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Understanding ‘follow’ and ‘nofollow’ links

When I first started blogging I had no idea about the technicalities of it all. I suppose I was naïve to it and that is absolutely fine in the beginning. However, if you are going to start to take blogging seriously then you need to start taking the technical side seriously too.

You may be sitting there thinking your blog is only a hobby and therefore this doesn’t apply to you. Do you accept items for review? Yes? Then you still need to pay attention.

nofollowWhether you are reviewing an item or writing sponsored content, you need to know about ‘follow’ and ‘nofollow’ links. If you don’t get it right then Google may penalise your blog- nobody wants to annoy Google, right?

What is a ‘follow’ link?

When Google bots trawl through your site they will follow all of the links you have embedded into your posts, to see where they lead. So you may link back to your own content (which is great by the way, you should do that as much as you can) and you may also have links going out to other blogs. Every time you include a link it is like giving a personal endorsement to that site. So that is obviously great for your own site (your site is awesome!) and great for supporting other blogs that you love!

So what about links to brands? Ok, so if you absolutely love a product and you want to rave about it then absolutely use a ‘follow’ link. Endorsing products is fantastic and we all love to hear an honest opinion. The problem arises when you have been sent an item, Google doesn’t like false recommendations.

Using ‘nofollow’ links

When you are sent an item you are, in effect, being paid in kind. Therefore, when you write a review, good or bad, you are only leaving that link for the purpose of the review. Google doesn’t like this and if they should see it, they will penalise you and the brand.

What does this mean? It means they could exclude you from Google search results and worse still, if you are using Blogger (owned by Google) your blog could be taken down completely – I have seen this happen!

To get around this problem all you have to do is make the link ‘nofollow’, this means that when the Google bots trawl your site they will come to a dead end, they will not follow through to that link. Simple.

How to add in the ‘nofollow’ links

There are two ways to do this, first is to manually add it which some people prefer. This isn’t too difficult though, just a bit tedious. When you insert a link, convert to the text/html view of the post and add in rel=”nofollow” to the html code.

So, if I had ‘tester text’ with a link attached to www.whatkatysaid.com it would look like this.

With a follow link (default): <a href=”http:// www.whatkatysaid.com “>tester text</a>

With a no follow link inserted: <a href=”http:// www.whatkatysaid.com “ rel=”nofollow”>tester text</a>


Now, if you are using WordPress there is a great plugin called ‘Ultimate Nofollow’ which means only having to tick a box to make a link no follow. EDIT This plugin does not work with the latest WordPress update. However, the absolutely amazing Zoe has created a work-around- find it here. Her advice is to disable the above plugin if you have it but keep it installed in case it gets fixed. For now her update will work in exactly the same was as shown below.

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When you add a link to a post, you use this box- can you see the little tick box added beneath ‘open in a new window’? Simply tick that and the job is done for you! Easy!

If you are on Blogger there is no need to add a plugin of course. When you get to a bit of text you want to hyperlink then you just click on ‘link’ along your toolbar and within the popup you will have the option to ‘Add ‘rel=nofollow’ attribute’. This works in the exact same was as described above. Easy!

So, next time you add in a link just think, am I endorsing this site because I want to? Or am I adding the link because I was sent something in return?  

BlogDo you have a question for the #BlogClinic?

 


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Comments 88

  1. Thank you for sharing this Katy, such a clear explanation of what follow and no-follow links are all about. I’ve always manually added the code as I didn’t think about whether there might be a plugin to make life easier so will be adding this – thanks!

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  2. Oh my word! I have just been linking everything thinking that if I mention anything/anyone I need to link it to the source. Gosh! This is just my hobby and I have only just started but I would hate to be caught out in this way. Thanks Katy so useful and clear X

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      It is fine linking it hun, just be sure to make it no follow if you have been sent something. If you’ve bought it yourself then it is fine xx

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  3. Thanks for this, it was really useful. The whole follow/no follow thing has been baffling me a bit so this was mega helpful! What about when a PR sends you a product to review but specifically wants a follow link? x

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      That is up to you to decide. Some people put their foot down and say no. Many pr companies will cave in. However, depending on the value of the product some will do a follow link. It isn’t against the law, only google regulations. I wouldn’t want to risk their wrath though. x

  4. How does google know if you’ve been sent something or not? I don’t get it??? When I’m get to the point I want to promote my shoes I’ll be hoping to get back links but I’m guessing this won’t be possible if I’m sending the shoes out for PR purposes?

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      Hi Jenni, as bloggers we will always write that we have been sent something for the purpose of a review and however the google bots work they pick up on those key words. Some companies will request that we don’t write anything but a good blogger will always remain transparent.
      If you are wanting to send out shoes to bloggers then don’t worry, nofollow links are just as valuable to companies and you will still gain ‘google juice’ from those links. Hope that helps! x

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      Yes hun, it just means you aren’t endorsing in return for a product/ payment. It will still link through to them and they will get the goog ‘google juice’ that companies crave xx

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      1. Oh oh and blogger has added the no follow thing when you add a link, phew!!!!!!

