The easier it is for potential customers to find your site in search engine results, the more traffic (and sales) you’ll generate.
As a result, there’s a kind of constant content competition underway as website owners and administrators look for ways to stand out from the crowd and improve search engine optimization (SEO).
Gone are the wild, wild west days of the World Wide Web where keyword spamming and content stuffing were the norm to drive search engine interest.
Now, brands need to focus on more tightly-controlled metrics — such as Google’s PageRank — to boost their online appeal and push their site listing closer to the first page, first result pinnacle.
While part of this effort comes down to writing relevant, accurate, and interesting content, there’s another key component: Dofollow links. With the right approach, these links can help leverage great content into higher PageRank and better search results.
Here’s how they work.
What is a dofollow link?
PageRank is effectively a weighted score that uses links to assign points — the more points, the better your site rank, and the better your SEO. Often referred to as “link juice” by online marketing professionals because of their ability to “flow” through websites with the right linking structure, getting these points is a priority for any site owner.
The problem? Almost immediately after their introduction, getting points in any way possible became the strategy of many unscrupulous marketers.
The easiest way to achieve this aim? Leaving comments on the posts of popular websites that contained links back to client sites, in turn boosting their profile. The more reputable the linking site — think well-respected retailers or news organizations — the bigger the link juice boost.
By default, these links were “dofollow” — they instructed search engines to follow the link back to the originating site and boost its PageRank. To solve the growing problem of spam links the “nofollow” link was created: Site admins could add an HTML tag:
<a href=”http://www.website.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a>
… to any link on their site, which instructed search engines not to follow the link back to its destination and, in turn, not boost its PageRank.
Today, dofollow links remain an important part of SEO strategy — getting a “backlink” from a reputable site can significantly boost PageRank values and help brands stand out. The introduction of nofollow links, meanwhile, offers more control for site admins.
For example, most comment sections now include nofollow tags by default, and page creators can choose to add nofollow tags to blog posts and other articles. Changing these links from nofollow to dofollow is easy, but requires that destination site owners contact linking site admins and ask for the change.
How to Make a Dofollow Link
In most cases, no action is required to create a dofollow link. If your site is linked to by another site and they don’t choose to add the nofollow tag, search engines will naturally arrive at your page and increase your overall PageRank.
The same is true if you’re including links on your own site. For example, you may choose to add links to other reputable sites within your own content and allow search engines to follow these links.
If you’ve been asked by another brand to include their links on your page or are moderating blog comments, meanwhile, you may want to turn on automatic nofollow tags where possible or ensure that all links include the nofollow tag until you’re sure it makes sense to follow the link back.
This is especially critical if other links lead to low-quality or keyword-stuffed content, since this can reflect poorly on your own site.
Put simply? When it comes to external links from reputable sites that lead back to your page, dofollow is ideal. Links leading outside your site and linked from your own posts or attached to comments on your content should only be dofollow if the outgoing link site is reputable and relevant.
What tools are available for dofollow links?
Wondering if a link is dofollow or nofollow? If it’s on your own site, you can check the HTML code from your CMS admin page to determine if the nofollow tag is present, but what happens when the link comes from another, external site? Since you can’t see or edit their code, you can’t be certain if links are dofollow or nofollow.
In this case, it’s worth using dofollow link checker tools to determine if links will boost your PageRank or not.
The first tool is a web-based tool that checks entire pages for nofollow and dofollow links. Moz MozBar is a Chrome extension, while SEOquake is offered for both Chrome and Firefox. Link Analyzer, meanwhile, is a standalone tool that doesn’t require a specific browser. Each of these tools is free and works by following any links to your site to determine if they’re nofollow or dofollow, then reports the results.
Should I dofollow an external link?
Here, the answer depends on two factors: Where does the link lead, and what are the benefits if you opt for dofollow? Ideally, any dofollow links point search engines to content that’s current, relevant and accurate, in turn providing “link juice” for both the external site and your own website.
There may be cases where reciprocal dofollow links are a good idea, especially if you’re looking to expand site traffic and the external site has a similar ranking to your own page. Ideally, you want a mix of nofollow and dofollow links on your page to ensure search engines don’t view your content as simply a vehicle for PageRank points.
How long will it take Google to recognize a dofollow link?
While there’s no hard and fast answer here since search engine spiders crawl a significant volume of pages each day, dofollow links are generally recognized by Google within two to four days after being posted.
If your site has low traffic volumes and the dofollow links you’re creating or receiving come from similarly small webpages, it could take more time for PageRank to recognize these links. If you’re fortunate enough to receive a backlink from a highly-ranked site, meanwhile, you may see the benefit in just a few days.
Dofollow links remain a critical aspect of SEO and search ranking efforts, but must be used strategically to deliver substantive benefits.