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I have been informed that search engine support is inconsistent for the rel attribute with the 'nofollow' value.

Is this the case.

From my research Google, Yahoo and Bing seem to obey this attribute and will NOT follow links with it present.

I need to be sure before questioning the integrity of the SEO team :)

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All of the major search engines have acknowledged support for rel="nofollow"

From Wikipedia:

While all engines that use the nofollow value exclude links that use it from their ranking calculation, the details about the exact interpretation of it vary from search engine to search engine.

Google states that their engine takes "nofollow" literally and does not "follow" the link at all. However, experiments conducted by SEOs show conflicting results. These studies reveal that Google does follow the link, but does not index the linked-to page, unless it was in Google's index already for other reasons (such as other, non-nofollow links that point to the page).

Yahoo! "follows it", but excludes it from their ranking calculation.

Bing respects "nofollow" as regards not counting the link in their ranking, but it is not proven whether or not Bing follows the link.

Ask.com also respects the attribute.

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    Although it seems that support does vary? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nofollow – Digital Essence Mar 23 '11 at 15:01
  • @Digital, looks like we both were at Wikipedia at the same time :) – John Conde Mar 23 '11 at 15:03
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    Yup. The more I answer questions on here the more I learn. It's great! – Digital Essence Mar 23 '11 at 15:06
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    I don't think Wikipedia is a good source to use...maybe next time we can come up with something more reliable? – 40XUserNotFound Jun 16 '11 at 22:45
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    I'm looking into something at the moment where I'm getting errors from bots where the link has rel="nofollow". My findings show Google bot does not follow the link but Bing does. The page will error from a bot and shouldn't be followed but Bing bot. I did forget to add the mete/header for noindex on the target page, which I think has something to do with it. I think Google just plain doesn't follow, but Bing does if it thinks there's something it can index on the other end. – Robin French Nov 8 '16 at 14:52
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From my experience, BingBot does follow links despite them having a nofollow attribute. I can see it currently in our logs: thousands of requests per day for pages that are linked using nofollow hyperlinks. I did check the IPs as well as user-agent and they seem to be legit requests from bingbot.

Whether or not Bing then uses this for anything (indexing, ranking...) I don't know, but I can confirm it does follow the links.

As per other search engines, I don't have a blanket answer to cover all, but I can say I'm only seeing this from by Bing and (to a smaller extent) Yandex. The rest don't seem to be following the links, although not to an extent that makes me notice it.

  • It is sometimes possible for search engines to find the URL through another link that does have nofollow. – Stephen Ostermiller May 10 '17 at 10:46
  • "nofollow" means "do not consider this link to be a recommendation for the page it is linking to" not "don't follow this link" (yes, the name is terrible). – Quentin May 10 '17 at 10:56
  • Here is an experiment that found that Google doesn't even crawl a URL if all it finds is a nofollow link to it: searchlaboratory.com/2015/08/… – Stephen Ostermiller May 10 '17 at 12:00

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