        Though a quick one – if you are linking back to another blogger site (so if I link saying how amazing the blog clinic has been for example) does that need to be no follow or does that not matter?! I assume it doesn’t matter as you aren’t paying me to endorse you though you can if you like!xx

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          Haha! Yes that is allowed to be follow as that is done entirely by your choice. Just as if you bought something or had something already at home that you absolutely loved then you can have them as follow as that is your choice. It is only when a company sends something to review or you get paid to write about something xx

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  5. Another really useful post Katy – thank you!
    Just wanted to add – if there is anyone out there who uses the ‘EasyAzon’ plugin for their amazon affiliates links, then there is a setting which automatically adds a ‘no follow’ attribute to your amazon links.
    I panicked after reading this that I hadn’t done this for my amazon affiliates links, then realised that I had been doing it all along with this plugin! (Obviously only relevant for amazon links, but may be useful for someone).

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  6. Another great post, really useful, am busy book-marking all these blogging posts you write! I have a .com WordPress site so no plug-ins allowed, so how would I add the nofollow code manually – same code you showed for Blogger? Thank you x

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  7. Thank you! Just been using your advice with some new review posts I have to put up. That plugin is so good, makes what could be a complicated process very easy! 🙂 x

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  8. Really helpful. Thanks. I’ve read a comment that that fix will make all the links ‘no follow’ and not allow a mix of the two. Does that matter? I’m on WP so working out how best to do it. Thanks

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      If you want to make everything nofollow that is fine. I like to make bloggers urls follow though as it helps their DA score and hopefully they do the same. x

  9. Hi. Do the companies we review/brands etc understand the importance of u using NOFOLLOW links? Should we expect them to understand this and would it be normal practice for anyone reviewing their item to do this. What would you you if someone who’s item you reviewed got upset over the fact you had a nofollow link? at the end of the day..people can still go to their site if they please! Advice please?

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      Many companies are fine with nofollow links, they appreciate that you have written the review due to compensation- either monetary or otherwise. However, there are some companies who will still demand a follow link as they feel their website is good enough that you should want to endorse it anyway. However, this is not allowed and in the eyes of Google you are in the wrong as you are only giving them the follow because they asked- not because you chose to. My advice is to steer clear of companies that want follow links- in the end they will learn that as bloggers we all work under the same rules. Some people will include follow links but that is their choice, it isnt illegal but you risk being excluded from google pages. Hope that helps.

  10. Your posts are so helpful, since changing to self hosted I have visited yours and Aby’s sites for so many tips. thankyou 🙂 x

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  11. Firstly, thank you for making it easy to leave a comment on your site. Again thank you for explaining follow/no follow links. I have never even linked back to my own content in a post. Would I do that the same as a follow link? Sammie http://www.feastingisfun.com

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      Ah you are welcome Sammie and sorry for the confusion on Twitter. When you link to your own post you can do it as a follow link xx

  12. Thanks so much for this fab post. I am totally confused. When I try to enter my rel=nofollow onto the end of my links it doesn’t work. It just unlinks it and shows up with the rel=nofollow. If I am linking to a website for example, let’s say it was huggies, and my link is https?www.huggies.com.au, where do I put the rel+no follow??? Thanks for your help with this so much!!

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      You have to add that bit in when you are in the text mode of your post, you know the bit where you can see all the coding? x

  13. I’m so glad I read this. I had no idea!

    My blog is only new so not been asked to do any reviews yet but it’s great to know for the future. If I’d not read this then I’d have ‘follow’ links all over the place.

    I’ve done a couple of reviews (not been published) yet that I’m doing off my own back and will add the links to the companies on those reviews as I’m guessing that’s ok as I’ve paid for the items? Also as you’re brilliant at this sort of stuff, should I add a disclaimer to the bottom of the posts to say I’ve not been paid to do them? I have a disclaimer page to cover everything but not sure if I should put a small one at the bottom of unpaid reviews? I will definitely put one under any that I’m paid to do or received goods for free to write a review about them.

    Sorry to go off subject.

    Laura x

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      Up to you whether you say if you haven’t been paid, some people do and it always makes me smile. It also makes me really want the product as I know they are genuine as some bloggers you just don’t know, you know? x

  14. Thanks for sharing this coz I really have no clue what this is all about being new to blogging. You’re heaven sent! Great post!

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  15. Thank you so much! I’ve had this in the back of my mind for a while….I guess I should go back and change the few reviews I’ve done to no follow- it’s not many so hopefully it won’t be too time consuming. Thanks again 😉

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      Best to start off right so if you can change them then that would be best. A few wrong wouldn’t be picked up by google so don’t worry too much x

  16. Thank you for writing this in plain english – just been watching videos that made it even more confusing then remembered I had see you do a post a while back so had a search – I had understood it right just wanted to make sure! Thanks Katy xx

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  18. See, this I find confusing because I only tend to review things I absolutely rate, whether I bought it or not. But looks as though anything sent to me FOC needs to be no follow. Goodness, did not know that. Cheers dear x

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  19. That was hugely helpful – thanks so much! I’ve only been blogging for a few weeks and was becoming very confused with certain terms – beautifully explained!

  20. I had no idea this was even a thing! Just been through and checked all my links. It’s good to know as I have just signed up to enter the world of affiliate marketing so hopefully, having read this, I’ll be able to get it right from the start.

  21. Fabulous timing. I have a review to write over the next couple of days and wouldn’t have even thought about no follow links. I’ve book marked your post so I don’t forget and do it wrong. Thank you so much Katy x

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  22. Thank you for this simple guide! I am relatively new to all this blogging stuff so guides like this are fantastic for me!

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