Glossary | 2 mins
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Dofollow links are links in the original sense, a vote of confidence from one website to another. Once it became apparent that links could be abused to manipulate search algorithms, Google introduced a number of tags that could indicate the intent behind the link, including ‘nofollow’. Dofollow links allow link equity to pass from one page to another, and as such are the target for many SEO professionals looking to gain advantage for pages in search rankings.
All hyperlinks added to a web page are dofollow by default, but webmasters often add nofollow attributes to links manually to help with categorisation, and to restrict the value passed from one domain to another. For example, preventing highly-specific content that isn’t intended for general web users from being indexed (e.g. terms of service, legal information) or to avoid penalisation with excessive, but often unavoidable links to external websites.
Dofollow attributes are an important concept to understand in SEO, as the way they’re used, both on your site and externally, can have a huge impact on the way Google perceives your site, and in turn, determines how to rank it.
Using multiple factors to determine how valuable a page or website is, Google has developed a highly intelligent algorithm to deliver the most relevant pages for any given search term. Backlinks play a significant role in this calculation, and have been a target for commercial gain ever since this became apparent. To combat the misuse of backlink building, Google’s sophisticated systems not only analyse each link on merit, but also factor the instruction given by web users – with multiple tags introduced including nofollow, sponsored, ugc (user-generated-content) and more.
There are two main ways to determine whether a link is dofollow or not.
The first method, which most SEOs rely on, is to bring up a backlinks report using a professional-grade SEO tool such as Ahrefs or Semrush. These reports will list all the backlinks pointing to a specified domain, listing their dofollow/nofollow status, the age of the link, the domain authority of the referring domain, and other variables.
The second method is to assess each link manually, using either a browser plugin such as ‘nofollow’ (which highlights nofollow links on each page with a red square) or by manually inspecting the html of the page. For the latter, whilst on the referring page, find the backlink within the page and right-click on it, then click ‘inspect’ (or the equivalent for your browser). This will open a developer tools window showing the referring page’s HTML source code, with a highlight over the link you’ve chosen to inspect. If it doesn’t have the attribute ‘rel=”nofollow” within the highlighted row or rows, then the link is a dofollow backlink.
When it comes to linking to outside sources from your content, the decision of whether or not to allow maximum authority be passed should come down to two main factors; where the link is pointing to, and the benefits of leaving it as dofollow. Remember, it is a vote of confidence – so do you ‘vote’ for this page being linked?
From an SEO perspective, any dofollow link from your site should always point to content that’s recent, topically relevant to your site, and rich with accurate information. This will provide link equity for both your site and the site you’re linking to in the eyes of search engine crawlers. However, if you have to link to content with dubious authority, and a relatively low topical relevance to your own content, it might be best to add a nofollow attribute.
What is a dofollow link?
A dofollow link is a hyperlink that has indicated to the crawler that it can be crawled, and pass any link equity on the page being linked. Links that have the dofollow tag (or no tags at all) in the html simply allow search engine crawlers to follow the link to its target page.
How do I know if a link is dofollow?
You can check if a link is dofollow either by locating the link manually and using a chrome extension (we like SEO Minion), or inspecting the page element using your browser’s developer tools window (right click, ‘inspect element’).
Questions to ask your link builder