How Google, Yahoo & Treat the No Follow Link Attribute

There seems to be a common misconception in the webmaster and search engine marketing field that inbound links which use the ‘no follow’ attribute have no value to the site which they point towards.

Earlier in the week, Raj Dash commented in a post on Exposing the Invisible Web to Search Engines that in addition to bookmarking and social news sharing, securing links from authority sites such as Wikipedia can help search engines discover sites which they may not have been able to find.

A reader responded in a comment that this is false:

Links from Wikipedia will not allow you pages to be seen by search engines, because Wikipedia recently added rel=”nofollow” to all of there external links.

Instead of challenging the reader to an argument on No Follow, I thought that for once and for all, the law needs to be laid down as to how search engines treat the no follow attribute in terms of linking and discovery.

What better way to do so than to ask the search engines themselves? So I wrote Google’s Adam Lasnik (Matt’s on vacation), Yahoo’s Director of Search Tim Mayer and the Search Team to get the lowdown on No Follow directly from the source.

So, here are the basic No Follow questions and answers, from Google, (a surprising response) and Yahoo.

1. How does your search engine treat the No Follow attribute?

  • Google : The Googlebot does not follow that link.
  • Yahoo : If we find a link we make it available to our algorithms to find new content, whether it has a ‘no follow’ attribute or not. However, if the ‘no follow’ attribute is present, it means that no attribution is given to the target from the source of the link.
  • : We have never officially supported No Follow, so your questions don’t apply to our crawler/ranking.

2. If a site has no web citations and only has one link pointing to it, and that link is from a Wikipedia entry, would your search engine find that site and index it even though the link uses a No Follow attribute?

  • Yahoo : Yes, the link is available to our crawlers for finding the target. Then the target will be crawled and indexed based on our algorithms.
  • Google : Assuming that link is still no-followed per Wikipedia’s current practice, we will not find much less index that page (remember, this is page, not site related; if links to other pages on that site are not no-followed, we will see and potentially index those pages).

    On a related note, though, and echoing Matt’s earlier sentiments… we hope and expect that more and more sites — including Wikipedia — will adopt a less-absolute approach to no-follow… expiring no-follows, not applying no-follows to trusted contributors, and so on.

3. Is there any quality given to sites which attract No Follow links from authority sites, besides the lack of the passing of PageRank, Link Authority or “Search Juice”?

  • Google : Since the Googlebot does not follow no-follow links, this isn’t really an issue.
  • Yahoo : As promised in the semantics for the ‘no follow’ tag, the anchor text and attribution will not be carried over to the target of a ‘no follow’ link.

No Follow Search Engines

In conclusion, the commenter was correct about links to pages from Wikipedia some search engines, specifically Google, but Yahoo and both not only follow No Follow, but also make those sites available to their algorithm. Therefore, even links with the No Follow attribute do have value; especially in the counting, but not always authoritative measurement, of backlinks.

No Follow does not mean that search engines do not see the pages which No Follow attributed links point to, it means in some cases (not link value nor referral attribution is given.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker

Comments are closed.

285 thoughts on “How Google, Yahoo & Treat the No Follow Link Attribute

  1. Great job, thanks!

    Didn’t you ask MSN or didn’t you expect that they can remember that they officially support the rel-nofollow microformat since 2005?

  2. Nice job, surprised you got such a concrete answer from them. But it raises one issue – people could use wikipedia to put in spam pages and although it doesn’t get any credit to those sites, it still helps it get indexed by Yahoo and Ask..hmm I predict a surge in spam on Wikipedia.

  3. “but Yahoo and both not only follow No Follow, but also make those sites available to their algorithm.”

    This has to be one of the most confusing thing I’ve ever read.

    Was it supposed to be “both not only NOT follow No Follow, but…”

    The wording makes it seem like they do adhere to No Follow

  4. Yahoo has the best attitude here. Google just doesn’t “follow” the link, but if it’s present on any other page, it’ll crawl the page. That’s stupid, because it does nothing, all you need is one link to defeat every nofollow’ed reference. Unless Google hid if they consider the link for PR purposes, unlike Yahoo, who were explicit on their answers about this.

