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An Experiment: Nofollow Links DO Pass Value and Rankings in Google

Nofollow links passing value or rankings has been the underlying question since this inline link attribute was developed back in 2005. Many millions of websites have implemented this method to tell Google to not follow certain links that the website owner may not necessarily be able to "vouch" for. Nofollow has also been used to sculpt internal PageRank flow as websites continuously tighten their website's internal linking and navigation paths to focus on the most important pages of their websites. Further, the nofollow link attribute is built into many popular CMS platforms like WordPress and Drupal, so it's one of the most common and standardized outbound link attributes currently being used. So, considering the input from Google over the past five years and the larger percentage of Webmasters concluding nofollowed links were mainly pointless to pursue or acquire, this question is the one we were focused on answering in our experiment:

"Do rel=nofollow links pass or denote PageRank, rankings, or subsequent page value?"

The answer is yes to at least two of these -- rankings and some page value.

I know you're probably saying "Whoaaa! Hold on there partner. You can't conclusively say that nofollowed links pass value and actual rankings without some sort of testing or proof." We knew this question would be asked. So let me answer with proof of our findings and also back it up with what other well-respected SEOs are also concluding with their own findings for nofollow links and Google's not-so-defined perception of them. It should also be noted that in many instances a nofollow link acts as a means of link discovery for Google. There are a lot of other nuances to Google's algorithm for calculating links -- such as internal navigation and anchor text used within a website for just a few short examples. Our goal was to see how far beyond link discovery some testing would go.

Our experiment focused on keywords not used only used within the website less than 10% of the time. The keywords we acquired nofollow external links for were not within any page attributes on our two domains used in this experiment -- whether those site links were contextual, navigation, or URL page naming. There were variances of the keywords we used in our link building campaign found within the content on a few our our domain's but the goal was to have as close to <10% keyword matching for on-page content as it corresponded to the keyword phrases used in nofollow backlinks we would be acquiring.

Nofollow Experiment in a Nutshell

To examine how only nofollowed links were valued in Google and how pages performed using nofollowed links we did the following:

  1. Our domains -- Set up two brand new domains that were ambiguously named. These two domains were not an exact phrase match to our keyword for link building or really even close to relevant for our two industry niches as far as the keywords were concerned. We'll call our domains we used "domain #1" and "domain #2." These domains were built for niches but not limited to being local or geo-specific. We did not want to find in the end that we were ranking to easily because we were the only businesses in a tiny local niche. In other words, we wanted to make sure the competitive pool was larger, not smaller to help define and reach our objectives.
  2. Duration of experiment -- We spent three to four weeks commenting only on blogs that included the nofollow link attribute for each of our domains. We measured a total of times during these weeks -- although I peeked at some of the reports at times. :)
  3. On-page stuff -- We made sure that we were not doing any lengthy on-page optimization for the keyword phrases we were targeting for the acquisition of the nofollow links. We felt it was better the nofollow links we acquired would be the primary and only real usage of of keyword strength or relevancy.
  4. Link building guidelines -- Websites we were to acquire links from were related to the industry that our two domains were in. However, we also made sure we were not posting comments that were spam in nature and instead we really contributed to the author's post and tried to be as helpful and constructive as possible for others. Further, we made sure we were posting on websites that were decently ranked and indexed regularly by Google (quicker cache dates). 80% of websites we acquired links from we considered in the upper 30% within their respective industries.
Week #1

Both domains are active and each has approximately 8-10 pages in total. Both were indexed in Google as most new domains are within a few day or week period. Both had zero backlinks. Neither domain ranked for any of the five keywords each that we were going to build nofollow links for in the subsequent weeks. By not ranked, I mean not within the first 20 pages of Google for any keyword phrase.

Week #2

We built 35 nofollow links for both domains combined using eight of the combined ten keyword combinations. The results at the end of week #2:

  1. Domain #1 was not ranked on the first 40 pages of Google for week #1, now three keywords are ranked -- one on page #4, another on page #6, and the final keyword on page #8.
  2. Domain #2 was not ranked on the first 40 pages of Google for week #1, now all four of the keywords for that domain were ranked in Google. Two on page #3 and the other two on pages #7 and #8 of Google.

Note: All backlinks to this point are nofollowed links.

Week #3

We built another 40 nofollow links for both domains combined using all ten keyword combinations. At this point we have a total of 75 nofollow links pointing to our domains, about evenly split between both domains. The results at the end of week #3:

  1. Domain #1 moved up again in Google, now with all five keyword phrases ranking between pages #2 and #5.
  2. Domain #2 also moved up in Google, now with all five keyword phrases ranking between pages #1 and #9 -- with most keywords between pages #1 and #5.

Note: In this round of link building we purposely built around 15 links with a misspelling that was quite unique. The goal was to target an anchor text that was totally unique, i.e. Google has no current search results for it in their index. We also targeted several internal pages to see if we could actually get an internal page or two to rank for this misspelling.

Weeks #4 & #5 - The last week!! Yay!

Weeks #4 and #5 went more slowly with building nofollow links. For this two week period we only built another 15 links total, bringing our total of 100% nofollow links to 90. The results at the end of week #5:

  1. Domain #1 edged up again. All five keyword phrases improved and all were within pages #1 and #4.
  2. Domain #2 moved up slightly. All five keywords but two improved. Two keyword phrases were now on page #1.
Added Information to Conclude Nofollow Link Results We Found

It should be noted that we ran SEO Majestic, LinkScape, and another internal tool to quantify our finding and to rule out any other links, such as scraper sites linking to our two domains. We ran SEO Majestic and the other tools a total of 3 times during this experiment and nothing but our nofollow links were found.

Further, I think we should explain the type of keyword phrases we were ranking for on both domains. Here's an example of anchor text and URL used and ranked for and how the anchor text was used on the corresponding website:

domain1.com/specific-air-conditioning-rating-type (not model like Trane, etc. but type -- as in SEER 10 or SEER 16 rating types)

On the above page for domain #1 we used two different combinations of the external anchor text used for linking to this particular URL. The anchor text used was not a match for the URL keywords used. This means we did not use "specific-air-conditioning-rating-type" as noted in our URL above. Instead, we used several keyword combinations on both of our website's pages that were less than a 10% match for keywords used for our link building. Furthermore, we did not have the keywords we used for link building on other pages of the site, such as sitemaps, navigation, or other main keywords in the titles, headings, or other locations on the pages on our domains. I did this to less our probability of getting ranked even more.

Final Results and Conclusions on Nofollow Links

Approximately 5 1/2 to 6 weeks after the nofollow links experiment started we found that, even though our domain names were not keyword relevant and our website content was <10% relevant to the keyword phrases used for our nofollow link building, we still ranked for those keywords after only acquiring nofollow links. The assumption by many is that nofollow links will not pass much, if any, link juice or anchor text value. But the nofollow link can still pass relevance... and slightly more in my opinion. Google may not "count" the link as a weighted backlink but this doesn’t mean they ignore the anchor text being used or the authoratative status of the website being linked from.

I find it interesting that Matt Cutts states that a nofollow link definitely does not pass anchor text, especially when the only keywords we ranked for and were using in our experiment described above were 100% nofollow links. Matt specifically stated this in his blog post above:

Nofollow links definitely don’t pass PageRank. Over the years, I’ve seen a few corner cases where a nofollow link did pass anchortext, normally due to bugs in indexing that we then fixed. The essential thing you need to know is that nofollow links don’t help sites rank higher in Google’s search results.

However, this does not correlate to our findings. What gives? Do nofollow links now pass some anchor text value in Google's algorithm? It seems so. Coincidentally, there was a recent article on Google and Nofollow links over at Sphinn.com that tied in well with our experiment over the last month and a half. I thought a few viewpoints from several very knowledgeable and well-known SEO's would be great to add to our findings above. Here are a few examples. Matt McGee stated:

...We both agreed that we'd seen this kind of scenario and that, in some cases at least, no-follow links were influencing rankings. So I'd say that, yes, in some cases where there aren't a whole lot of other ranking signals to use, no-follow links are definitely worth more than Google says.

Jill Whalen also noted:

Too many are nofollowing all links, or some links without having a clue as to what they're doing. Google has spent tons of time and energy in learning how to graph links in terms of their popularity and authority. There's no way they would simply ignore all that data becuase a bunch of dopes stuck an attribute on their outgoing (or internal) links for "SEO purposes"!

Finally, Marcus Miller said:

When examining a site, they [Google] could use nofollow links to increase trust, they may use them to look for organic linking patterns and to compare these with any uncapped links. They may even use them to determine if they can trust the anchor text from true links if it is replicated in nofollow links. So, I am not sure that nofollow links alone can rank a site (I can feel an experiment coming on) as this would mean that google is lying to us all but I think they are certainly part of the bigger picture when it comes to trust of a site and relevance of ranking keywords.

I would suspect that Marcus is partly right in that Google is looking at more than just the nofollow link itself to signal trust. Perhaps authority, comment relevance, overall anchor text distribution for nofollow links, and many more markers now go into how and why any particular keyword phrase and/or pages would rank in Google -- despite the keywords deriving solely from nofollow links. What do you think? Is there a silent shift going on at Google with nofollow links or are they not telling us the complete story? It would definitely not benefit Google to tell the web community to go out and get as many nofollow links as possible since it would open up doors for more spam and gaming in Google.

