Nofollow, Follow and Sponsored Explained

This article has links to products and services we recommend, which we may make commission from.

What’s the difference between nofollow, (do) follow and sponsored? A question that comes up often in our Make Traffic Happen Facebook group. Let’s take a look at all three.

Website Links

Websites link to content (posts and pages) for a number of reasons:

  • To encourage the reader to click on another post on the same site
  • To let readers know about an insightful post on another website
  • To give credit to websites where original information came from
  • To point out to an affiliate link to make a sale

When Google crawls your site, it uses its spiders to work through your content and other related content you have linked to.

This is why you should declare your relationship with URLs you have linked to.

Follow Attribute

Unless a website has been tweaked, most links are set to follow which is often referred to as do follow.

The follow attribute acts as vote of confidence to the post or page the original site is linking to as the link juice is allowed to flow from the initial site to the helpful content.

This is why all internal links on your own website should be left as follow.


On the anchor text ‘declare your relationship’ above, I linked to Google’s guidance on linking.

I am writing about the subject so it makes sense to reference the authority. 

Google is an authority when it comes to organic traffic and SEO, so it makes sense to link directly to them – advice from the horse’s mouth, as the saying goes.

It is good to include outgoing links to authoritative sites because it makes sense for your post to be in the same ‘neighbourhood’ as those with authority on the topic.

Kind of like networking but in text form.

The anchor text in which the URL is hyperlinked is also important in terms of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and you can read more about this here.

Nofollow Attribute

The nofollow attribute is applied when a site owner does not want to the link juice to pass to the new site.

Google’s definition includes:

Use the nofollow value when other values don’t apply, and you’d rather Google not associate your site with, or crawl the linked page from, your site. (For links within your own site, use robots.txt, as described below.)

This may be because the site is spammy.

Previously, nofollow was also used for affiliate links or if there had been some form of payment whether that be monetary or in kind (gifted or comped).

How Do I Add A Nofollow Link?

In Gutenberg (WordPress) you can simply add the URL to the anchor text and click the down arrow then switch on No Follow.

You can also add the attribute manually by using:

<a rel=”nofollow”

to the start of the URL code in the text section of your article.

Example: <a rel=”nofollow””

How Do I Know If the Link is Nofollow?

To find out if a link is nofollow go to the published post and right-click. Scroll down to inspect and select.

Hover over the link to see the code and look for the words ‘no follow’.

Alternatively, upload a nofollow detection Chrome extension to your Chrome browser.

I use this one which highlights with a red box with the link is nofollow.

Building Backlinks arrows pointing to a phone

Sponsored Links

In some blogging niches, sponsored posts refer to selling links which I will discuss below.

In others, it simply means innocent advertisement posts in which site owners have been paid to advertise a product or service suited to their niche.

In this instance, the link is set to sponsored.

From Google:

Mark links that are advertisements or paid placements (commonly called paid links) as sponsored.

NOTE: The nofollow attribute was previously recommended for these types of links and is still an acceptable way to flag them, though sponsored is preferred.


What About Selling Links/Sponsored Posts?

Receiving emails from backlink building companies asking you to place one of their client’s links in a post or page on your site is not new.

There are bloggers who use sponsored posts as part of their monetisation streams and they know the risks.

Google sees buying and selling paid selling links as manipulation and serves penalties for those who are a caught.

Once you have been identified, you will will see a message in your Google Search Console (don’t have it yet? Find out more here) and your site may be deindexed (yes, goodbye organic traffic) until the issue has been resolved.

You also have to consider the FTC guidelines of good practice which you can read here.

What do you think? Is it worth the risk?

If you’re fed up relying on sponsored income we highly recommend learning our search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy.

Start by signing up for our FREE 4-part SEO For Bloggers mini-course here.

Learn more about our popular SEO products below

You May Also Like

We’re social! Tell us what you think in the comments below
or in our free Facebook group.

One thought on “Nofollow, Follow and Sponsored Explained

  1. John Ravi says:

    Hi Gemma,

    Great post! As a marketer, I get asked this question a lot, and from now on, I will point everyone in your direction. Thanks a lot for curating an in-depth guide about this topic. I will share it with people in my network to help them understand the difference between all these. I really liked how you added examples and steps to add them. It will be a beneficial resource. I really appreciate you taking the time and curating this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.