    A link is a link is a link, better have it even if it’s nofollow. I would rather hit Digg’s frontpage with nofollow than getting thousands of links from untrusted, PR 1 pages.

  5. I’ve touted what Lasnik was saying for a while now but I have to ask, why in the heck is it still including in the backlink results?

  6. Well done on that interview. At least I feel I have a clearer idea on how various search engines, particular Google index my sites.

  7. Whenever I think of rel-nofollow, I think of the requests by webmasters asking to have a way to link to a website, without transferring any value, because they were usually talking about a bad source. Thus, the purpose of no-follow, in much sense, is to keep from passing value to unwanted sites. I think this attribute is very limiting, and more attributes should be created.

    Specifically, I want a rel-paidlink attribute to identify links that have been purchased. This attribute, unlike the non-specific rel-nofollow attribute, can inform the crawler of the paid link status on the link, allowing the system crawling to determine what to do with that new information.

  8. Google does follow “nofollows”, set up a page on your site with no interlinking within your site, point 10 “nofollows at it” wait 2 weeks, go back search in google, and it will be indexed.

  9. Aftseo, is the page dynamically generated? Or static? I am assuming from the behavior you described that the page was a static object in a web accessible subdirectory, in which case it would be picked up.

  10. If I’m in the place of the search engines or wikipedia… I’ll stick with nofollow. It’ll be devastating on the system.

    However, that DOFollow thing that is getting popular (for blogs) might as well be good and be bad.

  11. Loren.

    Whats the bottom line?

    Are we or are we not getting credits for these comments ?


    Good work. Just a few hours before reading this post I added the plugin allowing links to be followed from my site. I figure reward the visitors and take my chances… for now.

  12. Thank you for bringing clarity to an issue that has caused confusion for some time.

    I recently joined the “Do/I Follow” movement and have seen traffic increase to my blog accordingly. Hopefully, this move will translate to better link juice on the part of all participants.

  13. Is there a possibility to put a nofollow for external links using HTaccess? I know this question is not related but I jst wanted to know and would appreciate a post on this. I have many sites linking to me, but I am not sure if my pages are getting crawled by the bots. Also is there a way to check HTaccess tags of other sites?

  14. I could swear i’ve seen Google reporting on links with “nofollow” for ours as well as our clients’ sites in their Webmaster Central link report.

  15. This is not good news for link exchange marketer. Do you think that if search engine will not index that URL then why link exchange expert will visit any blogs, social networking website or wiki site for link posting, if that is not useful. This will affect Page Hit also for that specific website if no buddy is posting any link or making comment on your post.

  16. @David, yes, as stated in the pice Yahoo follows links using the no follow attribute but does not pass value from the page which is linking to a specific site. So, of course the links show up in Site Explorer, but should not influence ranking.

  17. If Yahoo and Ask follow them and index those sites, won’t Google then index them by finding the links on Yahoo and Ask? If that’s the case, then the nofollow attribute is useless with respect to indexing.

  18. Wikipedia now adds the “nofollow” attribute to all external links. The reason given for this is to battle spam links, like those of blackhat search engine optimizers. The change is already active, as you can see by checking outgoing links on Wikipedia’s articles.

    Web Page

    Thank for the official response. Official is always good. Nice leg work Loren.

  19. Allen makes a very good point. If Yahoo is following and indexing links despite the No Follow tags. These same links will be indexed by Google and MSN via a Yahoo spidering and the No Follow tag becomes a none issue.

    As long as one major search engine ignores No Follow tags, they are technically not working.

  20. Great post! Thanks for the information. I have been more than a little confused as to how the whole no follow/do follow thing worked.

  21. Good Post and great information- love it when its backed up with facts! -Not opinions.

    I like the “expiring no follow links” -concept -as will allow webmasters that are serious- to post-thinking long term…..

    Wiki had to try and stop abuse- so it made sense to go no follow – Someone should look at the traffic stats from no follow links (as isn’t that what you are really after- more traffic after all?)

  22. Great article and thank you for taking the time to interview these authorities.

    I would like to see some test results displaying pages with no other links but those with no follow attributes…

    Also thanks for clearing up why you didn’t include MSN, I was wondering why they were not included also.

