A rel=”nofollow” attribute can be added to links to inform search engines to ignore and not follow them. Nofollow links do not pass authority and will therefore not impact search rankings and can be used for both internal and external links. Within our SEO Office Hours Notes below, we cover advice from Google around how they manage this directive with further recommendations for best practice use of nofollow tags.
For more on nofollow directives, check out our article: Noindex, Nofollow & Disallow.
Use rel=”canonical” or robots.txt instead of nofollow tags for internal linking
A question was asked about whether it was appropriate to use the nofollow attribute on internal links to avoid unnecessary crawl requests for URLs that you don’t wish to be crawled or indexed.
John replied that it’s an option, but it doesn’t make much sense to do this for internal links. In most cases, it’s recommended to use the rel=canonical tag to point at the URLs you want to be indexed instead, or use the disallow directive in robots.txt for URLs you really don’t want to be crawled.
He suggested figuring out if there is a page you would prefer to have indexed and, in that case, use the canonical — or if it’s causing crawling problems, you could consider the robots.txt. He clarified that with the canonical, Google would first need to crawl the page, but over time would focus on the canonical URL instead and begin to use that primarily for crawling and indexing.
To better control page indexing, use ‘noindex’ on pages rather than ‘nofollow’ tags on internal links
Adding rel=”nofollow” tags to internal links is not recommended as a way to control indexing. Instead, John suggests adding noindex tags to pages that you don’t want indexed, or removing internal links to them altogether.
External Links Shown in GSC Can Contain Disavowed or Nofollowed Links
The external links shown in Google Search Console are a sample of all the links found by Google, so not all of them will be displayed in the tool. The sample data may include links that have been disavowed or nofollowed.
Main Change With New Nofollow Attributes is For Outbound Links
The plan for the update to rel=nofollow links becoming a hint is to make it so that minimal changes are required when using nofollow links internally on a site. John believes they will continue to see internal nofollow pages as not as important to be crawled or indexed. We asked a number of top SEO experts for their opinion on these changes and the impact they anticipate, you can find out more in our post here.
Nofollow X-Robots-Tag Wouldn’t Stop Google Following a Redirect
A nofollow X-Robots-Tag wouldn’t stop Google from following a server-side redirect, as Google wouldn’t even look at the content of the page so there would be no links to follow anyway.
Guest Post Links Should Be Nofollowed
John recommends having rel=nofollow on the links in guest posts.
Nofollow Obsolete When Noindex Already Present
When a page is noindexed, not only will it be removed from the index but also over time all of the links associated with the page will be removed from the link graph so nofollow is made obsolete.
Unnatural Links to External Sites Might Cause All Links to be Ignored
Unnatural links to external sites, such as paid links or links within user-generated content may cause Google to lose trust in all the links from a site, so they should be nofollowed.