193 Comments

Anonymous's picture

Arnie Kuenn (not verified)

October 28th, 2010

Hey Brian,
Love to see experiments like this. Of course on the Internet it is almost impossible to run real research because of the lack of a control environment, but I think you did a great job of eliminating variables.

We have run our own, small, in-house tests over the last couple of years and always conclude the same -- NoFollow links can help with rankings.

It would have been interesting to see you run a third test and only get links from spammy comments on blogs that are loaded with spammy comments. Hopefully the results would show that spam does not work, but I fear the opposite is true.

Arnie

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Brian Gilley's picture

Brian Gilley

October 28th, 2010

Hi Arnie,
I agree totally. A controlled experiment while dealing with search engine algorithms is a tough tree to climb. I found it interesting that we started ranking for the misspellings within a week or so after acquiring the nofollow links.

I have another sub-set experiment to run on a few more domains that were set up much the same way as the experiment described above. Perhaps we'll gain more insight and add to this experiment once we gather the data.

From some client websites that have come to us for link building we have tested lots of spam comment links they acquired from their previous "SEO" company. The results were very scattered, but rankings were few and far between if the websites the nofollow links were acquired from were very spammy in nature. I think the site the link is acquired from denotes at least 70% of the strength or value score.

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Anonymous's picture

Ryan Rose (not verified)

October 28th, 2010

I can verify this... I stumbled on this while link building for a client recently. Great info.

Ryan Rose
Department of Search

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Anonymous's picture

Arnie Kuenn (not verified)

October 28th, 2010

Brian,
Ya we concluded the same, it is more the strength of the page than the No/Do follow attribute. Some clients still insist on very low cost, quantity approaches, but we just don't do any of those campaigns any more. Just not worth it for us or the client in the long run.

I am surprised you were able to get anchor text links on decent blogs though. Something tells me your domains and keywords must have been very "first & last name" oriented. :-)

Arnie

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Anonymous's picture

AJ Wilcox (not verified)

October 28th, 2010

That's a fantastic experiment! I'm super impressed and really glad to hear the results. I have to agree with Jill that there is a lot of linking data out there behind the link condom, and since the Goog uses links to :

1. Find new content
2. Attribute popularity
3. Get keyword (anchor text) clues

That they certainly just couldn't ignore that whole section of the net, as it's still valuable ranking data.

Again, thanks for all your work you put into this post...awesome.

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Anonymous's picture

Bart Gibby (not verified)

October 28th, 2010

Brian,

Great work, it’s wonderful to read that you are running experiments. Real data from real experiments is hard to come by. It’s fun to see the nofollow conversation come full circle once again in places among the SEO community.

As Arnie mentioned, the internet is not a controlled environment. I do find it strange that the domains where actually ranking for the keywords found in the nofollow anchor text links.

Which brings me to wonder if any scraper sites were linking to the domains? If back link data was not gathered during the test, the opportunity still exists. A good source for historical link data is MajesticSEO.com. The data will allow you to see if there were any scraper websites or anyone one else who linked to the test domains during your test period with the same keywords in do-followed links.

I am also wondering if same the pages that were ranking for the keyword were the same combination of page and keyword in the link href and anchor text? For example did “example.com/example.html” rank for “example word” or was it a different page or that ranked for “example word”?

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Brian Gilley's picture

Brian Gilley

October 29th, 2010

Hi Bart,
Thanks for taking the time to comment. I do believe I left out some data which I'll include in the original post above.

We did run SEO Majestic, SEOmoz' Linkscape, and another internal backlinks checking tool that we built ourselves. The backlinks to these couple of sites were 100% nofollow and no scraper sites. SEO Majestic was run 3 times during the experiment, which the last one being one week after the final nofollow links were acquired.

The descriptions and examples of the keywords we ranked for are now added to the post above. I think adding this does make it a more solid analysis. I appreciate your posting prompting the addition on our part. :)

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Anonymous's picture

Darren Shaw (not verified)

October 29th, 2010

Oh man, I totally ran the exact same experiment about a year ago. My domain got picked up by a couple of these "what is your site worth" sites and gave me some dofollow links, so, my experiment was ruined! Grr.

Nice job on this test. Glad you managed to avoid scraper sites and the like. Confirms what I always suspected.

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Anonymous's picture

Alex Juel (not verified)

October 29th, 2010

Excellent post Brian! David Leonhardt did a similar test last year, which I discussed at http://www.seoverflow.com/link-building/why-you-should-build-nofollow-li... if you'd like to read it.

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Anonymous's picture

Tom Kline (not verified)

October 31st, 2010

Hey Brian,

Really cool stuff, I always suspected that nofollow links had to pass some value (in one way or another). I think it's a miracle that the two domains weren't picked up by scaper sites, I can't imagine how frustrating it would have been for over 6 weeks of work to go down the drain. Thanks for doing the experiment and sharing your results with everyone!

-Tom

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Anonymous's picture

Jay (not verified)

October 31st, 2010

I'm convinced that noFollow links do pas son some relevancy, pr value and linkjuice..

thanks for sharing!

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Anonymous's picture

Robin | Trillo Digital (not verified)

November 1st, 2010

Great article, thanks Brian. This will give me something new to talk to clients about. Really good bit of research and interesting findings!

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Brian Gilley's picture

Brian Gilley

November 1st, 2010

Alex, Darren, Tom Jay, and Robin - Thanks for posting your comments!

Alex, I read your article. It was spot on to what we also found, mainly that relevance is still being passed and that Google seems to be changing their interpretation of nofollowed links depending on various factors.

Tom, we purposely block several of the "your site is worth..." sites we know of that attempt to fetch our sites. *We did not catch one that I see in a normal search for one of our test domains in Google but our test domain was not linked to as the external site only used the direct domain name, i.e. ourtestdomain.com. This didn't impact anything since our anchor text and keywords we were linking with were not at all related to the domain name.

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Anonymous's picture

bizior (not verified)

November 2nd, 2010

it looks like no-follow myth is busted :) Very informative article, thanks for sharing.
One question tho: Brian, you've mentioned that you blocked those "your site is worth..." sites, could you share how did you do that? Thanks

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Brian Gilley's picture

Brian Gilley

November 3rd, 2010

Hello Bizior, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Yeah, even till this morning the rankings are still holding strong for these few sites we were building nofollow links to.

For blocking those "your site is worth..." parasites one of my programmers added this to the .htaccess files for those sites:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^sitenamebothere [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^sitenamebothere

I'd need to ask him what the bot names are but this works like a charm since not all of these bots/scrapers will adhere to robots.txt directives. You just need to plug in the bot name and that's it!

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Anonymous's picture

tc software (not verified)

November 4th, 2010

Yup our own experience is the same. One site we where involved with a while ago had a link profile with 1500 nearly 70% of that where nofollow links and it didn't have any problems ranking or collecting traffic dispite the limited content.
The remaining 30% of the follow links where nothing to speak of either.

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Anonymous's picture

Chip Pintilie (not verified)

November 6th, 2010

Here what Google says about "nofollow" links and I believe it's true: "In general, we don’t follow them. This means that Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links. Essentially, using nofollow causes us to drop the target links from our overall graph of the web."

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Brian Gilley's picture

Brian Gilley

November 9th, 2010

Hi Chip,
I realize that Google says this about nofollow links not passing PR. However, even outside of this experiment above of ours I have other sufficient data to tell us that Google is doing other things with nofollowed links. It's also my belief that Google graphs/ranks websites based on what we've seen over the past months. Either there are holes in Google's nofollow rules or we are just seeing some interesting things in our experiments. :)

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Anonymous's picture

Josh (not verified)

November 14th, 2010

Thanks for presenting your results. You just confirmed my suspicion that I shouldn't be wasting time worrying about nofollow, but instead blasting my crap to every blog, wiki and social site in existence. Cheers :)

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Anonymous's picture

UkDedicatedServer (not verified)

November 16th, 2010

This kind of experiments can reveal all other ways for good back links from no follow.

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Anonymous's picture

Enrico (not verified)

November 29th, 2010

Hello Bryan, nice test, well done!

However, I've still some doubt about your results and, especiall, to better appreciate your test methodology, would be possible to know:

1) did any of the internal page of your domain #1 and #2 got any internal (dofollow) links from the home pages and/or from any other page of your domain1# or 2#? What I mean is if any of test page got any internal dofollow link from the same domain?

2) Do any of the "domain1.com/specific-air-conditioning-rating-type" url contain any keyword you've tried to rank for (i.e. if checked ranking for "foo" , was "foo" in the page url - ie. domain1.com/foo-yes ) ?

3) Have you still recently checked with Google webmaster tool if you've got any Dofollow link from scraper/spammy pages? Because what sees Google is not what Yahoo and/or Seo Majestic can see.

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Anonymous's picture

Jogos (not verified)

November 29th, 2010

Hi, yes nofollow can help but we should not forget one thing, these links are low quality. I used blog commenting a lot but now I think is waste of time and energy, dofollow links are much more powerful. The future of nofollow is unsure because more and more people use automated tools and in general they are targeting nofollow platforms like Wordpress. Somehow fighting nofollow has become synonym with fighting spam.