  23. Great Research! i used this content on my website too if you don’t mind Loren. Plus one thing i want to tell is that GOOGLE does FOLLOW no-follow link. I have prove of it. I am analyzing a site links in google where i find a link to that site from a directory when i visit that directory ,interestingly its using NO FOLLOW tags.


  24. It would be really good, if you included Windows Live search with the comparison. Live search have much more search market share then Ask.

  25. Somehow… I still have doubts. I always perceived Google to crawl but not credit the link love from a nofollow. So it may still help in the indexing but not helping in the ranking.

    I’ll test this with a page unknown the world and just link to it from a nofollow link.

  26. Does a no follow tag keep the crawler on your site with the result of more pages being indexed or reindexed.
    Also does activating no follow help you achieve a higher pagerank, It seams that a site owner can put more links on thei site or blog without fear of being penalized for to many outgoing links, If in fact you are penalized. Just seams that those with the power have figured out how to keep those without from getting any.

  27. The traffic I get from Yahoo and Ask is so minimal I don’t even bother wondering what their alog does.. G just buries all the rest of them

  28. Google owns about 60% of the search engine market and continue to grow. Yahoo has good content such as news and their own information but google is the king of search engines

  29. Nofollow attribute does not really apply to the other search engines. This attribute is simply part of Google’s plan against link spamming and PR manipulation.

  30. I think this debate continues to prove that no link is a bad link – void of adult, non related sites, etc. I know many people who steer clear of linking with no-follow sites simply because of the no-follow. I’m still not completely convinced that, if it is an ‘authority’ site, Google completely discredits the link if it is tagged with a ‘nofollow’.

  31. Reading through the article and subsequent comments, I think I am now safe in the knowledge that all my “find ‘nofollow’ blogs for comments” software rubbish has been pretty useless and can well and truly be confined to the recycle bin!

  32. This is good article which I have been following.

    It can be abused- thats where the lack of no follow creates more work.

    Let me explain…..
    On my dog site:

    The competition has made 28 K links to it for the term of “dog clothes” – 99% of them are from blogs without the no follow- some of them in english- most in chinese (I believe most don’t require confirmation)

    (They have a number 1 ranking BTW)

    I am all for posts on blogs with relevent content(like this one) but when it gets abused like this- its possible for anybody to apply it to any market and you cant remove them from the top position (even with a complain to the big G)


  33. @Paul from SEO Training Live – I have seen the same exact thing from an advertising company in CA. They have hundreds of links from dofollow blogs using only the anchor text: ‘internet marketing’ and rank rather well for the extremely competitive term. The worst part – they sell SEO. Is this the same tactic they use for their clients?
    I clicked through to a few and a couple were from a ‘business ethics’ blog – the irony.

  34. @Paul – Sure I would be happy to disclose more although a more private setting might ideal as opposed to a blog forum:) Feel free to e-mail me at jclark (at) I just dropped the URL into Yahoo Site Explorer – 17,000 plus links most of which are from BS.

  35. thank god for this article, I was getting suspicious after submitting my site to various directories, because not many backlinks are found when I do a search. I think the no follow attribute is just heinous

  36. Someone commented – No-follow “inlinks” are displayed in Yahoo Site Explorer. So there is some recognition…

    I have noticed this too with some Yahoo Answers I posted – which are nofollow links but seem to get some recognition in Yahoo. Whether this is because it is their own site, or whether it is because they still rate nofollow links to some degree, I’m not certain.

  37. As this post approaches being 12 months old is the information still relevant today.
    or have there been dramatic changes in the past 10 months. Have Google, Yahoo or Ask changed their view on the “no-follow” tag

    Regards Shayne

  38. Thanks. I have spent the last week thinking about this and wondering whether to trawl my sites adding no follows to unimportant links. I maaaay still do this on the main sites, but I feel it is less urgent now.

  39. The official claim is that links with the rel=nofollow attribute do not influence the search engine rankings of the target page. In addition to Google, Yahoo and MSN also support the rel=nofollow attribute.

    i think it helps indexing….

