*This post was updated on 8th April 2016 to follow the new guidelines for bloggers produced by Google
If you have no idea what a no-follow link is and you’re working with brands in any capacity, you need to read this. I’m so glad I’m finally getting around to publishing this post, because it could mean the difference between your site showing up in Google search results and NOT showing up in Google search results– which could be detrimental to your blog.
Erm, considering over 25,000 visits each month to The Abroad Guide are from Google, I’d DIE without that traffic.
So… here’s the deal with no-follow links, and when bloggers should be using them –even if a brand or agency says you don’t have to.
What’s a no-follow link?
Google uses a lot of different signals to determine the relevancy of a page on a website, which factors into how high it will rank in Google’s search results. One of those factors is how many (and also, the quality of) the inbound links to the page (inbound just means links from other sites to the page).
The more inbound links to a page, the more relevant and of high quality that Google thinks it is.
A no-follow link is different than a normal link– it essentially tells Google to ignore this link when determining the relevancy and quality of the page that’s being linked to.
Why would I need to use a no-follow link on my blog?
According to Google’s guidelines on paid links, any links or posts with links that have been paid for, whether with money or in free product/ services, needs to be a no-follow link. The reason that Google does this is to keep everything fair and prevent websites for paying for links in order to rank higher in search.
A few weeks ago, Google also produced new guidelines on how bloggers now need to include no-follow links when given a product/service for free to either keep or giveaway to their community.
What happens if I don’t use a no-follow link when I should?
There’s a chance that Google will give you a penalty, especially with this recent clarification for bloggers specifically. This means that you’ll get a notification in Google Webmaster Tools that you have been given a penalty and your site will then rank poorly, if at all, in search results.
When bloggers should use no-follow links
The most common reasons why bloggers would need to use a no-follow link are in sponsored posts, paid advert spots, and when you’ve been given something (a product or service) for free, whether to keep and review, or to giveaway to your readership.
How some brands and agencies are sneaky about no-follow links
When I’m speaking to a brand about potentially working together, I immediately let them know two things– that I only work on paid campaigns (I don’t work for free, people, and neither should you!), and that all links to their site will be tagged as no-follow.
This saves me a ton of time– a huge chunk of those brands that have reached out to me will cut ties immediately, and if I approached them , it saves us from putting lots of work in, to then have to break it to them that we can’t work together because I don’t budge on my link policy.
Lots of brands aren’t looking to work with bloggers with a goal of link building in mind, so don’t think you’ll lose out if you follow the rules. However, SEO agencies still hope to use bloggers as a way to get more inbound links for their clients, and I’ve found them to be super sneaky out this.
When an agency or brand tells you that you don’t need to include a no-follow link, you actually DO if you have been paid or been given a product or service for free. Agencies are banking on the fact that bloggers may not know much about no-follow links, so they’ll tell you “the facts” that are completely false. It drives me nuts.
Alternatively, they may say that the chances of Google actually giving you a penalty is really low, and that “it’s common practice” but think about it this way– even if everyone else is speeding on the highway while you are too, it doesn’t mean you might not be the unlucky person to get a speeding ticket, and that the fine will suck any less. There’s also been tons of speculation that since Google’s announcement that specifically targeted bloggers and the brands they work with, that it will start to issue penalties very soon.
Stick to your guns, send them your link policy (to avoid confusion, consider writing up a page on this for your site) and tell them thanks but no thanks. The potential to be knocked down the search rankings by Google is NOT worth it that free coffee maker or the £50 sponsored post fee. You can also send them Google’s official announcement so that there’s absolutely no chance for confusion.
How to add a no-follow link to your blog
It’s easy to add a no-follow link to one of your blog posts.
Find the link that you want to change to no-follow in your post’s HTML. It will look like this:
<a href=”http://link.com”>Brand’s site</a>
To make it a no-follow link, you need to add rel=“nofollow”. So it should then look like this:
<a href=”http://link.com” rel=“nofollow”>Brand’s site</a>
According to Google you’ll need to add no-follow tags to links that are to:
1. The company’s site
2. The company’s social media accounts
3. An online merchant’s page that sells the product
4. A review service’s page featuring reviews of the product
5. The company’s mobile app on an app storeThe rest of your links are organic, and therefore can stay do-follow.
Any links included in the post that are to an independent website are organic and do not need a no-follow tag.
What to do if you’re not sure if you need to use a no-follow link
I think Google has laid this out pretty clearly now, but if a brand has given you money or anything for free to keep yourself or to give to your readers, then links to their site need to be no-follow.
*With Google’s update for bloggers, the worksheet that I created for you guys isn’t relevant anymore– you should be able to figure out on your own whether you need a no-follow link!