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Anonymous's picture

Eren Mckay (not verified)

November 29th, 2010

Hi Brian,
Thanks for sharing your tests with the world. This is valuable; however when performing reverse engineering tests it's better to isolate the other factors that might influence the results.
If you could create a unique keyword phrase that is no where on the web - not even on the page that you are trying to rank for (thus excluding on page SEO as a factor) and then use it as anchor text in a no followed link or as many no followed links as possible. And then after a few weeks go to Google and do the command allinanchor:"unique keyword phrase" and get a result then I believe that would be isolating the hundreds of other factors and proving that no follow gives ranking value.
I have performed this kind of isolating tests for no follow links and have not gotten any results that give value to no follow for ranking.
All the best,
Eren

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Brian Gilley's picture

Brian Gilley

November 30th, 2010

@ Eren - Thanks for commenting! We actually did build backlinks for a unique misspelling. See Week #3 notes:

"Note: In this round of link building we purposely built around 15 links with a misspelling that was quite unique. The goal was to target an anchor text that was totally unique, i.e. Google has no current search results for it in their index."

The misspelling was used as the anchor and on the page we were targeting - in the URL and in the page itself.

@Jogos - I think it depends on the market the website is in as to whether there's value or not in getting nofollow links. In our two test websites we'll end up using these for a client's network of websites but we've already succeeded in ranking these sites fairly well with no out-of-pocket expense for buying links. Yeah, I would not disagree that followed links carry more weight but for low budget efforts with some success I have no problem seeding free links (without spamming of course) and getting marked results in the process.

@Enrico - 1) There is some level of navigation to each of these two domains but the links used in the navigation, let's say to the product page for example, used the anchor text "our products" instead of the keywords targeted. Same applies for all other navigation. We kept the internal linking to pages with relevant anchors weighted very low, to < 10% overall.
2) We only used "types" and not brands in any URL for internal pages. The keywords used were also mixed up and not exactly matching our targeted keywords used for link building.
3) We are now seeing one or two other scraper sites linking to the home page of one of our test domains. We attempted to block most of these but surely enough a few will get through. There are no other links pointing to these sites that we can see while using SEO Majestic, SEOmoz, G. Webmaster console, or our own link profile builder tool.

Thanks!

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Anonymous's picture

Peter (not verified)

December 15th, 2010

This was a really interesting lead and finally provides some convincing evidence on the benefit of dofollow leads. I feel that far too many SEO processes are based on opinions rather than solid evidence and facts. Case in point is various HTML elements like H1, alt tags etc. which every says helps your rankings but I've never seen a controlled test which proves it beyond doubt.

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Anonymous's picture

Catalin (not verified)

January 13th, 2011

I believe you're right, this was a very interesting experiment. I'm convinced inbound nofollow links are being taken into account when Google ranks a website. Several months ago I noticed that my Google Webmasters account was showing a lot of nofollow links as inbound links to my website, and this is what gave me the heads up.

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Anonymous's picture

Pavlicko (not verified)

January 13th, 2011

Great catch. I'd figured as much, but never spent the time to prove it.

The next thing you know, we'll be realizing that 'sharing data' and adding goal values in Google Analytics was the biggest mistake we could have ever made as search marketers.

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Anonymous's picture

Fraser Hannah (not verified)

February 15th, 2011

Thank you so much for this, it has peaked my interest enough to try my own experiment. I can't see why they would not value no-follow as Matt Cutts keeps telling us that Google want to create a rich user experience. Surly the way to do this is to target the spammy sites, whether they are follow or not.

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Anonymous's picture

Tony (not verified)

February 20th, 2011

Great article. I'm link building for a number of clients and also tracking a firm that is link building for a friend of mine. This firm is getting links from off topic forum profiles and off topic blog commenting (spamming). Initially results were ok, the site moved up the rankings but has no ground to a halt. I was never comfortable with what they are doing and am sticking to ethical link building as I feel the results will be better in the long run. I also believe the nofollow links I'm getting are delivering results. A lot of these nofollow links are from forums and blogs which are used by my target audience so are important wether they are nofollow or dofollow. I think overall it's best not to obsess over nofollow and just get the links from the relevant sites.

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Anonymous's picture

Kyle Alm (not verified)

February 25th, 2011

The way that I have understood nofollow was that it was an instruction not to crawl the link...the link gets indexed without anchor text and is not intended to pass PageRank.

However, if nofollow passes anchor text value that is quite a revelation. I'm looking forward to digging into your research a little bit further. Thanks for exploring this.

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Anonymous's picture

Jerry Brisbane (not verified)

March 2nd, 2011

Wow! What a great read. The whole 'mystery' of what Google likes/doesn't like is mind-bendingly frustrating. (But hey, as you said "It would definitely not benefit Google to tell the web community to go out and get as many nofollow links as possible since it would open up doors for more spam and gaming in Google.")

So...

This article with this painstaking research is REALLY appreciated.

You have encouraged me to get involved in forums, and participate in the debates. Even with no-follow forums like this one! :-)

Seriously... thank YOU!

Cheers,

Jerry

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Brian Gilley's picture

Brian Gilley

March 2nd, 2011

Appreciate the comment. I think there's a lot more measurements that could be placed behind this theory of nofollow links passing ranking value to the linked-to page(s). As I look at our experiment websites I still see approximately the same level of ranking for those pages and main URLs.

So, at least that tells me our websites and nofollowed links weren't just a quirk or blip on the ranking radar, soon to fall off into 50+ or 100+ pages deep.

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Anonymous's picture

Portrait Artist (not verified)

March 15th, 2011

I think the most important factor for no-follow links is, that you DO need them. If not for anchor text or trust value, you need them to have a natural link profile. Look at some of the great brands that got links naturally as they are very popular. 2%-8% of their links are no-follow too. So, No-follows are needed for sure!

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Anonymous's picture

Largest Advert (not verified)

March 18th, 2011

I always thought nofollow was a bit of a con. If Google absolutely ignored the like they didn't exist, it would ignore all delicious links which doesn't seem to make sense.

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Anonymous's picture

Mo Mastafa (not verified)

March 29th, 2011

Hi Brian,Awesome experiment. Congratulations on helping shed some light on an argument that has been going on between SEO's for a long time.Personally I aim to get links from both do & nofollow links to allow for a natural link building profile.At the end of the day, as link volume is also important, why not get as many links as possible, irrespective of wether they are follow or not? 

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Anonymous's picture

Tim K. (not verified)

August 14th, 2012

Mo,

When you write "allow for a natural link building profile" you pretty much hit the nail right on the head.

No follow and do follow... both part of the web, and both part of the "natural" link game.

Very nice case study, btw....

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Anonymous's picture

Modi (not verified)

April 11th, 2011

Nice experiment, thank you for sharing. I find that anything Matt Cutts suggests needs to be tested as quite often reality has nothing to do with what he preaches. I guess this is also part of his job... But part of our job is to test! Well done Brian!

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Anonymous's picture

Marco (not verified)

May 4th, 2011

I think that, initially they really wanted to use nofollow for what they say, but later they realized that literally everyone added nofollow to their outgoing links, and it if they where to devalue all nofollows it would be impossible for them to rank anything....

Now it remained like that, and it does work as people believe nofollows are worth nothing.

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Anonymous's picture

rickyh (not verified)

May 20th, 2011

It's been a while since your test. I'd be curious how the test search terms are holding up. Also, what were the types of links you built:

-Facebook/other social media
-Blogs
-Forums
-Directories
-Article Sites
etc.

I'm curious if the quality of the links have an effect, particularly if social media types of links hold longer term ranking influence.

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Anonymous's picture

Buffalo News (not verified)

May 23rd, 2011

Hello,

I am very interested to know this answer. You said that you placed your links as comments on sites that were highly ranked and in the 30% of the industry.

First, How did you know this info?

Second, I have noticed that certain sites have a high homepage PR but their internal pages, where you comment almost all of the time, is very low or not ranked at all. Does this mean you shouldn't leave your link on them? Or, does google take into account the PR of the main page? I can't seem to find any blogs that have high internal page rank. Heck, even the Huffington Post has low or no page ranks for its articles that you can comment on.

I look forward to your answer. Thank you.

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Anonymous's picture

Office Furniture Brisbane (not verified)

June 15th, 2011

Hi Brian, It was really interesting to read your article about nofollow links. I am a real beginner at this and stated a website selling office furniture in Australia.
As I had plenty of time on my side I decided to do the SEO myself. After a few months I have ended up with about a 50/50 split with follow and no follow links. At first I was a bit worried about the nofollow but as soon as my site started to appear in google and rise in the pages I felt this must be a natural mix and reading your article has put my mind at rest.
Cheers, Dave

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Anonymous's picture

George from wowzygorsguidereview.com (not verified)

June 30th, 2011

It is interesting. And I'm glad that nofollow links work (according to you tests). I wonder if anchor text of links (especially comments) matter that much. What I was said by most people was to go only for do-follow links. Now I will try to test it myself.

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Anonymous's picture

white label seo (not verified)

July 4th, 2011

Nice finding from this story. Though links have the attribute of NoFollow, they can still count as outbound links to our site. In retrospect, NoFollow blogs can still be viable for link building.

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Anonymous's picture

SEO company (not verified)

July 9th, 2011

NoFollow is a new concept that can be used to increase the internal page ranking of the website. These days SEO services use NoFollow links which helps the website to pass value and rankings on search engine. London SEO services help you to increase the page ranking of the website in effective way.

