The key SEO element your affiliate and sponsored links should all have is…

We’re guessing you’ve never asked yourself, “Should my rewardstyle, ShopStyle, and Amazon affiliate links be nofollow, or dofollow?”

Did we catch your attention? Hold on to your hats, because today we’re getting into a nitty gritty SEO detail that has the potential for significant impact. But don’t panic—this SEO tip is easier than you think! Let’s dive right into our discussion of nofollow and dofollow links—what they are, how you should apply them, and why they impact your SEO.

Breaking it down…

Let’s begin by breaking down the terminology and covering the basics.

As you already know, links are an important part of any website—they’re how you provide context for the articles, products, and posts you’re talking about! We mentioned a few weeks ago that links are the currency of the Internetand a huge part of SEO. While there are many factors impacting a website’s PageRank—that is, where (and if) you appear in search engine results—links play a big role in boosting your rankings, because they tell search engines you have authority about a particular topic.

A simple way to think about it is that links are like votes. Linking to another site (sometimes referred to as “the target”) indicates to Google, “Hey, this content was valuable. You should show it to other people who are looking for content like it.”

This is where nofollow and dofollow links come in to play.

What are Dofollow Links?

Any time you embed a link into your content, it is naturally a dofollow link. In HTML parlance (visible if you click on the “Text” tab in your WordPress post/page editor!), it might look something like this:

<a href=””>EmPress Themes</a>

A dofollow link tells Google, “Consider this link as a vote! This site has authority about this particular topic,” thus giving the linked website a boost of SEO juice.


What are Nofollow Links?

Conversely, nofollow links tell search engines that despite your link to another site, that link should not impact the site’s PageRank. It’s a neutral vote, with a purpose: Nofollow links ensure our search engine results aren’t overrun with spam or results overly influenced by marketing and paid advertisements. In HTML, a link is specified as nofollow like this:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>EmPress Themes</a>

Why does designating links as nofollow matter for you, as a blogger? Well, first of all, Google assumes most sites will have a mix of nofollow and dofollow links. So if all your links are one or the other, it looks a little odd, which could impact your own ranking.

But more importantly, if you are a blogger who’s using affiliate or sponsored links, Google expects that you are designating those links as nofollow. That’s because since a dofollow link is a vote, it boosts the PageRank for that affiliate or sponsored party. And to Google, that’s like cheating—they think of it as a link scheme, because you were paid to post the link, versus finding it and sharing it organically, on your own. Link schemes are a big no-no within Google’s quality guidelines. So in other words, not correctly designating nofollow links can negatively impact your own SEO.

Do you follow?

(Ba dum dum). Here’s a summary so far:
Dofollow links pass on SEO juice to the site you’re targeting, impacting their PageRank, and telling Google they are trusted and authoritative about a topic. Nofollow links tell Google to ignore that particular link, specifically when gathering info on how to rank the target site in search results. You want your site to have a mix of both, and you definitely want to apply nofollow to all affiliate and sponsored links.

Let’s look at an example of nofollow and dofollow, in action.



Suppose you’ve written a delicious, original recipe post for chocolate chip cookies. This recipe is crazy good, y’all. And fast and easy to boot! Naturally, because it is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever, once you share it, a lot of people start linking to the post.

Yep, you got it—that dofollow SEO juice is positively impacting how your post ranks when someone searches “easy fast chocolate chip cookie recipe” (or a similar keyphrase, but that’s a post for next week!). Because the links were dofollow, they share your authority with Google. Those links are the same as saying, “Yo, this recipe is a HIT! Show this page to anyone looking for an amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe.”

Now let’s suppose you’d written a similar chocolate chip cookie recipe post, but the post, recipe, and all the ingredients in it were from a specialty grocery store, who’d paid you to write about it and its unique products. Because you were paid to write about the ingredients and share the recipe, all the links to the grocery store/products within the post should be designated as nofollow. That’s because Google wants search results for “easy fast chocolate chip cookie recipe” to produce organic search results, not ones that are essentially paid advertisements.


Let’s break all this down with a Q&A!

Q: So what types of links should for SURE be designated as nofollow?

