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Nofollow Links to Great Content?

At Elephate we believe that content marketing isn’t only about getting links, positions, and traffic. It should be something more.

In our opinion good content should always provide solid value to users, it should inspire people to achieve great feats, and it should raise emotions and discussions worldwide. So why would you give nofollow links to great content?

Please, don’t do this as it makes me and countless other content marketers really, really sad.

That said, could we please have that link?

The Situation

No matter how many lofty words we use to describe our work, our main goals are getting links (dofollow), achieving high positions in SERPs, and ultimately raising traffic while trying to improve the brand’s reception (PR) as well.

To achieve all of these goals at the same time, we’ve got to do things right. Doing things right in content marketing includes, but is not limited to:

  • Creating novel, genuinely interesting (for example data-driven) content that people will  really like
  • Deciding which websites and audiences would be interested in this content
  • Getting to know these websites, learning something about their owners, and (hopefully) finding context for our content
  • Reaching out personally and politely (no “Hi webmaster” BS), providing unique lead posts and other assets (eq. infographics) to make things as convenient as possible for webmasters/bloggers/journalists
  • Implementing and asking for links that are well thought, logically placed, and provide a clear benefit for users

At Elephate we take our time to ensure that our pitch will stand out from the crowd and benefit the recipient.

So let’s say it does. Let’s say we get that “connection” with an editor. He really likes what we did. He wants to publish it, maybe even with commentary. He tells us when it will be online.

We wait.

The publication day is getting closer. We get champagne and cake and everything. Then it goes online. At first glance it looks good, links and everything. But wait…

Are these… nofollow?!?

We get in touch with the editor:

– Why have you nofollowed our links? Is there something wrong with our website?

-No, it’s just a policy we have. You’re a commercial site so if you want dofollow links, I’ll forward you to our sales department.

Okay, okay, I’m calm now. The point is:

You Got it all Wrong

There’s a common misconception in the SEO community that linking out with a dofollow attribute will hurt your website. Always, no matter what. And I dare to call bull on that. Why? Let me give you a few reasons:

Google Endorses It

Let’s start with the official Google stance on it:

TL:DR: you should use nofollow when the target website may be malicious or has questionable content, if you received money for the link, or internally if you don’t want to waste the crawling budget.

For Google, it’s actually a good thing to create links to valuable content as they are pathways for their bots. So why in the hell would they lower your rankings for it?

Sounds pretty illogical, eh?

It Can Sometimes Help your Website

Linking out to valuable resources to direct your users just the right way may even be rewarded by Google, and although I wasn’t able to find a clear statement from them on this matter (no surprise here, it’s Google), there are quite a few reliable resources confirming this.

There’s an algorithm called Hilltop, which I believe still is a part of Google’s main algorithm. What does it do, you may ask? To explain it in layman’s terms: Hilltop labels some websites of high quality as “expert resources” and actually increases the rankings of websites that link to them.

The catch is – we don’t know which websites are labeled as such. If you’re wondering whether or not to link to a website that looks solid, ask yourself if it may be an “expert” in its field according to Hilltop. If it is, it will definitely be worth your while, and your rankings, to provide dofollow links to the site.

User Benefit Should Be your Ultimate Goal

Google’s mission is to make the internet a better place. Content marketers (at least good content marketers, like us) have the exact same goal – to inform, educate, entertain, and generally do something good for regular users, and let them see it.

If you can point your users towards valuable content, you should obviously do it. No matter if the content is located internally on your domain or externally on another. Believe me, they will be grateful and surely will return to you for more great stuff.

Karma is Real

This one’s really easy. If you link to someone, they will be more willing to give you a link, either now or in the future.

Reciprocity is actually one of the evolutionary reasons we’re at the top of the food chain, and this basic mechanism hasn’t changed since the time we were cave dwellers.

I’ve Tested it Personally

If you’re not convinced yet, I would like to add one more thing:

I’ve added external links to blog posts countless times and it has never ended badly. Zero drops in visibility or traffic. That’s probably because I always choose the best resources possible and place them where they not only look natural but where users need them.

How it did end was with some reciprocal links, and if the growth graphs of our customers is any indicator, quite happy users.

Piotr Mikulski

See all articles by Piotr Mikulski

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