SE Optimization

The Pros and Cons of No-Follow Backlinks for SEO

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Backlinks have always been a foundational component of SEO.

The essentiality of backlinks has been immortalized with countless case studies and accounts attesting to the correlation between the number of backlinks and SERP ranking.

SEOs and entrepreneurs alike view do-follow backlinks as the gold standard for link-building efforts. Meanwhile, backlinks tagged with no-follow get the short end of the stick, undervalued and unappreciated.

After all, backlinks are just as valuable as the link equity they transfer, right?

Well, not entirely.

No-follow backlinks, despite their reputation, also have benefits to offer.

And in this article, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of no-follow backlinks for SEO.

What Are No-Follow Links?

Before we dive in, let’s first revisit the essentials.

No-follow links are hyperlinks that have a rel=“nofollow” tag embedded in their HTML. This nofollow tag instructs web crawlers not to follow or crawl through the link. As a result, no-follow backlinks do not pass link equity or authority to the linked page.

On the surface, no-follow backlinks look just like other links. Unless we view the page source and examine the HTML or use a backlink analysis tool, there’s no way to distinguish no-follow links from other types of backlinks.

No-Follow vs. Do-Follow Links

From a technical standpoint, any hyperlink is considered do-follow unless the HTML is tagged with a rel=“nofollow”. Unlike no-follow backlinks, do-follow links inform web crawlers to enter the said link, passing on some link equity or page authority in the process.

Naturally, in the eyes of SEO experts, do-follow backlinks hold more value. Do-follow inbound links can directly influence your web page’s authority, which improves your SERP ranking and boosts your influence in the industry.

Despite the lack of equity found in no-follow backlinks, they still offer benefits to your website. Below, we’ll show you 5 pros of having no-follow inbound links at your disposal.

The Pros of No-Follow Backlinks

#1 Additional source of traffic

On the surface, no-follow backlinks appear the same as any other forms of hyperlinks. While they don’t pass on link equity or link juice that influences SERP ranking, users can still click the links to visit the linked page. As a result, no-follow backlinks can drive high-quality, relevant referral traffic to your site, which may potentially lead to conversions.

No-follow backlinks are more valuable when the source or linking page operates in the same niche as your business. Customers from similarly niched businesses are more inclined to buy products and services from related companies.

#2 Build brand awareness

In relation to no-follow links being sources of referral traffic, no-follow links are tools that can enhance your company’s brand awareness. When visitors land on your website, they can explore and learn more about your business, products, and services.

In the long run, brand awareness puts you at the forefront of leads, which may become a building block toward more sales. If familiar leads ever require a product or service that you are selling, guess who they’ll contact first?

Brand awareness offers a huge business value for companies and no-follow links may open that door for you.

#3 Create a Natural Link Profile

Unnatural link profiles are those with a disproportionate number of backlinks and link classifications. A website having purely do-follow links can appear unnatural and artificial to search engines, which may trigger their Link Spam policy. This may negatively affect your SERP ranking.

Whereas, no-follow links help create a more balanced backlink profile, safeguarding you from Google’s critical eyes.

#4 Establish trust and credibility

Just like not all links are equal, not all linking pages are too.

Some source pages offer an increased value when you gain backlinks from them even if they are no-follow. For instance, being mentioned on authoritative and credible websites can boost the trust in your brand among the linking site’s users.

While no page authority (search engine-oriented) per se is transmitted from source to linked page, your website’s authority still increases. Credible and trustworthy linking sites may rub their own authoritativeness on you, boosting your “perceived authority” (user-oriented).

#5 Do-follow may be the progression from no-follow links

Google values highly backlinks that are earned the right way, meaning, naturally built and not artificially created through transactions.

Publishing high-quality, backlink-worthy content is the only natural way to gain backlinks. Even though no-follow backlinks do not pass any link juice, they are conduits of referral traffic. As users visit and become exposed to your high-quality and informative site, do-follow links will likely follow later.

Websites that consistently provide valuable content are more likely to earn do-follow links in the future as your content gets discovered through those initial no-follow links.

The Cons of No-Follow Backlinks

No-follow backlinks are known more for their negatives than their benefits. Here’s a quick rundown of the disadvantages of no-follow backlinks:

#1 No direct impact on SEO

The primary disadvantage and complaint of SEOs on no-follow links is that they do not directly improve a site’s SEO as opposed to do-follow links. No-follow links do not pass PageRank or link juice.

While no-follow links may pose benefits to a site in the long run, they lack immediate gratification, devaluing their importance among SEOs and marketers.

#2 Generally ineffective for link building

Link-building campaigns are done specifically to boost the authority of a website through link-building efforts like link exchanges or even buying links from merchants.

Sure, Google shuns the link purchase economy but it is inevitable in the digital landscape, considering elevating a site on Google is not easy.

That said, if enhancing your site’s SEO via building backlinks is your goal, acquiring no-follow links is ineffective and wasteful.

#3 May Not Attract Targeted Traffic

No-follow links can be conduits of referral traffic, true. But while your visitor count might increase, you might now always attract targeted and ideal visitors to your site who are interested in what you’re selling.

During these cases, traffic and page views become no more than vanity metrics, as far as business value and revenue are concerned. This is especially true if the link is placed on less relevant or off-topic sources.

#4 Resource intensive for limited return

Acquiring backlinks, whether no-follow or do-follow, will always demand time and resources. If you are on a link-building campaign and the links you acquire are no-follow, your website will yield a lower return on investment in terms of SEO benefits.

While this might change in the long run, you definitely miss out on the satisfaction of seeing your site’s do-follow-dominated backlink profile.

Moreover, a case study on link decay revealed that no-follow backlinks have poorer survival rates than do-follow backlinks. After 1500 days, 73% of do-follow backlinks survive compared to 58% of no-follow backlinks. In other words, almost half of no-follow backlinks suffer from link decay after 5 years.

#5 Hard to measure results

It can be challenging to directly measure the impact of no-follow links on your website’s traffic and SEO. This makes it even harder to justify the effort or investment in acquiring these links as part of your strategy.

Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?

No-follow backlinks have a tarnished reputation among SEOs, and for good reason!

SEOs and marketers need backlinks that directly impact their clients’ SEO performance because their effectiveness is measured from SEO-relevant KPIs. It’s natural for them to discount no-follow links in their campaigns.

Still, the benefits of no-follow links cannot be understated.

For business owners, no-follow backlinks can be beneficial, especially considering the potential traffic, leads, and business value that they may bring. How about you? Do you think no-follow backlinks are beneficial for your business?

About the author


Joel Carino

Joel has always found SEO and its underlying algorithms fascinating, which is why he enjoys writing about them. For over three years, his focus has been on helping clients succeed through publishing top-notch content with a kick of direct-response copywriting. He now works as an SEO specialist and content writer at LinkStorm, where he continues to leverage his expertise to drive tangible results.