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That's understandable since you would only expect SEO specialists to be aware of them. However, I think they are a useful concept to understand as a "hands-on" marketer, since they will effect conversations you have about buying media or understanding the way links in social media work.
A nofollow tag is a basic piece of HTML. Appended to a hyperlink, it allows webmasters to control whether search engines follow a link or not.
For example, the following URL on a page of another site allows search engines to visit Smart Insights’ website and credit the website with the link; each link is scored by the search engines, supporting SEO:
<a href="http://www.smartinsights.com/" title="Smart Insights">Visit Smart Insights</a>
Here's the same hyperlink, now including a nofollow tag (highlighted in red):
<a href="http://www.smartinsights.com/" title="Smart Insights" rel="nofollow">Visit Smart Insights</a>
The inclusion of a nofollow tag instructs the search engines NOT to visit the site or rather not to ascribe credit to boost the ranking of the destination site based on the link.
“In general, we don't follow them. 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 usingnofollow, 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.”
See our internal linking post for more information and a reminder of the importance of editorial links.
These are other implications of nofollow which may affect your campaigns.
Despite the fact that popular social networks include nofollow tags in most of their external links, social networks still have an important role to play in SEO; as well their contribution to other key aspects of digital marketing strategy, such as consumer engagement.
Links from social networks help to establish your brand is active and well shared.
Links from social networks help to build your ‘Social score’ - a key to SEO success.
By Chris Soames
Chris Soames is a Smart Insights blogger and consultant, he has worked in digital marketing for over 6 years with the last few years managing international web strategies for a leading travel brand. Now the Commercial Director at First 10, an Integrated marketing agency, he helps clients get clarity on their marketing strategy and create campaigns engineered to engage with their consumers to help drive sell-through. Most of all, Chris enjoys working with talented people who want to create great (& commercial) things not just tick boxes.
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