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Anonymous's picture

Moose Hunter (not verified)

July 13th, 2011

I use a mix of both nofollow and follow, it helps it look more natural and not just a personal seo tactics.

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Anonymous's picture

Marco (not verified)

July 26th, 2011

The thing is I tried nofollows with my current alphatelecom.com project and the response has been satisfactory. Sure, there was no exploding rank increase, but I did get some website visibility with Google, given that my keyword placements actually increased a notch. That, and a fair number of extra links. While not fully qualified, on a grand scale (read mass) it shows. Grey links to be sure, yet the range is so generous ...

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Anonymous's picture

Medikamente kaufen (not verified)

July 28th, 2011

I don't get it. The nofollow attribute should be suppressed. It totally doesn't matter if a backlink is nofollow or dofollow.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous (not verified)

July 29th, 2011

Actually me too going to start a No-follow experiment for my new domain. However I am different from you because I am going leave my comment only PR3 and above page then I do ping. Will share the result here soon

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Anonymous's picture

Hand tools (not verified)

August 1st, 2011

Very interesting tests, thank you for sharing the information. I was wondering the following example: The dofollow link from website A to website B is transferring rank juice. If there is too many open links will this lead to lower PR for website A. And in your case nofollow link gives a benefit for website B without lowering the level of PR at website A, is this correct ?

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Anonymous's picture

Alex (not verified)

August 15th, 2011

This is something that all true SEO experts know and have verified over time, the problem is that novice webmasters place the "nofollow" tag on all their external links, the algorithm estimates if this is the case then a certain % should be treated as "dofollow".

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Anonymous's picture

The Money Corner (not verified)

August 16th, 2011

Very interesting indeed. I've always made comments on blogs that give both follow and nofollow links. I've found this has always worked for me, now you've given us proof that nofollow links do have an impact on rankings!!

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Anonymous's picture

security software (not verified)

September 6th, 2011

This is something that everyone has said will not work. It is nice to see that you have tested this and found it to be not true.

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Anonymous's picture

Surrey Movers (not verified)

September 9th, 2011

In my experience it seems to work, answered a question on AolAnswers (very high authority) then I linked to anwer page with Amplfiy.

About 3 days later I was #5. It seems like it can actually work better if the site has high authority if the term is not too competitve.

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Anonymous's picture

SEO Services (not verified)

September 14th, 2011

Mr,Brian Gilley this post has very nice topic. specially you discus about no follow blog. Do follow blog is better then no follow because do follow blogs is Google accepted , and no follow blog we use of increasing the web traffic on my website. thank you for sharing this informatics information

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Anonymous's picture

Object Synergy (not verified)

September 15th, 2011

Great experiment & researched, I heard nofollow backlink does not pass link juice, but you did great job by explaining every thing . :)

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Anonymous's picture

Rajesh Kumar (not verified)

September 20th, 2011

Nice experiment,

clickthrough can also be the reason because got the traffic from those nofollow links in the comments, and as far as my knowledge, clickthrough is also a factor in search positioning, can't it be?

Thanks

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Anonymous's picture

Entrepreneur (not verified)

September 21st, 2011

Very interesting experiment. I would like to say that it is very difficult to find do-follow blogs of high quality now. Especially when it comes to such domain extensions as .edu or .gov or .org But I would like to say that I comment both do and no follow blogs related to my resource. Comments made on popular blogs generate high ammounts of targeted traffic that is monetized easily. That's why I have concluded that it makese sense to comment all topic related blogs. Now, it is also pleasure to hear that do-follow links also have a positive impact on search engine rankings of a website as well. Thanks for a great experiment and useful information provided!

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Anonymous's picture

seo resellers (not verified)

September 21st, 2011

well done Brian Gilley, It is always interesting to see what result you get from your own experiment.You have proved that Google gives weight to nofollow links and do pass some pr and link juice.

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Anonymous's picture

Gaptek Update (not verified)

September 25th, 2011

i'm sorry to pop out an old article
I also running an experiment on my blog, i just try the live link method versus non live link method, with nofollow tag n live link, i've got pr 2 for my blog.

i just waiting for next google page rank update to see how non live link effect to link juice.

thanks

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Anonymous's picture

white label Seo (not verified)

September 30th, 2011

Interesting post. I always disagree when co-workers say that “no-follow” does not pass link value or page rank. I noticed that popular blogs have the “no follow” attribute. Therefore, if you neglect those blogs you’re missing out on great content and possibly link juice that most SEOs ignore.

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Anonymous's picture

Tom Launder (not verified)

October 2nd, 2011

"Google may not "count" the link as a weighted backlink but this doesn’t mean they ignore the anchor text being used or the authoratative status of the website being linked from"

-> Nice summary.

First, thanks for the outstanding research. We all grow when we share information with each other.

There is a lot of misinformation (even from Google...) regarding no-follow links. Do you have plans to keep testing this? We know definitively to not ignore no-follow linking opportunities in your vertical/domain.

- Tom

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Anonymous's picture

Evolutive web design (not verified)

October 4th, 2011

Thank you for sharing this great experiment. Let's say that a back-link is still a goodie, however the quality of this goodie depends on various Google algorithms that still remain on the obscure side..

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Anonymous's picture

Promotional Pens (not verified)

October 5th, 2011

It's great I came across this link while trying to find out if I should create a link nofollow. I am new to this link building. Actually this socialseo site is a great site to bookmark and learn more. Thanks.

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Anonymous's picture

Web Design Southampton (not verified)

October 6th, 2011

Brilliant experiment with really useful results. Thanks for sharing!

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Anonymous's picture

private label seo (not verified)

October 7th, 2011

Do-follow link still counted. My site's backlinks mostly came from no-follow blogs and forums but it still ranked for specific keywords. I think, do-follow as a ranking factor is no longer applied by Google.

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Anonymous's picture

Eco Homes (not verified)

October 11th, 2011

Really interesting read, one of the only blog posts I have 'fully read' for a while..it does appear that the nofollow att. is effective. If Google are trying to get the most natural results, then tbh they'd be better off telling everyone that nofollow links do not pass value, anchor text or page rank and then all the SEO kids go chasing after blogs without nofollow att....mmmm?

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Anonymous's picture

Types of Carpet (not verified)

October 15th, 2011

After what you found about the nofollow links having a positive impact on sites, there is no point in using it. I am just not gonna worry about it, will link from a mix and that way Google can never argue with link diversity.

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Anonymous's picture

Indian Blogger (not verified)

October 19th, 2011

Really great experiment to dig out Google's inside story.
This will definitely change the mindset of webmasters while doing organic seo & link building. In fact, I have started considering this experiment's results while doing link-building.
Thanks for your great efforts.

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Anonymous's picture

Web Design Southampton (not verified)

October 27th, 2011

Great experiment, that's a great help definitely gives some insight for how worthwhile linkbuilding is!

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Anonymous's picture

andym (not verified)

October 28th, 2011

This info is exactly what I was looking for. It gives me some relief in respect of the fact that I have found some really high PR pages to comment on and they were all nofollow. I wondered if I had wasted my time...it appears not. In a few days I hope to see an improvement in ranking for three of my domains.

If you were dropping a lot of links on low PR pages as against a smaller number of high quality pages, I would imagine the results would be not so good. The 90 links that you built, what was the average PR?

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Anonymous's picture

web design (not verified)

November 30th, 2011

We did some experimenting like this ourselves and we had the same result. Even no follow links can cause traffic to your site to they you should not exclude them when doing link building.

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Anonymous's picture

Web design (not verified)

December 3rd, 2011

Excellent article.
Thanks for sharing.

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Anonymous's picture

SEO services Brighton (not verified)

December 7th, 2011

Really cool experiment and really, a great post. I was just doing some research to see whether there's any value passed via nofollow attribute. It seems, it is still important to include nofollow links into your link profile. Thanks.

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Anonymous's picture

Free Resume Samples (not verified)

December 7th, 2011

Most definitely passes linkjuice and relevancy with noFollow links.. I have built alot of them and continue building them!!

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Anonymous's picture

Goodprint (not verified)

December 12th, 2011

Ignoring nofollow links in a link building campaign is a bad idea. Google is looking for natural links and the majority of natural links are nofollow. Ignoring them in a link building campaign is mistake in my opinion.

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Anonymous's picture

Kindle Reader (not verified)

December 12th, 2011

I have found that no follow links do show up as backlinks. When I check my backlinks I find that I have about a dozen that will show up. I guess a backlink is good no matter if it is follow or no follow.

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Anonymous's picture

Nick Ker (not verified)

December 14th, 2011

Very nicely done! I have suspected that something - maybe not full value "link juice" but at least some level of relevance - was passed even through nofollow links. But i have never had the time or opportunity to thoroughly test. When link building, I try to get followed links, of course, but I won't pass up a nofollow link from a good site that is very appropriate - mostly because actual visits may come as a result, but also because that there just may be some SEO benefit too. Thanks for this analysis!

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Anonymous's picture

robbie (not verified)

December 19th, 2011

I have to agree, I have found similar findings. I haven't testing only nofollow, but I have had excellent results using both NF and DF links. Excellent experiment!

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Anonymous's picture

surialink (not verified)

December 22nd, 2011

I agree, Matt Cutts’ statement should be elaborated upon. Maybe he should try explaining why some no follow links can be seen in Webmaster Tools.

