Look who follows NoFollow links!

Earlier this year, I speculated on how the search engines treat NoFollow links.  For those who might be a little green, NoFollow links are not totally ignored by the search engines.  For those who really, really green, NoFollow links are believed to be totally ignored by the search engines (because they have the rel=”nofollow” attribute in the link code).

So we ran a little experiment. 

A client of ours had a fully developed website that has never been used.  Not a single link points to this website, so in the eyes of the search engines, it should not exist. 

It was not indexed at Yahoo. It should go without saying that Yahoo displayed no backlinks.

The site was indexed at Google.  (How, why and whether Google should index orphan sites that have not been released to the public is a topic for another post.) Google showed no backlinks, but the site did rank #8 at Google for one very important search, based primarily on the name of the domain. It did not show up in the top 100 for a few other key searches. All searches are for local terms specific to a certain city, so they are moderately low competition.

For three weeks, we posted comments on NoFollow blogs (yes, intelligent comments reflecting the specific content of the blog posts) to create a steady stream of NoFollow links, without creating any DoFollow or “normal” hyperlinks.

Were the NoFollow links followed?

At the end of week 4, we found Yahoo had indexed the website and showed 51 backlinks.  All of these are NoFollow links. The more important searches were all showing in the top 20, one as high as position #6. Remember that these are moderately low-competition, local searches, but this is all on the strength of a few weeks of exclusively NoFollow links.

Google showed no backlinks after 4 weeks.  No surprise there; Google is very sporadic with if, when, how and which sampling of backlinks it chooses to display. The ranking at position #8 had not changed, but a couple other search terms were now ranking at Google, one of them as high as position #11. Again, this is exclusively on the strength of NoFollow blog comments.

What can we conclude about NoFollow links?

NoFollow links still obviously count at Yahoo.  Do they count as much as DoFollow links?  A more complicated experiment might help answer that question.  Anyone feel like taking up the challenge?

NoFollow links also appear to count at Google.  Or perhaps some do and others don’t, depending on other factors Google might use to rate links from specific domains. However, we can be sure that Google does follow at least some NoFollow links.

The conclusion I would draw from this is that people really should not focus on the NoFollow/DoFollow issue. Build links that are officially followable when you can, but don’t let a NoFollow attribute in a page’s links dissuade you from creating a link you would otherwise pursue.


  1. This is great piece of experiment. This really proves that a link is still a link

  2. No follow links are still good for all search engines but google give don't give them a lot of power. I always add no follow links to my link building because they are still counted as a link!!!

  3. So far, that's their story and they're sticking to it. This won't be the first time that one has to listen very carefully to the words they say. As this little test showed, there probably still are some teeth to NoFollow, but not enough that I would write off all NoFollow links.

  4. Yes,i can found lots no follow backlinks in my google webmaster tool.and i think sometimes they can indexed it.

  5. I always doing Dofollow link, but forgot about Nofollow Link. Thanks to remind me about NoFollow, I will try the best one.

  6. Thanks the information was really useful. But I wonder why all search engines do not index on the same terms, that would have been much easy for us internet marketers
    Locksmith Seattle

  7. Great post David..

    Awesome demonstration of the different search engines. I look forward to your next post.

    Keep up the great value!

    Jason Braud

  8. I have seen the same success with nofollow links based on a pretty similar test pattern. In creating links that were about 80-90% nofollow, we still saw significant gains in our results. Some just believe that nofollow means NOfollow, which it clearly should, but, for whatever reason, this is just not the case. This is yet another aspect of SEO that falls into art rather than science.

  9. So that only means that even nofollow links are useful. However, not for Google, but to other search engines. Not that bad. At least you get a minimal benefit from it.

  10. I use no follow links in my link building because it looks natural to google. Even if they don't give power to No follow links, Yahoo, bing and other SE's give power to them.

  11. Just link to other people's website in a natural way. At the end of the day you might see your inbound links increase, by people who link back to you.

  12. Nice research. It's good to have a healthy balance of do-follow and nofollow. Although some search engines don't count the link they still associate your anchor text with the URL so are good for discovering your site.

  13. Such a very great and informative post. you still need nofollow links to make sure that your link building is balanced. Google and most other search engines follow all links they just don't pass PageRank when crawling a no follow link. thanks for sharing with us.

  14. great post & experiment. thanks!

  15. Nofollow changes constrantly – I refuse to use it.

  16. Matt Cutt has done a video where he clearly stage that nofollow links are irreverent to search engines.

  17. Hi,

    I tend to do nofollow and dofollow, as google likes things to look natural and some people say no follow is relevant, so I tend to use both.

  18. I don’t think there is any way to tell how much they factor in. All you can do is continue building as many links as possible – within reason

  19. I believe people have underestimated google and cookie technology. Google is following most of us through cookies and even if there is a no follow link, the cookie will know that someone found that link interesting and followed it. There is your link juice , well.. maybe we should call it some milk to a relevancy algorithm.

  20. Earlier I too believed nofollow links are totally useless. But when I checked my Google webmastertools account I was surprised to see nofollow links as backlinks. I understand that nofollow links do not carry too much weight but they still (at least some of nofollow links) carry some weight.

  21. You are right Mr.Siju. me too shows no follow links.

  22. I had no idea no-follow links could add value, thanks for the awesome post! If you had to estimate the relative value of no-follow to do-follow (if that can be done), what would you say the ratio is? 100 no-follow links to 1 do-follow?