I know that when it comes to obtaining backlinks, a no-follow is pretty much worthless. However, does Google (or other major search engines) penalize for sites that have nothing but do-follow links?

I have heard a long time ago (back in 2007) that having no-follow backlinks can make SEO efforts appear more "organic." Fact or fiction?

2 Answers 2


SEO myths get dumber and dumber with time...

The ratio of nofollow and dofollow links is definitely not a factor because:

  • It is an indication of nothing. Really, how does this ratio indicate anything about the page quality? Or page's relevance? It doesn't.

  • "Appearing organic" is such a stupid term. Organic is organic. Everything else is not. Search engines are good at, and getting better at, detecting manipulation schemes. Any time you try to appear as something you're not you're manipulating them and that's just dumb (and asking for trouble either now or in the future).

  • Nofollow links are designed to help reduce spam and paid link manipulation. If a site doesn't have any nofollow links then they're not spamming or buying links. Should they be penalized for that?

  • Links from external sites are (theoretically) out of a webmaster's control. So you can't negatively judge a web page (or site) by the actions or links on another site since they don't control it. (If they are caught participating in some kind of scheme then obviously we're into manipulation and it's a different situation then being discussed here).

  • Building on the above, links on other sites can never hurt you (unless you part of a link scheme, buying links, etc). Otherwise it would be too easy for competitors to hurt you. The worst thing that can happen is links from suspect pages are devalued or ignored.

  • Alright, didn't think so, but thank you for clarifying. I see it mentioned in different places from time to time and I want to say something but don't really have a ton of information to back up my claim. :) Thank you for answering, gives me a post to refer SEO "experts" to when they tout their "mad skillz." Apr 21, 2011 at 0:50
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    It's amazing how much misinformation about SEO is still out there. I used to laugh at it but now I just shake my head and cringe.
    – John Conde
    Apr 21, 2011 at 0:52
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    I see a lot of crazy stuff, too. It kind of makes me angry. I enjoy SEO, but I definitely don't feel confident in my skill. I'm not the best and always have a ton of questions. That said, I see tons of people who probably just took a seminar and feel greatly confident in their skill and tout things that I KNOW are wrong. Alas, no confidence to argue it with them, so I never say anything. It makes me angry to see some people make a fortune off of optimizing sites belonging to people who know nothing about technology and are thus eager to hand money over to someone who uses big words. </rant> Apr 21, 2011 at 0:56
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    Nowadays my bad experiences are by proxy. My clients get calls from people who want to SEO their website and then I have to explain to them why they don't need their services. Some of the BS these guys are spewing is incredible.
    – John Conde
    Apr 21, 2011 at 1:01
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    @Melanie, see this answer for a good one. I'm still shaking my head.
    – John Conde
    Apr 21, 2011 at 3:26

No links are worthless. All have some value. True a link from a blog comment of something unrelated is of very little value but it does carry some. Forum posts have very little also. But 10,000 + to a website in a market where links are extremely hard (like ball bearings) does help. It all depends on the industry, competition, country, trust and other factors.

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    If the link is nofollow it is worthless from an SEO point of view which is what this question is about. Also, Google definitely penalizes sites that sell links and don't use nofollow. They make the links worthless so their algorithm isn't manipulated and the site no longer has any value for selling links.
    – John Conde
    Apr 21, 2011 at 3:17
  • I disagree John. My research shows that no follows have some value.
    – Joe
    Apr 22, 2011 at 5:03
  • Direct from Google: In general, we don't follow them [rel="nofollow" links]. 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. However, the target pages may still appear in our index if other sites link to them without using nofollow, or if the URLs are submitted to Google in a Sitemap. Also, it's important to note that other search engines may handle nofollow in slightly different ways.
    – L84
    Oct 27, 2015 at 18:43

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