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Anonymous's picture

Alvin@cheap web host (not verified)

December 27th, 2011

Thats some really good news. I think Google want to keep us in the dark at least for some of the things they do. I did a Google search and so many other people can corroborate your story. Thanks

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Anonymous's picture

andrea jarman (not verified)

January 1st, 2012

I really enjoyed this article and think i've read it before. With the majority of sites in my niche using the no follow attribute it becomes very frustrating to build links and the majority i do build are no follow. It's good to know I may not be wasting my time. I guess it would make sense that once google has ranked the pages with all the lovely links it then needs to rank the rest of the sites and maybe 100 no follow links will put you above the next site that has 70 no follow links. I don't know but your post helps to boost my link building motivation. I've read a few posts now that have carried out similar experiments and each one reports the same findings. Thanks :)

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Anonymous's picture

Learning Local SEO (not verified)

January 2nd, 2012

This is one of those topics about SEO that people still love to disagree or debate over. I really don't get it. I've already heard all the reasons a person can say to try to convince me that "NoFollow" passes no Page Rank.

Well sorry folks, unless our definitions of "Nofollow" and "Passes" and "Page Rank" and "No" are different, you guys who don't want NoFollow links are just plain missing out. To be clear. I "DO" believe that "DoFollow" links are better and I get crazy happy to get them. But wasting time refusing nofollows is, well, a waste of time when you could be getting very fine links. How many ranking factors are there? A lot right? Not just green bar PR alone. "Just use your brain" is what my Daddy taught me. So, consider the "Principles"...

If ALL links on the web were NoFollow then there would be no sites for Google to find? Search results would be "sorry, nothing found"? Over-simplified it may seem LOL... Oh but that would never happen, right? Doesn't matter, if the "Principles" don't always work, then there is missing information. This is simple easy to understand Mathematics to me. Not only that, but you guys already know that Google does NOT want anyone to know how it really works. They are very good at not lying, while still allowing us to believe something untrue, if we choose to.

Google tells you that Nofollow "Passes" no "Page Rank", right? So human psychology is predictable that our brain will automatically assume that NoFollow means "no good". But there is much more to page rank than page rank, right?

No one has to choose only one side either yes or no, but that's what they want us to think and it works. A piece of advice that I learned that has taken me a long way in every aspect of life (and seo too) is, when things seem confusing or conflicting, always ask the question "What ELSE can this mean" and / or the question "Why". Stop believing that you must choose a side.. choose truth! ;)

Thanks!

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Anonymous's picture

Political Forums (not verified)

January 4th, 2012

Thanks for the great case study, it is great to see this kind of empirical research being done and then presented in such a clear manner. Very scientific and I admit, encouraging results.

I plan on running a similar experiment with a couple of fresh domains and see if I can replicate the findings. I appreciate you sharing your work with the rest of us; keep up the excellent work.

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Anonymous's picture

custom printed (not verified)

January 24th, 2012

Oh that’s something really discreet in my opinion. I still wonder how it is possible because it doesn’t make any sense that nofollow provides link juice or have an influence on ranking. Is there any official confirmation from Google or any of their employees leaked it out? There are several experts out there and each of them owns an opinion but I don’t believe anything unless it is officially approved.

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Anonymous's picture

Plasterer Manchester (not verified)

January 26th, 2012

Thanks for the Post!

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous (not verified)

January 27th, 2012

From some client websites that have come to us for link building we have tested lots of spam comment links they acquired from their previous "SEO" company. The results were very scattered, but rankings were few and far between if the websites the nofollow links were acquired from were very spammy in nature. I think the site the link is acquired from denotes at least 70% of the strength or value score.

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Anonymous's picture

SEO (not verified)

January 30th, 2012

This is one of the greatest experiment I've been searching for. Here in our field (SEO), we do have lots of confusion regarding link building specially the issue about the no-follow link. Is it really worth in building no follow link or we'll just wasting our time doing this. But on this experiment, we can barely see that there is really a weight (although not much weight) in no-follow links. In my own opinion, building links should always be balanced. If you're building do follow links, you also must have no-follow links to ensure that G will give you authority.

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Anonymous's picture

escalier nord (not verified)

February 1st, 2012

I have always wanted to know if nofollow links were useful or not. Thanks to your test, I know the answer to my question. Thank you from a french reader ;-)

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Anonymous's picture

Victor Ch (not verified)

February 8th, 2012

Excellent post. I've never even thought about running a test like that to help figure out whether nofollow links still help. Have you tried running this similar test again, now that it is 2012? It'd be interesting to see how things have changed (or haven't changed).

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Anonymous's picture

atomiku (not verified)

February 9th, 2012

Well, brilliant! Is a relief to know that nofollow links do in-fact help page value. Will completely change the way I do my linkbuilding now. Thanks for the experiment - good work guys.

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Anonymous's picture

Paneru (not verified)

February 16th, 2012

I didn't not know the importance of nofollow link. This article is really helpful.

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Anonymous's picture

Preemie Clothes (not verified)

February 10th, 2012

I always thought nofollow was a bit of a con. If Google absolutely ignored the like they didn't exist, it would ignore all delicious links which doesn't seem to make sense.

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Anonymous's picture

Keith Taylor (not verified)

February 13th, 2012

Interesting findings (I wonder if they're still valid in 2012, though). When adding comments to blogs I never ignore the no follows, if only for the fact that it may look suspicious if every backlink to your site is dofollow. Seems like a natural link pattern would include a mixture, so whether it passes any benefit or not I like to throw some in there anyway.

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Anonymous's picture

Nick Ker (not verified)

February 21st, 2012

Very cool experiment! I usually take an approach where I try not to worry about nofollow - if the link is good (meaning that it is from a very relevant, very good quality site) then it is still a good link. I always felt that it had to count for something with Google, and if it didn't, it could still bring some visits.

I tend to agree with Marcus Miller in that Google may not pass "juice" through nofollow, but probably measures relevance and other more subtle signals.

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Anonymous's picture

Lars N. (not verified)

February 27th, 2012

Im wondering is it still like this?
My boss argues otherwise and Google have made several changes since 2010. Anyone know some newer studies of this scenario?

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Anonymous's picture

African Mango (not verified)

March 12th, 2012

I know when I check my links with Traffic Travis a lot of no follow links show up. I will not pass up no follow links any more.

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Anonymous's picture

toronto boudoir photography (not verified)

March 16th, 2012

They tell us that no follow links don't work but they do. I continue to liken SEO to witchcraft because their are so many black, white and grey tactics that do and dont have impact. Blogs are the gold standard to drive SEO however with the time it takes to create them... may as well stick to backlinks on high PR sites.

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Anonymous's picture

Gilbert Realtor (not verified)

March 19th, 2012

Its great to see an actual study on this, and not just speculation. People have been suggesting this for quite some time, and I was beginning to be persuaded. But this study on nofollow links proves it. Thanks for your work.

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Anonymous's picture

Sander (not verified)

March 21st, 2012

Very interesting. I've got quite a few links to one of my websites on Wikipedia (which uses nofollow for external links) and always assumed it wouldn't help for my page value. Good to know that it does!

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Anonymous's picture

gman (not verified)

March 26th, 2012

What was the PR breakdown of the pages comments were left on?

Were all 90 comments approved?

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Anonymous's picture

Linda (not verified)

March 28th, 2012

Have you ever seen nofollow links show up in Google's Webmaster Tools? That would be an interesting thing to look at, because if they show up there, then Google is definitely counting them for something.

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Anonymous's picture

Rent Condo Bangkok (not verified)

March 28th, 2012

I would like to think that no follow links work as this is one of them! But I have my doubts and if they do pass on link juice then I would imagine that it is at such a low level that it wouldn't be worth the time it takes if you were targeting competitive keywords.

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous (not verified)

April 5th, 2012

Wow, So many times I have heard people just saying 'forget about do follow links' or 'do follow links have now value for SERP's'.

Some great evidence though, Changed my view on NoFollow Links.

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Anonymous's picture

Joe (not verified)

April 8th, 2012

I have tested this myself and come up with the opposite results. I tried every way possible and I have simply not been able to rank a site using nofollow links + anchor text alone. I think these results may have been a result of scraper sites that did not show up on your Majestic/ahrefs/whatever radar. I personally do not use any of those sites to check my backlink numbers because they quite simply have never been the least bit accurate. Often times they record less than 10% of my actual link portfolio. I think some scraper sites probably picked up your site and got you ranked.

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Anonymous's picture

Vishesh International (not verified)

September 22nd, 2012

What DO you use to check your backlink numbers?

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Anonymous's picture

Bret (not verified)

April 9th, 2012

Great article...I just wonder if this is still the case. It would be interesting to see a similar experiment 2 years after this article has been published. I mean has google changed how it treats nofollow at all since 2010?

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Anonymous's picture

Ubaid Ur Rehman (not verified)

April 11th, 2012

I was wondering the same answer, As me my self noticed that some great nofollow site's that i love and just use them to share my pics and articles, increasing my site value, I rechecked if I am mistaken, but then found my link was in nofollow attribute, that's really a great experiment you guys perform to help many people.

