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:

ADVERTISEMENT

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 Ask.com 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, Ask.com (a surprising response) and Yahoo.

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

ADVERTISEMENT

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?

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”?

In conclusion, the commenter was correct about links to pages from Wikipedia some search engines, specifically Google, but Yahoo and Ask.com 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 Ask.com) link value nor referral attribution is given.