Dofollow, Nofollow - What to follow!

Dofollow, Nofollow, Doindex and No-index
These are the four terms you often encounter while discussing about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Understanding these terms are also important from two other perspectives – Link Building and Social Bookmarking. Let’s briefly discuss about these today.

Follow/No-follow

This concept was introduced to overcome some of the earlier black-hat SEO techniques in link building. How many links are you getting from outside is (was) an important factor in Google PageRank and other search engine rankings. As you might have guessed, this resulted in lot’s of spam with folks trying to link to a website from all places possible (comments, forum threads, paid links and so on).

Simply put, nofollow is just an attribute of the ‘rel’ HTML tag. If we use the ‘nofollow’ attribute, it tells the search engines that the linking can be discarded for search ranking. Introduction of this concept helped to reduce a lot of link spams. Read this wikipedia article for a good coverage on spamdexing and link spams (Spamdexing-Wikipedia). A good example to understand the importance of follow/Nofollow concept is the comments section in your blog. I am sure, if you have a blog, you will be getting lot’s of spam comments and many ‘look-good-yet-spam’ type comments linking back to the commenter’s website. There are plugins available for wordpress using which you can set nofollow attribute for the comments in your blog. Thus search engines won’t give importance to the linking from your site. Even in blogger, when you add a link, there is an option to put it as no-follow.

Nofollow can be at two level – link level and content level. A link can be set noFollow by providing a rel attribute in href tag. Content level nofollow is set using the content attribute (meta name="robots" content="nofollow")

The above snippet makes the entire web page or a blog post nofollow for Google thus not considering any links in the page for link juice. Now let’s understand follow attribute. If the link or content doesn’t have the rel tag attribute set as nofollow; it is generally considered to be followed.However the right practice to tell the search engine that you want to make a particular link or page follow-able is using the attribute Dofollow. For example - using attribute rel="dofollow"

Having discussed these, I would also like to say that over time, the importance given to these attributes by online marketers have gone down. Many of the popular sites like Facebook and Twitter have ‘Nofollow’ policy; yet the links coming from those are considered important for search engine rankings.The most important thing to keep in mind is – links are always good (at least for driving traffic if not SERP); and we need to use them cautiosly and not as a spamming tool. Here is Google’s view on nofollow.


Doindex/Noindex

Noindex attribute tells the search engines whether to crawl the webpage or not. This attribute is used in conjunction with meta tag. These are mainly used in cases of large web pages or utility pages (like printing, mobile etc.) or those involving large amount of back-end communications or intranet webpages. Usage and interpretation of Noindex could vary between search engines and we can set the attribute at search engine level as below (Read more in this Noindex-Wikipedia article)

These basic terms discussed in this post are foundational for building a good link building and social media strategies (we will look into these in later posts).

What’s your view about Nofollow/Dofollow; do you think search engines consider these important in their search algorithms?
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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