (93%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 3.8M (93%) dofollow, 257K (6%) nofollow, and 89 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://www.quickenloans.com/home-loans has 194 (47%) dofollow and 217 (53%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 2.5M (98%) dofollow, 54.6K (2%) nofollow, 4 (<1%) sponsored, and 105 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortgage_loan has 15.3K (89%) dofollow and 2K (11%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 4.5B (85%) dofollow, 770M (15%) nofollow, 114K (<1%) sponsored, and 1.2M (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://www.bankofamerica.com/mortgage/home-mortgage/ has 1.5K (39%) dofollow and 2.4K (61%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 2.8M (76%) dofollow, 897K (24%) nofollow, 1.8K (<1%) sponsored, and 2.8K (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage/rates/compare-loans/ has 209 (52%) dofollow and 192 (48%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 8.9M (85%) dofollow, 1.6M (15%) nofollow, 1 (<1%) sponsored, and 636 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

SEO backlink analysis for the top pages for online psychology degree:

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https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/degrees/psychology-programs/ has 203 (33%) dofollow and 416 (67%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 671K (96%) dofollow, 30.5K (4%) nofollow, 42 (<1%) sponsored, and 4 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/undergraduate/bachelor-arts-psychology/ has 93 (65%) dofollow and 51 (35%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 25.1M (85%) dofollow, 4.6M (15%) nofollow, 117 (<1%) sponsored, and 25.2K (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://thebestschools.org/rankings/best-online-bachelors-psychology/ has 118 (59%) dofollow and 82 (41%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 182K (79%) dofollow, 49.7K (21%) nofollow, and 215 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/ba-in-psychology has 165 (69%) dofollow and 74 (31%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 514K (72%) dofollow, 200K (28%) nofollow, and 24 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

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https://www.bestvalueschools.com/cheap/online/psychology-degree-programs-bachelors/ has 18 (24%) dofollow and 57 (76%) nofollow backlinks to the page. The root domain has a total of 117K (83%) dofollow, 22.6K (17%) nofollow, and 8 (<1%) UGC backlinks.

The biggest takeaway from this SEO backlink analysis? The root domains tended to high percentage of dofollow links, from 72% to 98%!

Googleplex

The Google Approved Method to Dofollow Link Building

With all of Google’s guidelines on link schemes and threats of penalties, how does Google suggest that you build links?

“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.

We know that it takes more than just great content. If you’re ready to build the kind of links that get your better rankings in search results, contact us!

Stephen Gagnon
Stephen Gagnon

I have been working within the world wide web as a digital marketer for several years now. My favourite service is SEO. I’m continually learning better ways to rank websites within reputable search engines! When I’m not working or studying, I’m spending time with my family exploring random activities.

SEO

Do-follow vs No-follow SEO Backlink Analysis

by Stephen Gagnon time to read: 49 min
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