You Oughta Know: No Follow Links

It’s a dealbreaker for me, and frankly…it’s broken a lot of recent would-be deals.

And that’s JUST FINE with me. I’m a stickler for disclosure, for following the rules and for following best blogging practices, and the clients and partners that I do work with appreciate (I hope!) that I have their best interests in mind as well as my own.

The controversial policy? Using something called “no follow links.” I require it on all paid/sponsored posts (and have spent hours going back and fixing older posts).



Exactly what they sound like. When you add a link in your post that directs people to another URL, typically, Google and other search engines will actually follow those links, increasing the other site’s page rank and credibility. When you add a small piece of code to the link, your readers can still click through and all appears the same, but the search engines do NOT follow through.

Links=endorsements, which is why brands would prefer that you don’t add the code. They want your Google juice, and your good standing with search engines. But Google doesn’t think it’s fair that brands can essentially buy higher Page Rank and SEO — so it requires that you essentially disclose in your code, by using no-follow links on all paid posts.


It’s super easy, if not a little bit aggravating. A standard link will look like this:

<a href=””>

To make it no follow, you need to go into the code and add the part you see in bold and italics below:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow“>


What happens? Nothing, at least not immediately. It’s not like Google runs scripts all day looking for links that should be changed and somehow shutting down your blog (keep in mind that Blogger is a Google product, though…and while you’re at it, that sites are not supposed to have advertising or sponsored posts of any kind).

But Google is very, very smart. And it will catch up with you. That could mean you’re penalized and your own Page Rank and SEO suffer (and if you’ve ever had issues with any Google products, you know it’s nearly impossible to get this type of penalty reviewed or reversed) OR worse. Not worth the risk.

So why do most brands hate them? Why do so many refuse to engage in a contract with the no follow requirement? Because they know that they can only increase their online reputation through links and endorsements of a lot of powerful people…say, bloggers. It’s hard because many of these brands have cool stuff and would benefit from your Google juice but it’s just not the way things work. I make it very clear to my partners that this protects them as much as me — because we’ll both be penalized if we break the rules.


Do follow links are GREAT for everything but paid posts, link/anchor text schemes (see here — I guarantee you’ve been pitched this by email) or any content that you don’t trust (for example, you’re sharing news about a rumor that turned out not to be true…use no follow links so the rumor doesn’t continue to get credibility).

Links to other blogs? Articles of interest? Products you like but aren’t paid to endorse? Good. Good. Good.


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    • says

      For SURE moving forward…but I’d go back and edit old links as fast as you can, or delete posts that may no longer be relevant. This isn’t a new rule, but I think a lot of bloggers (myself included) are really just coming to terms with what it means.

  1. says

    Still learning about this topic, so glad you posted!! I just noticed that in WP in the All In One SEO there is a box you could check next to “Robots Meta NOFOLLOW” – wondering if that’s enough to do?

    • says

      Is the box on a per-post basis, or across the site? You want to be very careful when using shortcuts to assign no follow links, because it may designate ALL links — the paid and non-paid — as nofollow and that itself may trigger Google’s spam alerts (if you build an entire site of links and none carry juice that may be as suspicious as the alternate).

      If you’re able to do it on a per-post basis, you may be OK (I don’t use that plugin, so I want to couch my answer).

      • says

        It’s on a per post, but now I’m thinking may not be good shortcut if there are multiple links in post. Thanks for the reply and for the post!

  2. Dee says

    question….what about if you do a review but are not PAID but are given the product for a giveaway. Links or no-follow links? Thanks so much.

  3. says

    reason #2300 bajillion why I love your blog: i learn something new all. the freaking. time. LOVE it.

    Thank YOU for sharing and teaching :) :)

  4. says

    You just cleared up every question I’ve ever had about no follow links in one post. I’m super impressed and very happy because this was super helpful!

  5. says

    Well handled Katy! I heard the difference between follow and no follow links explained an additional easy way that helped me understand the concept. People can follow a “no follow” link, bots cannot. Bots and people can follow “follow” links.

  6. says

    Very helpful post. Thanks Katy. I now have a clearer idea when do use and when not to use no follow links. Because I was living under the impression that you’ve got to have many outgoing links on my blog and ‘no follow’ links don’t count as outgoing links at all.

  7. says


    Thank you so much for posting about this, and including the no-follow code! I had to read it a few times to understand it, and how to create no-follow links. Now I can go back and fix links on a few (not too many) past posts.