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Anonymous's picture

Joey (not verified)

April 13th, 2012

It seems like there is some juice from no-follow links as some websites almost all of their backlinks are no follow and they rank high its crazy and confusing game

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Anonymous's picture

seo dude (not verified)

May 2nd, 2012

Interesting point.. What probably matters (in case with nofollow links) is not the link itself, but the mention of some domain somewhere else on the web. Obviously, if the mention is just a spammy comment link (lol) it's not much of a signal. So, it may be reasonable to assume, that the nofollow links which you've built might have affected the ranking results as they send relevance signals to Google (again, I can't be 100% sure as I'm not a Googlebot). Anyway, it's pointless to figure out how googlebot (and search algorithm works), simply because it's not going to get you anywhere, unless, you have something on your website what people can link to, interract with, or your website provides genuine value. In such cases - links will come naturally... and that works all the time. p.s. Funny to see how people keep commenting on this post.. (for some mysterious reason... :) )

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Anonymous's picture

KJ Crisman (not verified)

May 6th, 2012

So many people assume that no follow links are useless. It looks like you have discredited that theory.

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Anonymous's picture

Freelance SEO Manchester (not verified)

May 15th, 2012

I have long wondered this and have tried my own experiments. Mine were slightly less conclusive, or rather dramatic, than yours but they still resulted in an increase in rankings.

I think that No Follow links do aid rankings but only in a minor way (when compared with Do Follow links). So, I have tentatively concluded that No Follow links represent a percentage of a Do Follow link. Only a small percentage but a percentage nevertheless.

In addition to this, No Follow links have the benefit of driving reliant traffic.

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Anonymous's picture

Stories for Kids (not verified)

May 23rd, 2012

I have just stumbled upon this article. After reading the whole thing, it changes my attitude toward nofollow links. I still think that the same principle still applies to Google today even though the post was made in late 2010.

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Anonymous's picture

Photography Marketing (not verified)

May 31st, 2012

Thanks for this great article! I'm currently doing the same testing. I had the same hypothesis.

I found out if you look at the code at most CMS platforms the rel="nofollow" is telling the platforms not to follow links in the comments. I don't think its not following links in the name. Most people try to post links in the commets. This is why CMS platforms implement this in commenting. In SEO a anchor text links for your particular keyword is a very powerful one way links. Its tells google this page is about this particular keyword. Most people don't understand googles algorithm formula is much more advance. Example if you have an anchor text "Dogs" and it leads to a page about dogs and people stay on that site and bookmark it. Then that tells google that this page is on "dogs" because they clicked on a link "dogs" and went to this page and the person stayed on it. So the algorithm looks at many different things.

My Test:

I had one page targeting 3 main keywords with page rank of 0 I did the best on page seo I could.

I was on page 10, 7 and 5 for my 3 keywords

I used the name "photography marketing" on blogs mostly CMS platforms with rel="nofollow" on links in comments. I used my landing page that I was doing my SEO on. I posted about 5 comments and in few days I went from page 10 to page 6 and page 5 to 3 so it does work just don't post a link in the comment.

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Anonymous's picture

Majid Awan (not verified)

May 31st, 2012

I was about to write a blog post for my blog about this topic and i thought may be i should see what other experts are talking about this. Currently i was not thinking that No-follow links are totally worthless and a waste of time, but after reading this article my mind is so clear. I mean if they exist they mean something don't you think.??. Surely they carry less weight then Do-follow links but we can't live without No-follow links either. They are a great source of traffic in form of blog comments and forum comments etc. And i think i am going to use this trick for optimization of my Blogger Tricks And Widgets blog..:-)

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Anonymous's picture

Evolv Health (not verified)

May 31st, 2012

This really clears things up for me. I have thought for a long time as well, how and why would Google just avoid all of that nofollow data? It doesn't make sense and although I have been apprehensive in the past at even "wasting" my time to make nofollow links, I now feel confident that I am adding value to my website in this way. Thank you!

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous (not verified)

June 1st, 2012

Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.

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Anonymous's picture

Stephen Brand (not verified)

June 2nd, 2012

I'm pretty sure that Google's PR team states nofollow links don't matter so spam is less encouraged. If people thought they didn't matter or weren't effective, they would be less willing to use them, too.

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Anonymous's picture

SEO Nottingham (not verified)

June 4th, 2012

Is this still relevent?

I know it used to pass juice on but I read somewhere (cannot find out for the life of me where now), that the new algo has changed and it's limiting the strength of nofollows, and if its says a blog page full of spam comments with random links going random places (like the sort indian seo companies crack out) it could actually harm rankings?

And would a NOFOLLOW link from an .EDU be worth more than a FOLLOW link from another website - provided that they've worthy websites to begin with.

Seems very hard to find much info about this sort of thing that actually makes sense, everyone else always seems to be posting something different.

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Anonymous's picture

Susan Silver (not verified)

June 6th, 2012

I was doing some research into no follow links. I am curious too to see how effective this would be in the era of Panda & Penguin. I think actually that Google is correct, no follow does work as they say.

What we cannot predict is how people click through to content and what they share. Thus any form of discovery is likely to increase your rankings, even accidental stumbling. It could be the case that Google tracking is a little too smart for its own good and giving extra value to things from something other than link juice. There are many signals we don't know that may be used to determine rankings.

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Anonymous's picture

Phil Abi-Najm (not verified)

June 10th, 2012

I wonder if a similar study was run now if you would notice the same results? I certainly don't see any no follow links showing up in bing or google wmt, but I'm also inclined to believe that the no follow links have to carry some juice, whether its specifically for PR or otherwise, it has to be worth something...

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Anonymous's picture

Anonymous (not verified)

June 12th, 2012

on my website, i have all links to without nofollow tag, is it harm to my website ?

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Anonymous's picture

mobile (not verified)

June 17th, 2012

i also think that no follow link helps but not in a major way..
if you have to work more on do follow rather no follow.
but thanxs for your experiment.

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Anonymous's picture

Commercial Gym Equipment (not verified)

June 21st, 2012

Very Interesting indeed, it would be good to show a majesticseo page or something with the nofollow links. I'm gunna put this on Warrior Forums where everyone is always banging on about getting dofollow links and forgetting about nofollow

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Anonymous's picture

html5 streaming server (not verified)

June 27th, 2012

Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.

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Anonymous's picture

Richard Bowie (not verified)

June 29th, 2012

I had a link building plan that was for about 80% no-follow links. After the penguin update we noticed our pagerank fell from a 1-0, I would love to see the result of this testing with the new algorithmic updates. Anyone got any recent tests

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Anonymous's picture

CarlPottsDesigns (not verified)

July 3rd, 2012

Very interesting article, it certainly makes me want reappraise my link building strategy

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Anonymous's picture

San Antonio Financial Adviser (not verified)

July 5th, 2012

I really enjoyed reading about this experiment. I am not a webmaster or an SEO by even a long stretch, but as a local, independent financial adviser I have found it very difficult to achieve ranking for our site, and have not found a company that I believe could really help us.

I am trying to provide helpful commentary on other blogs, but with the time invested it's really good to know whether or not I am wasting my time commenting on a nofollow blog. Especially when there aren't a whole lot of well-ranked "dofollow" blogs out there about money and investing. It's great to see that I might not be!

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Anonymous's picture

Mark at Dental Care Plus (not verified)

July 11th, 2012

As a control, it would have been a good idea for a third website without any links pointing to it, because if nofollow links have no value a site with only nofollow links should rank in a similar way to a site with no links pointing to it at all.

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Anonymous's picture

Mark at Dental Care Plus (not verified)

July 11th, 2012

As a control, it would have been a good idea for a third website without any links pointing to it, because if nofollow links have no value a site with only nofollow links should rank in a similar way to a site with no links pointing to it at all.

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Anonymous's picture

Morgan (not verified)

July 29th, 2012

Quite supportive! To elevate the page rank these are the best way of link building but in my view the do follow links are more effective than any other. Thanks Brian for an informative deliberation!
Local seo

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Anonymous's picture

Glass repair Long Beach (not verified)

August 3rd, 2012

They are still valuable in terms of it being a link. You have to remember, a link is still a link, which will get you traffic. Also, there are indications that nofollow links still can affect you in the SERPs.

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Anonymous's picture

Virtual Private Servers (not verified)

August 6th, 2012

Nice Experiment ! Its true nofollow backlinks helping crawling our website and also effect on search engine ranking . Facebook and some other big social network are nofollow, but Google give preference to Facebook , nofollow back link is not useless and you can get organic and direct traffic from nofollow backlinks.

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Anonymous's picture

Plumbers Cape Town (not verified)

August 8th, 2012

My personal opinion on No Follow links is that Google is not lying in saying that it doesnt directly pass page rank or link juice specifically, however like always i feel google are being "economical" with the truth in that its not also adding that whilst the above is true No follow links as whole ARE a ranking factor in their algorithm ... quite what is of course the 64 million dollar question .... i suspect its along the lines of a certain % of links should be nofollow in any back link footprint or that they are viewed as a whole and given a score within the alogithm.

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Anonymous's picture

Kim (not verified)

August 8th, 2012

So, I was wondering..

Did you guys ever do any follow up on your findings, to check if they still hold true or if anyone else have seen similar things?

I've seached you back articles withour finding anything.