  40. Only now I have come to fully understand what no-follow attribute really means.Until now I never paid attention to this is now I now I was wrong.
    I now use seo source for firefox to highlight nofollow links.
    Oh, and thanks alot!!!

  41. I want to congratulate you on your work to explaining this follow – nofollow issue. I’ve searched literally hundreds of site only to find little information.Thanks man.


  43. Do not worry too much about having your links in nofollow attribute. If you are writing good content, webmasters are more than happy to provide a link back. Focus should be placed on building great content.

  44. I am in the process of learning SEO techniques and just recently found out about “nofollow”. Glad to know that the comments I made on sites utilizing “nofollow” links would still have a benefit. I just wish more people used ASK.

  45. I have noticed this too with some Yahoo Answers I posted – which are nofollow links but seem to get some recognition in Yahoo. Whether this is because it is their own site, or whether it is because they still rate nofollow links to some degree, I’m not certain.

  46. I have sites with more yahoo traffic than google traffic. So all does not necessarily have to end or start with google.

    yahoo loves blogs and will index blogs faster particularly if you throw them in the yahoo.dir and they are personal blogs.

    MSN loves blogs even more than yahoo ( recent trend ? ) and some of my blogs can get more traffic from MSN than Google.

    Look for the traffic people, its more important than how much G loves you ( and yes, they can be related but… Focus on the real reason for doing business )

  47. Hi real great post I have wondered about this for a while and heard on a few occasions that nofollow links are still worth something, Anyways main reason I am posting is I am very interested in knowing if you ever got a response back from MSN

  48. Any chance of getting an update on this? I’m curious to see if the search engines have changed their feelings on “no follow” since this was first posted almost 2 years ago.

  49. To answer your question

    Jim on Jan 12, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Any chance of getting an update on this? I’m curious to see if the search engines have changed their feelings on “no follow” since this was first posted almost 2 years ago.

    Not that I have seen but I am still interested in MSN

  50. Great article. i see the importance of the no-follow now. As from a professional SEO person a link is better than no link at all. Also I heard that sometimes google crawler will miss the no-follow and you will get credit.. SEO expert told me its like “a leaky condom” But who knows. That is what i have learned. I have realized getting links on pages that do not have the no-follow link have a huge impact on me. And definitly has grown my websites to what it is today.

    By the way……… great article….

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  52. It seems to me that traffic is neglible for many sites. Most people I speak to get very little traffic regardless of nofollow or not.Indexing of sites seems a little hit and miss also

  53. Of course, this Selsi person who is spamming this website understands that this site itself implements a no-follow rule?

    Thank you for this article, it makes my job a little harder though.

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  55. I don’t think google underestimates nofollow links, I have seen many guys ranking high with no-follow comments.

  56. I wonder, does Google follow their own “FOLLOW” links on their blogs? In other words if I visit a blog and like it and then click their follow me link and add myself will Google find me?

  57. Really good information. I just watched an online seminar that said differently, but I figured the nofollow links had to have some value. I mean comments from people are important.

  58. Really good information. I just watched an online seminar that said differently, but I figured the nofollow links had to have some value. I mean comments from people are important

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  60. Fine discuss on no-follow, bookmark it and I’ll read it tomorrow because it’s too late. Wikis dose a bad work. Why close itself within walls.

  61. So at the end of the day after I post this Yahoo will see it as a backlink.

    I had a website that we were excluding from the robots and yet Yahoo found a post of mine here, counted as a link and actually called the website my user name for about a week until slurp came around to the site. So I would say they might not be tell people the truth.

  62. Thank you very much for clearing the concept about no follow links.

    If a site is a quality one such as wikipedia and giving you link, it doesn’t matter whether the link is follow or no follow.

  63. Thank you for sharing this informative post and clearing the No-follow links. Some web directories offer free links placement services but put the link with this attribute.

    Thanks again and best regards,

  64. Even though this post is two years old, it still holds water. Since the Big G is where you want to be ranked, it is obviously important to follow what they say – if you have backlinks from do-follow sites with high PR and authority, then you will do well in the search engines.

    I believe Google is now working on relevance and local search results.

