Many websites use the rel nofollow tag to prevent PageRank/link benefit from passing through links, some of the most popular blog platforms and content management systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla automatically add nofollow links without webmaster interaction!

Unfortunately rel nofollow doesn’t protect PageRank (as it once did), it deletes PageRank! Google moved the goal posts to prevent PR sculpting via rel nofollow.

WordPress Rel Nofollow?

I use WordPress as an SEO CMS and although WordPress out the box with almost any WordPress theme and no WordPress SEO plugins is better than your average website from an SEO perspective, WordPress is clearly NOT designed by SEO experts for maximum search engine results.

The WordPress developers are WordPress experts, but they aren’t WordPress SEO experts.

WordPress is good SEO wise, but it’s not awesome: just look at how core WordPress uses rel=”nofollow” with comments that we’ve known for years deletes valuable PageRank/link benefit.

WordPress SEO Nofollow

Yes, WordPress out the box deletes your valuable link benefit (you work hard to generate backlinks and WordPress wastes a lot of it!) and not one of the popular WordPress SEO plugins or themes deals with the rel=”nofollow” problem, in fact in many cases (Yoast and All In One SEO Pack for example) make it much worse by adding more nofollow links and noindex and nofollow robots meta tags in a vain attempt to sculpt PageRank through a site!

If you take anything away from this rel nofollow tutorial, it’s DO NOT use nofollow.

What is Nofollow?

If you do NOT want a text link (or image link) to pass link benefit/PageRank (PR) to the webpage linked to you add a rel=”nofollow” attribute that looks like this:

<a href="http://domain.com/" rel="nofollow">Anchor Text</a>

The corresponding do follow link (do follow means the absence of rel=”nofollow”) looks like this:

<a href="http://domain.com/">Anchor Text</a>

For those confused about the code a lack of rel=”nofollow” is a dofollow link, you do not add rel=”dofollow”.

Unfortunately Google deletes the valuable link benefit that would have passed through the text link, so every nofollow link from a webpage still consumes your valuable PageRank that would have gone (if the nofollow link didn’t exist) to your do follow links.

PageRank Sculpting with Nofollow

PageRank Sculpting with Nofollow no longer works (used to). Many blackhat SEO’s used nofollow to basically silo SEO their links quickly (lazy way to do SEO basically) and it worked, Google realized passing the link benefit that would have gone through the nofollow links to the do follow links was a mistake and changed how they treat nofollow links.

A simple example, imagine a page with 10 links and 5 are dofollow and 5 are nofollow. The 5 dofollow links consume 50% of the PageRank, the nofollow links delete 50% of the PageRank. Remove the 5 nofollow links and the 5 dofollow links consume all the PageRank and pass twice as much link benefit.

The above is how nofollow works in Google 2014. Do not use rel nofollow.

Consider when using a popular WordPress SEO plugin and you see an option to nofollow categories and tags, if you use this SEO damaging feature you are deleting your hard earned PagRank! Why would you do this???

WordPress SEO Tip Check for Nofollow Links
If you currently run one of the popular WordPress SEO Themes and/or SEO plugins mentioned above, go to http://linkcounter.submitexpress.com (Quick SEO Tip: note how I’ve NOT turned this into a clickable link, if you don’t want a link to pass PR add it as plain text, this will work with any WP theme) and enter your sites pages, try the home page, a category, a post, a post with comments etc… and see how many PR deleting rel=”nofollow” links you have.

Note the tool isn’t 100% accurate, doesn’t count internal nofollow links (these still delete PageRank) and struggles with some link formats, for an accurate count use a browser addon (Firefox and Chrome has some good nofollow finding addons which add styling to the nofollow links: see next screenshot) or view source and count them.

Try these URLs to see how much damage so called SEO themes and plugins are doing or to be more precise not preventing (the rel=”nofollow” added to comment links are added by WordPress core).

https://yoast.com/opinion-on-sliders/ – developers of the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin, runs with the Yoast SEO plugin and the Genesis theme framework (kills two birds with one stone, shows Yoast WordPress SEO plugin and Genesis themes do not remove rel=”nofollow” links SEO damage): September 2014 over 100 nofollow links (the tool above doesn’t find them all, think it’s due to the onclick javascript code), that’s around half of the link benefit deleted! View source and count all instances of nofollow for an accurate count (close to 130 PR deleting links!).

Rel Nofollow Deletes PageRank

BTW The post on WordPress sliders is an interesting read. From an SEO perspective be very careful using sliders as the Yoast article argues they are generally not a good idea, even more so with Google taking page speed metrics into account: sliders tend to use a lot of javascript and large images which are not good for performance metrics, even the slider built into Stallion Responsive (I’ve taken SEO into account unlike most theme sliders) should be used with care (personally I don’t use it).

http://semperfiwebdesign.com/blog/all-in-one-seo-pack/all-in-one-seo-pack-pro-version-2-1-released-today/ – developers of the All In One SEO Pack Plugin: Feb 2014 around 60 nofollow links, that’s around 1/3rd of link benefit deleted!

http://diythemes.com/thesis/version-21/ – developers of the Thesis theme: Feb 2014 almost half the link benefit is deleted by the Thesis theme because it doesn’t remove nofollow!

Check any page of this site, you won’t find any rel=”nofollow” links.

On most WordPress sites NOT running WordPress SEO Plugins it’s posts with comments that have most nofollow links, though if you check the pages above you’ll find there are nofollow links added to Twitter and Facebook links that were probably added by the site owners rather than WordPress core. If you have a post with 20 comments it could be deleting the SEO link benefit of 40 links! Add to this what the popular WP SEO plugins could add if the plugin users don’t understand nofollow/noindex and you could be deleting over half your valuable link benefit from a page!

Don’t forget to run this site through the nofollow link tool, you won’t find nofollow links here.

The SEO package I use and develop removes all core WordPress rel nofollow links.

David Law

David Law > AKA SEO Dave
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20+ Years Experience as a Freelance SEO Consultant, WordPress SEO Expert, Internet Marketer, Developer of Multiple WordPress SEO Plugins/SEO Themes Including the Stallion Responsive Theme (tested to WordPress 4.9 November 2017).

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