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Anonymous's picture

Hendra (not verified)

August 8th, 2012

I’ve used pinterest to optimize my site and the result was amazing my site was jumped from #234 to #9 in few weeks time.
The trick is we must got our website pinned and repinned by many people thisis the hardest part. Most of pinterest users won’t doing repin when they aren’tlike what we pinned.
I do simple thing to outsource it on fiverr and got my site pinned by 75 people, I don’t know how can he did it just search by typing pinterest on fiverr and you willfind it on the TOP. Many other seller offer pinterest service on fiverr but in my experience they can’t make my website increase in SEO. I don’t know why.
As I know currently pinterest is best for SEO for these reason:
1. Once our website pinned it has 3 backlinks counts
2. Google interest in social media signal so it will not tagged as links farm
3. Currently pinterest links are dofollow even the image
4. Even not support anchor text (except the url link), it’s still perfect for placing our keywords in description. Google will READ it!!
5. You need to ping the links of your pins to the to get your website increase in SEO
6. Obama The President and Mark Zuckerberg now pinning on Pinterest lol.

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Anonymous's picture

Akif Shamim (not verified)

August 10th, 2012

i still value nofollow links and i hope if someone does that then hes on the same line i am, everything counts but should be relevant to your niche that's the key.

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Anonymous's picture

website design company (not verified)

August 11th, 2012

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Thanks.

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Anonymous's picture

Darren (not verified)

August 15th, 2012

I wonder if there is good link value on sites such as Facebook and Youtube afterall?

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Anonymous's picture

Flower Bulbs (not verified)

August 17th, 2012

Nice article.

NoFollow links never pass page value then other valuepass is as normal.

free flower bulbs worldwide.

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Anonymous's picture

Best Book (not verified)

August 19th, 2012

You did a brilliant test to signify the importance of nofollowed external links. I have seen some blogs having pageranks of 4 without having any dofollow backlink (from 4+ pagerank pages). Roughly if a blog does not have too many links, it should have a dofollow 6 pagerank backlink to get a pagerank of 4. So, sometimes nofollow links does pass some value (may be from big sites).

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Anonymous's picture

Matthew Ozolins (not verified)

August 20th, 2012

There is no reason for Google to not give weight to no follow links in their algorithm. When you think about it, often the places in which people gain quality links which are really relevant to the user only hand out no follow. That does not mean that the link is not super relevant for the user.

Remember Google was not made for SEO is was made for the user.

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Anonymous's picture

christina (not verified)

August 23rd, 2012

The endless question, whether no-follow links help or not. 2 years later, the question still remains. I have read many case studies (like this) that claim that they DO help, but on the other hand, why would Google state the opposite?

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Anonymous's picture

Michael (not verified)

August 29th, 2012

Wow.. me and a friend had this talk a few weeks back, where he told me I shouldnt bother about getting no-follow links. Now I can show him this test :)
THX :)

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Anonymous's picture

Russ (not verified)

August 30th, 2012

Great experiment guys. Has anyone done anymore research on this since the Penguin update? It'd be interesting to see if this has made any difference at all.

The article makes me think that the world of SEO is one filled with experts who know less than they think they do, though that is purely the doing of Google, who always seem to be one step ahead of the game!

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Anonymous's picture

Nick Kellingley - Cambodia SEO (not verified)

September 4th, 2012

It would be interesting to know if your experiments had a similar result now. I fervently believe that no follow links do add benefit, one of my blogs has half a dozen very low value do follow links and about 200 no follow links and it has PR and Authority that far outweigh the do follow stuff. But it would be nice to know if it went back into the test domain phase if that's true or if I'm just missing something.

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Anonymous's picture

po rozwodzie (not verified)

September 5th, 2012

I feel that far too many SEO processes are based on opinions rather than solid evidence and facts. Case in point is various HTML elements like H1, alt tags etc. which every says helps your rankings but I've never seen a controlled test which proves it beyond doubt.

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Anonymous's picture

web design cumbria (not verified)

September 7th, 2012

awesome post thanks for this

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Anonymous's picture

basketball courts (not verified)

September 7th, 2012

great blog, thank you and keep it up!

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Anonymous's picture

Web Design Kent (not verified)

September 9th, 2012

This is some great work.

I've never really considered the possibility Google may still apply factors from link even if it is no-followed. With that said, I'd be interested to see this updated for 2012 to see if this is still the case or whether Google has either tightened it's belt or got more lax as more webmasters have applied the attribute.

I know while reading Google documentation it's almost implied that the no-follow tag is strictly adhered to whilst stopping short of stating it as a fact. This has led me to the conclusion that the tag is not 100% honored, 100%of the time.

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Anonymous's picture

Billig GHD Rettetang (not verified)

September 10th, 2012

Really good article, useful for seoer! Thanks for sharing!

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Anonymous's picture

chiba (not verified)

September 11th, 2012

I didn't do any exact experiments on this one, but I know that even nofollow backlinks from diverse forums did help me in ranking better at Google.

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Anonymous's picture

smart (not verified)

September 12th, 2012

I believe that nofollow links pass some authority, but I don´t think that they pass page rank juice. In my opinion, a mixture of both types of links is a way to go.

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Anonymous's picture

Alex (not verified)

September 13th, 2012

Very interesting case study indeed.
Actually I allready thought that nofollow links were defenately passing value to my sites. When I do linkbuilding I write all information in an excell sheet so I have a good record of what I did. Usually after a few hours of posting something to a blog, I can see my rankings allready changing. It doesn't seem to matter if it's a nofollow link. So, actually I don't care about follow or nofollow links.
Who cares if you don't get extra pagerank? As long as you move up in the SERPS.
I hope they don't change their mind at Google and decide when they have their next elefant (or whatever) update that suddenly all nofollow links don't matter anymore...
I think the best is, to have a very diverse link pattern from pages which have related content.

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Anonymous's picture

Independent Financial Advisor Norwich (not verified)

September 24th, 2012

Although this experiement is a few years old the results are interesting and to some extent 'encouraging'. It seems to me that it must be in everybodies (including Google's) interest that comments are made on the basis of wishing to give some input (or feedback) to a blog or an article and not just to get a 'link' to increase your own website prestige. If the strong demarcation between the treasured 'do-follow' links and 'no-follow' links was less pronounced it might prevent some of the relentless spamming of popular 'do-follow' pages.

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Anonymous's picture

SMO Services (not verified)

September 25th, 2012

So finally we can now believe that nofollow links are valuable that can help in improving ranking of their website on search engine

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Anonymous's picture

SEOVaughan (not verified)

September 26th, 2012

SEO Companies Toronto,
SEO Toronto +1-855-736-4849 100% Organic, #1 Top Ranking Gurus~ Search Engine Optimization Toronto, Video SEO, VSEO Services, SEO Companies Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Vaughan, Woodbridge, Etobicoke, Ancaster, Milton, Oakville, Stoney Creek, Grimbsy, Winona, Markham, Richmond Hill, Hamilton, Burlington. Video Search Optimizing, PPC Management, Internet Marketing Services, E-Commerce Management.

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Anonymous's picture

Structural Engineer (not verified)

October 8th, 2012

It'd sure be nice to have an updated version of this blog. I wonder if in the last 2 yrs more people have verified this.

What I gather from this is that while nofollow links do not share Page Rank juice they do in fact help with SERP. I'm willing to say PR is not that valuable to SERP anyway. One of our websites has High PR, enormous amounts of Links, most of them relevant, extremely relevant site with many index pages, and yet rank #2 behind a low PR, low amount of links website. It's driving me crazy for I don't know what else to do!

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Anonymous's picture

Juice Marketing (not verified)

October 8th, 2012

I just found and read this article. It's eye-opening since 90+% of stuff you read online says nofollow links are worthless. Just wondering if this testing (and post from 2010) is still valid in light of the major algorithm changes Google has made recently.

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Anonymous's picture

Dusty (not verified)

October 11th, 2012

Wow, this is a bit of a game changer! Very interesting article with good evidence, I can't wait to refer to this article next time I hear someone say "nofollow links are a waste of time"

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Anonymous's picture

Best Value Glove (not verified)

October 18th, 2012

Wow, this is getting really confusing. Does the word come out of Matt Cutts matters anymore. It seems like serious contradiction.

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Anonymous's picture

Charm Chadles (not verified)

October 25th, 2012

nofollow will tell the crawler robot not to follow the link on the crawled website but still collect the links or link found.
dofollow will tell the crawler robot to follow the link on the crawled website and crawl to index the link found while continuing crawling and indexing links found on the crawled website.

sample. nofollow >> lambingan.net found a link text movie to "movie" the crawler robot will not go to the lambingantv.com but will account the link and index it then continue processing the links on lambingan.net without going anywhere.

sample. dofollow >> lambingan.net found a link text movie to "movie" the crawler robot will go to the website of lambingantv.com crawl and index it while continuing processing the links on lambingan.net until it finishes and halt the job and waited if frequency is to when to comeback.

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Anonymous's picture

yespurse (not verified)

October 31st, 2012

although nofollow links do NOT pass any pankrank to target URL, but it will make a relationship between your anchor text with the target URL, it tells the search engine what the URL is talking about, that is also the basic and most important nofollow links' value.

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Anonymous's picture

Gent Ukehajdaraj (not verified)

November 17th, 2012

No-follow links have a lot of value, and this experiment that you did surely proves the argument on this subject. Having a website with only do-follow links is bad for SEO, because it's not natural and it will definitely set a red alarm on.