    This article is a good place to start, though, for the no-follow mystery.

  65. This article is really interesting. I didn’t realise that search engines treat no follow tags differently. The thing to remember is that Google has somewhere between 78% and 88% or the entire search engine market share (in the UK anyway) and because links with the “no follow” attribute aren’t followed by Googlebot they are of no use in an SEO campaign.

    In the past I have spent lots of time submitting my websites to various web directories only to find out afterwards that the links are no follow – hence of no use to me when trying to build my inbound links for SEO as nearly all of my traffic comes through Google.

  66. very useful info, thanks for taking the time to check with the head honchos and sharing the skinny, which I assume is still true ( though I have read elsewhere that google does follow the no follow but doesn’t pass any page rank)

  67. Thank you for the clarification on no-follow links. Personally, i think a site with only follow-links are unnatural.

    So getting some no-follow links are good in some extent.


  68. very nice chart :)
    good o know for at least my comment is worth sth :)

    funny thing with what google says – I’ve read many time that they DO follow (meaning robot goes to the site) and index it, but doeas not give any PR..

    why with so simple one bit problem we have so much – they do? they dont? :)

  69. About as clear as mud I’d say. As usual you have to read between the lines when digesting exactly what Google says. The only thing we can rely on is that nofollow links block the flow of PageRank. But nothing else can be deduced from that.

  70. Need to make a little correction there, as Google indexes the site whether it has no follow or do follow :)

    The only tag that prevents an url to get indexed is the no index tag.

    Anyway, great article.

  71. Hmm I just saw that google has listed a inbound link in my webmaster tools that is a nofollow. They should not do this or have I analyzed your article wrong

  72. This is now outdated, or Google were being liberal with the truth to begin with. I did a test fairly recently on a new blog. Before I even added an entry or pinged it in anyway, I dropped a link to one of its inner pages on a very popular social site which is quite definitely ‘nofollow’ – I even triple checked the source code. By the time it took me to get the browser with my stats up, Googlebot had already visited my site, literally, within seconds. So, they do follow it. My site hasn’t been indexed (yet), but they do ‘follow’ ‘nofollow’.

    To be honest, if they were true to the ‘nofollow’ they invented, they wouldn’t even follow it.

    I know there are some diehard IM’ers out there who want to believe there is some worth to ‘nofollow’ links. The only worth they have is direct traffic, and whether we like it or not, they have no influence on Googles SERPS.

  73. @lou – if you have the Google toolbar or anyone who visits that page has then Google will come and visit.

    I believe that anyone using chrome will also trigger a Googlebot visit.

  74. this is nice info for seo specialist, now we have to work accorarding yahoo and other search engine

  75. This is a great post. I was actually searching info in regards to a WP widget that would be a “dofollow” attribute. However, it's not out there. But after reading your research, it doesn't really matter too much. I always put so much emphasis on making sure every link wasn't “nofollow”. Thanks for the insight!

  76. Although I agree with the article with respect to no follow i have a major caveat.

    Imagine you have posted 500 questions on Excel to YAhoo and linked you site to all of them. 10% of the readers followed the link and found something useful and 5 people (10%) created their own links to the content believing it to be useful. Would that not logically mean that there was value in leaving links on sites using the no follow attribute because of percieved indirect value

  77. Another common misconception is that a “nofollow” link is worthless. It really depends on the program scope and goals. Let's say you have a backlink from a wildly popular site but it uses the rel=”nofollow”.

    The wildly popular site could still drive lots of user traffic which could lead to conversions. Those users who love this wildly popular site and “now” your link could then pass the link on to other friends who could start linking to it from other sources. I mean, it's a wildly popular site, anything could happen.

    I generally pursue them both.

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  79. I do think that nofollow helps for sure.It is really considered very important if its with anchor text. Thank you for the post it helps for search engine algo information.

  80. I do think that nofollow helps for sure.It is really considered very important if its with anchor text. Thank you for the post it helps for search engine algo information.

  81. Just say me one thing, if i have archive based post like /2012/12/postname.html
    i should Add nofollow to day pages, Add nofollow to month pages or year page or not?