  8. says

    Great information – I have done very few (maybe 3?) sponsored/paid posts in my life as a blogger, but this is good to know!

    I’ve seen a few “no follow” plug ins and look pretty handy…except for the fact they no follow every single link, which doesn’t seem all that helpful considering there is a lot of friendly blogger linking that seriously helps blogger’s Google juice (love that term!). Just a thought for anyone looking for a quick solution!

  9. Robin Wilson says

    Thank you for explaining this so that a newbie blogger like myself now completely understands! This is not something that I came across during any of my “pre blogging” research.

  10. says

    This is great! Also nofollow Guest Blogger post too as Google is currently doing a crack down on those also because Guest Blogging has became spammy.

  11. says

    Hi Katy:
    I am really happy to find your site. Thanks for the great post. Wondering how you notify brands as to your no-follow code policy? Is it something you mention right away at the beginning of discussions? How do you bring it up?

    Thanks for the input!

    • says

      Hi Amy!

      Great question (and thanks for the kind words!).

      I let brands know very early on about all of my policies: clear disclosure and no-follow links. It’s usually something like:

      In order to protect both of us, I do follow white-hat blogging steps: per FTC requirements, I disclose when I’ve been compensated in any way for my work, and per Google’s TOS, I use no-follow links in any sponsored posts. You can read more about both of those things at THISLINK and THISLINK and I’d be happy to discuss the details.

      Honestly? Most agencies and brands understand these rules and know that it’s for their own protection, so I don’t often get pushback. When I do, I really question the true desires of the brand.

      I also include the policies in any and all contracts, so there are no surprises.

      Best of luck!

  12. says

    I have been reading about no-follow/do-follow for, literally, almost 2 hours now and this post from you is the FIRST I’ve actually understood. THANK YOU!!!!

  13. Lynn says

    I read this article, went through and changed some of my links to no-follow (they aren’t sponsored, but affiliate links to subscription boxes & Amazon). Then I resubmitted the post to Google and it lowered my SERPs severely.. I went from being on the first SERP to the 6th on all of the posts.
    A couple days later I took the no-follow out, resubmitted the pages and they were back to their normal ranking (or close to it).
    Ironically, my traffic has slowed down since this as well…

    What did I do wrong?

    • says

      Hi Lynn!

      You didn’t do anything wrong, per se — from a disclosure and TOS standpoint, your change to nofollow was not just a good move, it’s the *right* move. It’s sort of two conversations: what’s ethical/legal and what returns good SEO.

      I’m also surprised to read that the change affected your results. Typically, the reason that we remove the dofollow tag from outbound sponsored/affiliate links is that it gives THOSE sites more authority, not because it changes your own position. Honestly, if anything, I would have expected that your position would go up, since you removed the ambiguity that Google often shows toward unclear links.

      Since you mentioned that your traffic slowed down, and the nofollow/dofollow tag would have no bearing on that, I have to wonder if an overloaded server or host might have affected the page load time for your site, which would possible have an impact on your SERPs. That seems more likely than the change in links, although it does seem too tied together to be a coincidence.

      When you say you resubmitted your posts to Google, can you tell me more about what you did?

  14. says

    Katy — I have been using a plug in called NoFollowr — it leaves a little button that you can easily turn on/off after each link in the visual mode. But, I am now realizing that not all of them have stuck- — argh. Do you know of another no follow program that will make this process easier?

    Also, having trouble figuring out how to nofollow the links that “Click to Tweet” puts in because I don’t see the traditional link html in the editor, but they show up as being linked when I use the NoFollwr

    thanks for any insights you may have —

    • says

      Hi Jennifer!

      I have not found any plugin that properly and consistently works for making no-follow links, so I do all of those edits manually. I know it’s not the best answer, but it’s one that may save you some headaches in the future (you never know when a plugin will just stop working or will no longer be unsupported).

      In terms of the Click to Tweet plugin — I assume you’re talking about the one from CoSchedule? Why do you want those links no-followed? The twitter links really don’t need to be no-follow, because they’re not linking to the company’s website (the no-follow is designed to prevent Google from transferring your great ranking to the sponsor websites, but I don’t believe Twitter falls under that restriction).

    • says

      Yup! The FTC (and most readers) consider that material compensation, so the same rules apply as if you’d been compensated with cash.


  1. […] You Oughta Know:  No Follow Links via Katy Widrick because Katy is my go-to source for all things blogging and social media, and this is a super important read if for bloggers who do any paid or sponsored posts (and I’m adding this as a to-do project for my own blog). […]

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