The year 2020 saw a host of, dare we say it, unprecedented changes, most of which we’ll all be well versed in. However, one change that may not have taken centre stage is that it was also the first year in a decade that we saw a change come into place for the link attribute “rel=nofollow”.
The most villainized link attribute was given a switch-up that elevated it to an entirely new status. Now, in our view, reporting on nofollow links has always been a no-brainer (even pre-March 2020), but if you’re still discounting this attribute when reporting on your eCommerce site, then we’ve got a few reasons that may help to change your mind…
What is a nofollow link?
Nofollow and follow links look the exact same to a user, however, if you dig into a website’s HTML you’ll see a “rel=”nofollow” tag which marks a nofollow link.
This is how it looks:
<a href=”https://thisisnovos.com” rel=”nofollow“>Novos</a>
Traditionally nofollow links signify that the website being linked to isn’t a hugely credible source. In adding this tag the publisher is saying they don’t want to pass on a vote of confidence to this website, which consequently means the link doesn’t transfer the same SEO benefits as a follow link would.
Five reasons why nofollow links work for eCommerce websites
1. 🔍 Hints
As mentioned above, nofollow links are seen as highlighting a lack of trust between the publisher and the linked-to website.
Some people would argue this is still true in its entirety, however, in March 2020, Google introduced two new attributes and confirmed that nofollow links will now be considered as “hints”.
“Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe the content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.”
Before, Google didn’t pay much attention to nofollow links, but now when crawling and indexing they’ll be considered and have the potential to impact your eCommerce site’s ranking ability.
And we know how important ranking is to gain higher positions in the SERPs, knowing the first three positions on page one are key to driving organic traffic.
2. 📈 Nofollow links drive traffic
Possibly one of the most relevant reasons that eCommerce websites shouldn’t overlook nofollow links is because they have the power to drive traffic to your website, which ultimately can lead to conversions and strengthen your website’s domain authority.
Here’s an example of why this can be so crucial for eCommerce in particular:
Say your product is a wedding planner aimed at brides-to-be and you’re looking to outreach a piece of content around this product to gain backlinks to your website.
One target is an online bride magazine which has a strictly nofollow policy, another is a general lifestyle target that is known for using follow links. In this case, both targets are hugely important.
But the bride magazine is nofollow?
Yes, however, the bride magazine presents an audience which will have a vested interest in your product. Meaning the potential traffic this website can drive is likely to have a higher propensity to convert once they’re on your website.
Another example is that a lot of UK nationals have nofollow policies; regardless of this, these titles have the potential to drive large numbers of traffic to your website. Direct traffic to your website is incredibly important and signals to Google that your domain has high authority and is offering value to users.
3. 🏥 They contribute to a healthy backlink profile
It’s important that eCommerce websites have a natural and varied backlink profile in order to avoid link penalties; having both nofollow and follow links boasts a diverse profile that doesn’t raise suspicion to how you’re gaining your links.
Most websites will have a healthy mix of the two attributes, especially because forums and social media websites will all use the nofollow attribute. If a website only had follow links pointing to it Google could be sceptical and consider whether the links have been paid for or gained through unethical linking schemes, both of which Google doesn’t look upon favourably.
4. 🔗 One nofollow can lead to ten pieces of coverage (& maybe a follow link)
Every content marketers dream – a highly engaging piece of content has the ability to attract the attention of numerous publishers.
So, if a national title (with a nofollow policy) covers your piece of content, that platform can attract a host of attention from other/smaller publishers who may want to put it live on their own website and may even give you a follow link (win, win).
5. 🤝 Trust
As we mentioned above, in March 2020 Google brought in the two new attributes below:
- rel=”sponsored” – this highlights links that have been paid for, for example, links generated through an advertisement deal.
- rel=”ugc” – this highlights links that come from user-generated content, for example, any links within comments in forums.
Both of these attributes are nofollow but are highly valuable to eCommerce websites because they can help to instil trust – an important ranking factor for Google.
When Google sees a website that has links with the above attributes it communicates that, firstly this is an operating company and secondly, this is a company that is partaking in marketing activity and advertising (Google’s main game).
If the above has made you reconsider whether you report on nofollow links and you’re keen to find out more about how to build a healthy backlink profile for your eCommerce site, feel free to get in touch with us or follow me for more tips, on Twitter @hanlumarsh.
Also, if you wish to learn how to pitch to media outlets to get backlinks, I highly recommend the following articles written by our team: