One of the most asked questions in our group, Female Travel Bloggers, is in regards to follow or nofollow links. It’s bad enough we have to figure out when to follow or not to follow but we also need to define the terms to understand what they mean. The concept can seem abstract and tricky, but once you narrow it down to define follow and nofollow links, when to use them and how these can be combined with index or noindex, you’ll be a pro in no time.
DEFINING FOLLOW LINKS, NOFOLLOW LINKS, INDEX AND NOINDEX
Before we get started it is important to define the terms we’re going to be talking about. This will help you learn to independently recognize when to use each one.
A link that pushes authority from one site or page to another.
Think of this as the link or connection a search engine bot follows from one site to another. As it travels it picks up some of the authority from the first page and drags it to the next page. So, if a page with an authority of 45 includes a follow link to a page with an authority of 25, some of that authority will travel increasing the authority of the lower page. Some people also call this link or SEO juice. The higher performing page is giving the lower performing page some of it’s SEO juice as the bots follow from one blog to the other. This is designed to provide a helpful boost to posts and resources that are helpful and relevant to readers. If you write a rocking blog post and people link to it hundreds of times as a resource, you deserve all that link juice headed your way.
This authority distribution works for both internal links within your site and external links to other sites.
The opposite of follow. A link that does NOT push authority from one site to another.
The bot or connection is still flowing from the one page or site to the next, so traffic and page views can increase, but none of the authority will travel with it.
When a library of your pages is stored online to fill a large database of all sites and pages. Think of this like an old library with index cards. If your page is indexed, it is written on a little card and the search engines (librarians) can recall and generate your page for helpful searches. If you page is indexed it will show up on search.
The opposite of indexing. Your page will not be placed in a database to recall. It is hidden from bots. This does not make your page private, as people can still access it by direct link. A non indexed page does not show up in search.
WHEN TO USE FOLLOW AND NOFOLLOW LINKS
Alright, now that we have our terms defined let’s look at when to use follow or nofollow, how and why you would combine those with index or noindex to succeed.
When to use Follow Links
This is your default setting and what you will use most of the time. If you add links to your page with no setting or code changes, you have a follow link. You want to use this when bloggers guest post (unpaid) on your site, you find a fantastic blog post you want to recommend to your readers, internal links to your own pages, or you’re doing an unsolicited review of your favorite restaurant down the road.
You also want to get follow links back to your site. According to Google the best way to do this is write content people want to naturally link back to. To be perfectly honest this is really hard for travel bloggers. Unless you’re writing about blogging or a top influencer or personality, very rarely does another travel blogger, let alone hundreds naturally link to you. Which is why travel bloggers have to work a bit harder to get these follow links. You can get follow links to your page or site by guest posting or link building with other bloggers. Be careful though, if you link to a blogger’s post and they link back to your same post in their blog, this is a red flag for Google. Stick to three-way link swaps or ensure you link to different pages. When it comes to guest posting, always check the spam score of who you guest post for. Spam scores are part of the authority ranking that can transfer to your site or page.
When to use Nofollow links
This data comes straight from Google’s Webmaster Support page on nofollow links. There are three major situations where you would use a nofollow link.
When people figured out that sites with high authority could give their low authority site juice through links, many companies started paying for links. Thus began an era of posts filled to the brim with irrelevant links, all for the sake of making a quick buck. Can you imagine going to a site and reading about Packing for Paris and then finding 100 links to other things, like BBQ tools? Google decided this was spam and started cracking down, but that doesn’t mean people stopped trying. As a blogger I’m sure you’ve seen those emails:
Hi blogger, (we used your incorrect name because we don’t care about you or your brand)
We LOVE your site! We think a link, directing your readers to our new high-end BBQ tools would fit perfectly in your blog post titled: Packing for Paris. For $500 we would like to write our own post, or have you write one and include a follow link back to our product or site.
Shady company you’ve never heard of
This is a HUGE red flag and 99.99% of the time you do not want to bite on these emails. Google doesn’t want people to pay for links because that generally means the linked content isn’t relevant to the readers and it’s simply bought. So a general rule of thumb is, if you received money in any way shape or form from a company you will make it a nofollow link. If you respond to one of these emails and you say that you will take the money, but use a nofollow link, generally they will fight you or try and pull the wool over your eyes. Furthermore, if you go on a press trip or a sponsored stay you want a nofollow link. Almost anytime you legally or morally have to include a disclosure on your post about receiving money or sponsored trips, your links will need to be nofollow.
An example of an untrusted source is in the comment section or a forum. If you have a forum site where people can comment all they want and add links, you want to make all links on this page nofollow, otherwise, you might get A LOT of spam from link droppers looking to use your forum to gain traction for their site. “Well, what about Comment Luv?” I hear you all asking. Comment Luv is fine to run on your blog, however, you want to keep an eye on the links posted, as they are follow links, and technically untrusted sources. Just clear out the unrelated spam from shady looking companies and since you didn’t receive any money for these links you’ll be fine.