  • Links you were paid to include (yes, including those that are part of a sponsored post)
  • Links for which you received something in kind (for example, if you got comped a hotel room, then linked to the hotel in a travel recap later, that link would need to be nofollow)
  • Affiliate links
  • Links in Comments (but don’t worry, WordPress makes these nofollow automatically!)
  • Links to any sites you think are questionable in their authority or credibility


  • Other sites that are credible, have a good reputation, and aren’t likely to go kaput any time soon
  • Other sites with content relevant to yours
  • Any time you are linking to an original source (like for a photographer, or to an article you’re citing)
  • Links to your own content (like to a previous blog post)

Q: Uh, but that means a huge number of links on my site should be nofollow. Why don’t I just cover my bases and make ALL my links nofollow?
Because Google naturally expects that sites will have a mix of nofollow AND dofollow links. If you have all of one or the other, it’s viewed by the crawlbots as a little odd, and can be seen as a way to influence your own rankings, unfairly.

Q: What about if a brand is saying they won’t work with me unless the links are dofollow? Or if they email me after a post is live and ask for me to change them from nofollow to dofollow?
Be wary of this. Designating a link as nofollow doesn’t negatively impact the brand’s PageRank at all. If a brand is asking you for this, it is likely they don’t understand that in the long run, this could negatively affect both them, and the influencers they are working with. We say stick to your guns, and insist all paid links must contractually be nofollow.

Q: Wait a second…is this why I’ve gotten those weird emails with people asking me to fix an old link to make it dofollow?

Q: Can you give an example of where a dofollow link makes sense within a blog post?
There’s lots of scenarios! Let’s say you’re sharing that chocolate chip cookie recipe, but the recipe was originally written by a food blogger you admire. Of course you’re going to link to them with a shoutout, right? That’d be a perfect time to use a dofollow link—it’s an external link that is giving your “vote” to the content you’re sharing, indicating its value. Plus, it gives that other blogger some SEO juice. One thing to note: there’s a school of thought that anytime you “dofollow” links with content similar to your own, you’re diminishing your own PageRank, and therefore it shouldn’t be done. We think creating useful, fantastic content on your own is always the best, most effective SEO strategy, so don’t stress too much about giving away your SEO juice to other bloggers.

Oh! And here’s another perfect example for dofollow links: roundup posts! Weekly link roundups are a perfect way to incorporate dofollow links on to your site, and support bloggers you love.

Q: What happens if I don’t designate a nofollow link as such?
Well, one time probably isn’t a huge deal. Do it over and over again, on thousands of links over many years, and Google may catch on and flag your site for link schemes. You might get a message like this in your Google Search Console, or via email:


If you’ve gotten an email similar to this, or see a message like this in your Search Console, we recommend following up with the URLs that have been flagged, and make sure the links on that page have the appropriate nofollow/dofollow designation. Then, once the issues are fixed, you can resubmit your site to Google for a reconsideration request.

Q: Ugh, this is Google we’re talking about here. Haven’t they figured out a way to recognize when links are affiliate or sponsored, and adjust rankings accordingly?
In theory, yes. However, reps from Google have stated that even though they recognize the biggest affiliates out there, they always recommend erring on the side of caution and designating any link you could earn money from as nofollow.

Q: Okay, I think I get it! So how do I make links nofollow versus dofollow?
There’s the manual way, and the slightly easier way. And, it all depends on whether the bulk of the links on your site are affiliate, or not.

The easiest thing to do is install a plugin that will give you the option to make a link nofollow or dofollow. We recommend picking a plugin that gives you the option for the type of link you’ll use less often. So, if most of your links are affiliate, select a plugin that will make all links on your posts nofollow, and give you the option to specify when one is dofollow. If you don’t use affiliate or sponsored links all that much, use a plugin that will allow you to specify links as nofollow on the rare occasions you use them.

There are a bagillion nofollow/dofollow plugins out there. Here are the ones we came across most in writing this post. Note that not all have been tested for the latest version of WordPress, so keep this in mind if you install and try:

The manual way to embed nofollow/dofollow is to write the “rel” specification into your links’ HTML. You can do this by navigating to the “Text” version of your post or page, to view the content’s HTML.

For nofollow, a link would look like this:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>EmPress Themes</a>

For dofollow, a link would look like this:

<a href=”” rel=”dofollow”>EmPress Themes</a>

Or this:

<a href=””>EmPress Themes</a>

Ultimately, don’t stress if you miss a link here and there. This isn’t an issue of Google finding one—or even a dozen—dofollow affiliate links on your site and banishing you from good rankings forever. The idea is that you stay consistent with this over time, so that bots recognize your own site as a valuable, trustworthy resource. Meanwhile, you’re hopefully creating awesome, useful content that’s being linked to by others, which establishes you as an authority, hence boosting your own PageRank. How do you focus on and create that type of content? More on that next week!


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