After the latest algorithm changes, having a mix of good quality links on relevant websites, naturally proportioned no-follow and do-follow, will be the only way to boost your rankings.

Thanks for the experiment and analysis!

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Anonymous's picture

Angle Security (not verified)

November 19th, 2012

This is so confusing. Every websites and research claims contradictory findings.

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Anonymous's picture

chat γνωριμίες (not verified)

November 19th, 2012

this is a very nice and helpful article. now i can understand about nofollow links

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Anonymous's picture

Justin (not verified)

November 20th, 2012

no follow does work to rank sites/pages to the top of google search engine results. i have hundreds of google blogger blogs and wordpress blogs on various wordpress hosts that i ranked into the top 50 positions using nothing more then crappy blog comments. to achieve this i simply built the page/sites with decent on page seo, and the blasted the main page and sub pages with up to 5 keywords each linked to from a thousand different domains each. so a 10 page blog each has 1000+ links from unique domains. works for me. now my competition is looking at over coming 50 blogs each with over 10k unique domain links to each. good luck with that! if you want do follow.. go build your own. there are hundreds and thousands of free wordpress based blogs out there. wordpress MU allows quick subdomains. i just copy and past the same site into a hundred new hosts every day and let em sit. works for me. darn i do hate it when scrapers copy my entire site and copy/paste it into another sub domain whos pages all links back to mine! =(.

=)

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Anonymous's picture

SEO Asturias (not verified)

November 26th, 2012

I already had my suspicions about this issue for some time. Your experiment is very useful and it makes a lot of sense. What doesn't make any sense is that a link from a blog with no authority and no relation with your industry can pass PR and those who are relevant to your industry and your topic do not. Eventhough do follow links are much more important as we all know. Overall, I agree so now I have something to work on in my daily SEO task.

Thanks for sharing
Jaime
SEO Asturias

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Anonymous's picture

Tarot Lovers (not verified)

December 3rd, 2012

What a fantastic experiment and write-up!

Most of my backlinks indicated in my Google Webmaster Tools metrics are 'no follow'. I have to assume the presence of these links in GWT means they are factored into the Google ranking algorithm. My websites with such 'no follow' backlinks have page rank as well as visibility in Google search results. Some of my pages even rank fairly high.

Furthermore, because some sites do not allow deep linking and some sites prefer use of real names, I simply use "David" with http://this1that1whatever.com. This does not get me anchor text value but I'm pretty sure the no-follow links count because that is mostly what I have.

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Anonymous's picture

Garden Design (not verified)

December 4th, 2012

Excellent post. Sometimes I feel google don't even know how their own systems rank pages and sites. I'm new to SEO and this article has reinforced my belief that every link carries some value.

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Anonymous's picture

chris paulus (not verified)

December 8th, 2012

Thank you for this article. As a new site/Blog owner it has been hard to find reliable information either way with no follow links this discussion sheds some light. It does appear that some juice comes through.

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Anonymous's picture

Roben (not verified)

December 11th, 2012

Well, I do care of No-follow links when it comes to high priority websites… i agree with most of the points but too many external no follow links can /might be a red flag?

well, how can you control the external links linking to your website that are linking you naturally? obviously when you write something Awesome people give reference but they might put the no-follow while giving the link (though its not a good practice in my eye) but my point is you can not control the external no-follow links to your website.

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Anonymous's picture

seo expert kolkata (not verified)

December 14th, 2012

Actually nofollow links are still are necessary. Very useful article. I bookmarked this. Thanks for sharing this post. Keep it up.

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Anonymous's picture

ασημένια κοσμήματα (not verified)

December 17th, 2012

the subject that you wrote is very interesting and helpful

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Anonymous's picture

David (not verified)

December 26th, 2012

This site http://www.limeisbetter.com/ is among the do follow. Though comments are enabled. In google has not been any problems with it and I still go on.
Thanks for the article Brin

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Anonymous's picture

seo kolkata (not verified)

January 5th, 2013

We did some experimenting like this ourselves and we had the same result. Even no follow links can cause traffic to your site to they you should not exclude them when doing link building.

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Anonymous's picture

Ravi (not verified)

January 5th, 2013

I am still confused after reading the post...Does nofollow links pass PR?as far as i am concerned, i have seen lot of contradictory post and there is real confusion.

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Anonymous's picture

Alisa (Think Big Online Marketing) (not verified)

January 9th, 2013

Thats realy great post i realy get much more information to this post and very informative.

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Anonymous's picture

Matthew Hunt (not verified)

January 13th, 2013

Looks like posts on "no follow" links passing ranking juice is a hot topic for early 2013. This like the 5th or 6th blog posts I've read this week on this.

I think I need to test this out.

Dori Friend was testing this recently with de-indexed sites and no follows. She had some interesting ranking changes too.

I certainly don't think having no follow links is going to hurt your rankings, but I am not sure if I'd quite go looking to build a blog network of no follows links to pump rankings quite yet. ;)

Which I know someone will go and do following this post.

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Anonymous's picture

Shashank bhattarai (not verified)

January 17th, 2013

There are still some of no-follow links google indexed that i have been receiving backlinks from. Even there are some of no-follows link...google indexes it. But One thing is going around me is can we get link juice from no-follow blogs

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Anonymous's picture

trend (not verified)

January 18th, 2013

i also preferr to combine do and no follow links...
first-it looks natural for google
second- link pointing to my site is never unworthless :D

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Anonymous's picture

rana (not verified)

January 23rd, 2013

Nice experiment, thank you for sharing. I find that anything Matt Cutts suggests needs to be tested as quite often reality has nothing to do with what he preaches. I guess this is also part of his job... But part of our job is to test! Well done Brian!

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Anonymous's picture

Mega Business Design (not verified)

January 23rd, 2013

I know this is an old post and many Google algo changes have occurred since, but, it's great to see factual posts on the subject matter.

We've done some testing over time and we seem to get decent-ish results from nofollow links, of course not as powerful as dofollow but they're not entirely worthless - even today!

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Anonymous's picture

Theo (not verified)

January 24th, 2013

Great experiment, i wonder if the effect is still somewhat similar anno 2013..

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Anonymous's picture

Richard (not verified)

January 24th, 2013

There I said it - Matt Cutts lies all the time.

I ran an experiment last year with Youtube and their links. It was still passing the authority value on without the pagerank. This is why Youtube now adds a redirect on to their outbound links on your profile.

Never believe anything Cutts tells you.

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Anonymous's picture

Apk Android Games (not verified)

January 27th, 2013

That is exactly what i was doubting from last some times. Google pay attention to no-follow links but don't says it.

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Anonymous's picture

Peprismine (not verified)

February 1st, 2013

Hi Brian,

I read an article on Dofollow & NoFollow that you wrote on socialseo. Thanks for the insights & carrying out the experiments.

Best Wishes

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Anonymous's picture

Producer Chris (not verified)

February 3rd, 2013

Found this article when searching for the impact of nofollow links and it's probably one of the best articles out there, thanks to your detailed case study.
I appreciate the time you took to actually test this out.

Now my question is- how will this change (if at all) in 2013? After all, social links from twitter/facebook and video links from YouTube are also not followed, yet they have some impact on rankings.

Peace,
Chris

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Anonymous's picture

Récupération de données (not verified)

February 3rd, 2013

This experiment is very interesting. I am not surprised with the results and furthermore it is a good news.

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Anonymous's picture

SEO SMO Services (not verified)

February 25th, 2013

I know I'm late here but I never believed the "no-follow" tag was 100% effective. Hence I have never ignored websites that applies "no-follow" tags just like this one. Relevancy and quality matters a lot.

However, previously I had some doubts regarding this but now, after reading your blog I'm 100% sure that even "no-follow" links are valued.

Thanks for your time, you have answered one of the most frequently asked questions that we often ask ourselves every time we encounter with "no-follows"

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Anonymous's picture

Andres (not verified)

February 25th, 2013

I always knew that nofollowed link do pass some reputation to the site. Know I think that it depends on the site, because I have seen that more powerful sites giving nofollow links result in more rankings.

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Anonymous's picture

ST247 (not verified)

March 3rd, 2013

thanks for the great article. wondered if this was still the case post-penguin, post-panda!? .. anyway, great test, and reporting on it!

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Anonymous's picture

EBO (not verified)

March 6th, 2013

Is this still work, even in this 2013?

I've seen that nofollow link from facebook doesn't do much thing, But from twitter does.

Really confuce with the differences >.<

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Anonymous's picture

Personal (not verified)

March 26th, 2013

I think producer chris has hit the nail on the head. Back in 200? the no-follow was a necessary goal-post change from Google's point of view - it took people off the scent for sure. The goal posts are always moving though, so the more time passes and the more and more social sites have no-follow attributes as standard, the more and more Google HAS to count them. They can use the data to their advantage and sharpen up their algorhythms more so than not having no-follow signals are admitting that they now do count, and whichever way they go about it, there's no way as long as I have a hole in my backside that a no-follow link IS or WILL BE worthless. Ask the hundreds of SEO bods on this site making comments if their suspicions haven't been sneaked! Great that you guys took the effort to make this experiment. Hard to say totally without having a third site the same with no links at all to compare natural on-site SEO - but sort of irrelevant - you got your site ranked with on-site SEO and No-follow links - fact!

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