Search Engine crawlers can’t login or register as users on your page, so any link that directs your readers to sign up for something, register or login should be nofollow.
Already have the hang of follow and nofollow links? Take your SEO skills to the next level with our in-depth SEO guide for Travel Bloggers.
Combining links with indexing
So, where does this index and noindex I defined earlier come into play? You can combine these with your follow or nofollow links for different types of sites or pages.
This is your standard setup and should be used for almost all your posts or pages. This means you want page crawlers to crawl your site, indexing them to show up in web search and you want your authority to transfer with the links.
This would be if you’re trying to keep your post or page private. Maybe this is your sitemap with lots of links where it is important for crawler bots to follow the links, but you don’t want it indexed to show up publicly. Another situation you might use this is when you’re running an email promotion. You want the links on your promotion to be followed, but you only want certain clients or readers to have access to the page so it will not show up in a search.
This would be for any sponsored content. This is also for your forums style pages and sites. The page still shows up in search, but the authority does not transfer.
This is usually used if your website, page or post that is still in development. Don’t forget to change the settings when you go live!
MYTH BUSTING: HOW MANY LINKS IS TOO MANY LINKS?
There are loads of rumors running around that too many links means your page is spammy and therefore you should use nofollow links. So, is there a magic number? No. Google used to have a 100 link limit, but according to Matt Cutts, the former director of Google’s web spam team, there is no number. Instead, Google’s bots look for spam like quality. So, if you have 20 spammy links, and that is the entirety of your post, you could get dinged. If you have 75 quality relevant links properly marked, chances are you’ll be fine. Just be an ethical blogger and the rest will follow.
However, the page authority that flows through the outlinks is divided by the number of links on the page. If there is a page authority of 50 with two links on the site that 50 is divided by 2 and each link gets part of that page authority. If you have 100 links on your page this is divided by 100, and so on and so forth. So, having 100 helpful links won’t hurt you, but it won’t transfer much authority to each link.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES FOR GETTING THIS WRONG?
It’s always good to know what might happen if you mess up. Some people might think, “Well this company is paying $500 for this link and they asked for a follow. There’s no way Google will notice little old me and I really need the $500. I’ll do it just this once.” News flash, Google probably will notice little old you. Their bots are smart and always crawling the internet looking for little old you. “But how will they know I received money for this link?” Might be your next question. If you’re following most laws and being a decent blogger you’ll be disclosing and if there is a disclosure and a follow link…. chances are bots are going to put 2 and 2 together. And you know what, if you don’t disclose, take the money and insert a follow link, chances are that you’ll be caught eventually. You will suddenly lose a significant amount of authority and your spam score will skyrocket. You might be bumped from page one to page 20. Your website will be downgraded to a point where it will almost be impossible to monetize and suddenly that $500 you made, isn’t worth it.
HOW TO SETUP AND USE FOLLOW AND NOFOLLOW LINKS
The easiest way to ensure your links are follow or nofollow, index or noindex, is by installing a plugin. If you haven’t already installed WordPress Yoast SEO plugin, do so now.
After you install this plugin, or if you already have it, go to one of your posts and click edit. Scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the Yoast box. If you click on the gear for Advanced settings, you’ll see settings where you can change and combine follow or nofollow, index and noindex. You can change this according to the needs for your page.
“Well, can I just make one link nofollow?” Technically yes, and you can do that based on what I show you below, but according to Yoast, if you have one nofollow link on your page, bots nofollow your entire page, so you might as well do one easy step and make the entire page nofollow.
If you don’t want to install Yoast, you don’t have WordPress or want to make certain links follow or nofollow you can do the following:
<a href=”LINK URL HERE”>Text for your body</a> – standard follow link
<a href=”LINK URL HERE” rel=”nofollow”> text for your body</a> nofollow link.
It’s easy enough to do on your own just insert the rel=“nofollow” as shown above and you’ll be good to go!
I know I told you it was easy then I gave you a TON of information, but if you’re running your generic travel blog, the main takeaway is money and disclosure = nofollow almost everything else is follow and index.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, just make sure you turn on the notifications for my response. Share this with all your blogger friends so they too can work their way up to SEO stardom without getting penalized!
While I like to think I am a bit of an SEO guru, all my information comes straight from Google and I just decipher and add travel blogger humor. Google is a great resource and you can read more about their nofollow links here, https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/96569?hl=en
Matt Cutts also has some great videos on the topic, but trust me, I translated it all for you.
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Susanna focuses on adventure travel and eco-tourism, while hitting pause for what she’s defining as hipster city travel. Follow Susanna on her blog at Wandering Chocobo