Do Follow vs. No Follow Links, Explained

January 16, 2024

Justin Kerby

do follow vs no follow links

Ranking in search engines is elusive, difficult, and sometimes completely unpredictable. But learning the basics is essential if you’re going to conquer Google, and sometimes, when mixed with a really great content strategy, getting the basics right is enough for traffic increases by the thousands. Which is why our marketing guide is focusing much more on SEO basics these days, the essentials that you need to know to have a chance at increasing your site visitors.

Learning that not all links are created equal is a great place to begin your SEO journey.

Do follow links vs. No follow links

What is a do follow link?

The difference between "do follow" and "no follow" links is important in the context of SEO and how search engines interpret these links.

Do follow links

  • Default state: Do follow is the default state of a link unless specifically marked as no follow. This means that most links are do follow by default. If you add a link to another website within your blog, and you don’t add any special markdown to it, you’ve just created a do follow link to the website you linked out to from your site.
  • SEO impact: Do follow links are crucial for SEO because they pass on link equity (sometimes referred to as "link juice" by the cool kids). This means they can positively impact the search engine rankings of the website being linked to. When a reputable site links to another site with a do follow link, it's essentially signaling to search engines that it endorses or trusts that site, which can boost the receiving site's ranking. For example, say you sell cigars online. If a small coffee website that was created yesterday recommends your site with a link, that’s not going to do much for you in terms of ranking higher in search. But if Cigar Aficionado, the leading cigar publication online sends a do follow link to your website, that’s going to help you rank higher in search. The juice has been passed your way.
  • Usage: They are typically used when linking to reliable sources, credible sites, or relevant pages that provide additional value. Why would anyone want to link to a bad source, right?

No follow links

  • Explicit tag: A no follow link is created by adding a rel="nofollow" attribute to the HTML code of a link. This instructs search engines not to follow the link and not to pass any link equity.
  • SEO impact: No follow links do not directly contribute to the search engine rankings of the target site because they do not pass link equity. However, they can still be valuable for driving traffic and for other non-SEO purposes. Yes, a do follow link from the New York Times is better than a no follow link, but remember, the New York Times is huge, so you’ll still likely see some traffic come to your site from people who read the Times. No juice, but some visitors.
  • Usage: They are commonly used in situations where a webmaster does not want to vouch for the linked page or in user-generated content to prevent spam, such as comments on blogs, forums, or social media platforms. It's also used for sponsored links or advertisements to comply with search engine guidelines.

Good to know

If you’re thinking about writing for a publication online to help your websites SEO, ask if they’ll provide a do follow link to your website before you start contributing. You’ll be surprised how many publications will let you write and pass off a no follow link without informing you. Get as much juice out of the squeeze as you can.

It’s also worth noting how you can check to see if a link is marked as a no follow link. And to help you learn how to do that, our co-founder Justin Kerby threw on his SEO hat and made the quick video below.

*Tool mentioned in the video above: Ahrefs


Remember, do follow links are valuable for SEO as they pass authority and help in improving a site’s ranking. No follow links, while not beneficial for SEO in the traditional sense, are useful for controlling the flow of link equity, reducing spam, and managing the site's linking profile. Both types of links play important roles in a well-rounded link-building strategy.

Need help with your SEO? Let’s talk.

Written by

Justin Kerby

Justin is the founder of Something Great Marketing, leading our Vancouver marketing agency. He specializes in content strategy, website design, and branding.

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