Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO expert Jenny Halasz. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!
Welcome to another edition of Ask an SEO! Today’s question comes from Dianne in California:
One of my SEO tools gave me the following error alert:
“Internal link with ‘nofollow’ attribute
Using the nofollow link attribute communicates that you don’t know if you trust a link, so using it on internal links will make Google suspicious.
The following internal links use the nofollow attribute:”
From the links they are showing it looks like my “Reply To” button for comments has a “nofollow” tag. Will this affect my SEO for Google?
No. This will not impact your SEO for Google, Bing, or any other search engine.
This is the problem with using only tools to do SEO. They have a tendency to surface a lot of false positives.
This is necessary because tools can’t understand the nuances that humans can, but it can be challenging when the explanation given isn’t exactly accurate either.
You can absolutely use nofollow on an internal link.
In fact, if you don’t want pages like login screens or comments on your blog to be shown in search, nofollow is one good way to achieve this*.
In your specific case, it sounds like your comment plugin is suppressing comment reply links. There’s no good reason to allow people to link to those pages directly, nor would you want them to show up in search, so nofollow is a completely acceptable way to handle them.
My advice with all tools is to look up the definitions of terms yourself (on Google or Bing) and think about the purpose of those commands in a larger context.
The History of ‘Nofollow’
Many people think Google invented “nofollow”, but in reality they did not.
Nofollow is a microformat that Matt Cutts (formerly of Google) and Jason Shellen (formerly of Blogger) collaborated on. According to the official specification, nofollow:
“…indicates that the referred resource was not necessarily linked to by the author of the page, and thus said reference should not afford the referred resource any additional weight or ranking by user agents.”
There are two significant keywords in this definition.
The first is “author of the page”, which indicates that nofollow should be used in cases like blog comments or advertising, where the author is not directly responsible for the content linked.
The second is “additional weight”. While SEO professionals have become accustomed to nofollow actually meaning “do not follow the link” because that’s what Google says they do, it’s not in the original specification.
So it probably also surprises people that Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and Baidu do not treat the nofollow attribute the same way that Google does.
Nofollow is a useful (if sometimes overused) tool in the SEO toolkit.
The insinuation by this tool provider that “using it on internal links will make Google suspicious” is false.
*Note that nofollow only works to keep pages out of search results if it is also paired with a noindex command on the destination page and there are no other follow-able links to the page.
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