Search engines look everywhere for signs that suggest the quality of your website. One of their go-to places to look for these signs is on other websites. If another website thinks your site is worth looking at, they’ll point to it with a backlink – a kind of bridge that sends readers from their site to your own. Search engines see backlinks as a kind of referral, and take them seriously because they can be used as a way to determine the value of a website. By counting backlinks and noting which site is sending them, search engines can more accurately rank your website’s relevance and importance for a given search query.
However, there is a way for one site to link to another while still denying that targeted site the search engine optimization (SEO) points that usually come with the link: A no-follow tag.
Background: How Hyperlinks Work
Before we delve into no-follow tags, though, we need to make a crucial point about how hyperlinks work: They’re not just for human internet users.
When you see a hyperlink going from one site to another one – like this link here, sending you from Myers Freelance to a John Oliver video on bail – you can click on it and use that bridge to go from our site to another one, like YouTube.
Search engines, however, also use those bridges. Search engine crawlers index the internet by using links to get from one page to another. Where those bridges are can help search engines understand what a given website is about and how important it is, allowing them to rank that website wisely.
The No-Follow Tag
A no-follow tag is a piece of computer code that can be attached to a hyperlink that lets humans follow a hyperlink, but blocks search engine crawlers from following it. A no-follow tag looks like this, with the crucial piece of code highlighted:
<a href=“http://i.imgur.com/47dw6.jpg” rel=“nofollow”>Search engine crawlers do not pass</a>
Using No-Follow Tags in Your Legal Blog
When you’re writing a legal blog post, you typically want to include hyperlinks to other pages on the internet, like cases, statutes, or news articles. These make your post more informative and credible. By default, though, those hyperlinks will come without a no-follow tag, letting search engine crawlers follow the bridge from your site to another one. These crawlers see this bridge as a referral for the value of the targeted site, increasing its SEO score.
Sometimes you don’t want to increase another site’s SEO score, though, or do not want to be seen linking to a particular site. In these cases, it is often wise to add a no-follow tag to the link in your blog.
Unfortunately, different content management systems all have different ways of adding a no-follow tag to a link. Some of them even require you to go into the HTML code and add it manually. Learning how to use no-follow tags and when it’s appropriate to use them, though, can avoid some embarrassing mistakes on your legal blog.