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Differentiating Noindex Tags from Nofollow Tags

Posted on 22-01-2023

When it comes to optimizing your website for higher search engine rankings, there are different tools that you have at your disposal. And if you look into the backend even just a little, you would discover the power of metadata tags, which are pieces of data that provide information on webpages. Two of the most important meta tags you would encounter in your SEO toolbox are noindex and nofollow tags.

These tags are used to signal to search engines how they should crawl and index your website, and using them correctly can have a significant impact on your search engine rankings. However, unlike other tags, which have significant differences between them, the functions of noindex and nofollow tags are so similar that many people confuse them.

If you understand the function of each, though, it would be easy to pick the difference. In this article, we will dive deep into the topic of noindex and nofollow tags, and explain how you can use them to optimize your website for search engines.

 

Differences Between Noindex and Nofollow Tags

When you use software such as the Eye10 On-Page SEO tool to analyze your website, you’ll notice that part of its comprehensive checks is the presence of noindex and nofollow tags. The screenshot below is the result of a test showing that the webpage does not use a noindex tag, indicating that it can be crawled by search engines.

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These, and other metrics are available technical data from the content analysis page of the Eye10 On-Page SEO tool. You can combine these with information from competitor research, backlink monitoring, pagespeed measurements, and so on to get a full picture of where your website stands.

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However, while Eye10 allows you to conduct a comprehensive analysis, the focus here is on noindex and nofollow tags, since many people often confuse them for each other.

 

Noindex Tags

In simple words, noindex tags contain data-encoded instructions that tell search engines not to index a specific page. This means that the page would not appear in search results since the search engine bot would ignore it. If the aim of SEO is to gain maximum traffic via search engine results, then why would anyone allow certain pages to not be indexed, you might ask.

Well, this tag is often used on pages that are not important to a website’s overall SEO strategy, such as duplicate pages, login pages, and thank-you pages. It is evident that while such pages are integral to a site’s structure, they do not need to appear in SERPs. To implement noindex tags, you’ll need to add a meta tag to the `<head>` section of your HTML document. The tag should look like this:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

The slightly different code works specifically for the Google crawl bot:

<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex”>

 

Nofollow tags

On the other hand, nofollow tags are used to tell search engines not to follow the links on a specific page. Such links would still be crawled and indexed. However, they would not count any link juice or ranking value for the webpage.

This tag is often used on pages that have a lot of potentially low-quality or spammy content, such as forum pages or user-generated content pages. They are also used for sponsored links. Google frowns against trying to manipulate its algorithm by paying for backlinks. Therefore, marking a link as sponsored or nofollow helps you to avoid Google’s penalties.

To add a nofollow tag to a link – and you can achieve this even as a beginner – you’ll need to add the “rel” attribute with the value “nofollow” to the link’s HTML:

<a href=”http://example.com” rel=”nofollow”>example</a>

It is important to mention that Google favors more specific attributes for user-generated content (rel=”ugc”) and sponsored content (rel=”sponsored”) respectively. Unlike nofollow tags, Google does not entirely ignore content with those tags. Rather, it uses them “along with other signals—as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links”.

 

Benefits of Using Noindex Tags

  1. Preventing Duplicate Content: If you have duplicate content on your website, it is a best practice to use noindex tags to avoid penalties and ensure that only the original, preferred version of the content appears in search results.
  2. Hiding Unimportant Pages: As mentioned above, this includes login pages, thank-you pages, or pages with low-quality content. Using noindex tags improves the user experience on your website by ensuring that only relevant pages appear in search results.
  3. Controlling the Number of Indexed Pages: Noindex tags are useful for large websites with thousands of pages, as they can help prevent search engines from wasting resources crawling and indexing pages that are not important.
  4. Protecting Sensitive Information: Pages with sensitive information, such as personal data or confidential business information do not need to be indexed by a search engine or appear as query results. As such, using a noindex tag can be an extra step in security.
  5. Optimizing for Specific Search Engines: you can use noindex tags to prevent search engines that are not important for your business from indexing your pages, which can help you focus your optimization efforts on the search engines that matter most.

 

Benefits of Using No-Follow Tags

  1. Preventing Link Spam: Nofollow tags protect your website’s reputation and search engine rankings by ensuring that you only pass link authority to trustworthy sites.
  2. Managing User-Generated Content: User-generated content pages, such as comment sections, user reviews, or forum posts can be a hotbed of spammy and low-quality content, for which you don’t want to be penalized by Google.
  3. Complying with Advertising Guidelines: Google has guidelines for sponsored and paid links, by which they require webmasters to identify such links with a nofollow tag. This is important for transparency and also to prevent penalties on allegations of manipulating the algorithm.
  4. Managing Outbound Link Risk: By using nofollow tags on links to untrusted or low-quality websites, you can prevent your website from being associated with bad neighborhoods in the eyes of search engines.
  5. Preventing Link Leakage: Link leakage is when link equity (also known as link juice) is flowing through links that do not contribute to the ranking of the website. Such links do not contribute to the ranking and nofollow tags ensure that your website’s link equity is being used in the most efficient way.

 

Conclusion

It’s important to remember that noindex tags only prevent search engines from indexing the page, not from crawling it, while nofollow tags only prevent the link from being followed and counted as a vote of trust, but still can be followed by the search engine crawlers. By understanding the difference between these tags and how they should be used, you can improve your website’s search engine rankings and provide a better user experience for your visitors.

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If you are not sure whether you are correctly using nofollow and noindex tags on your web pages, use the Eye10 On-Page SEO tool to conduct a comprehensive analysis of both technical SEO and keyword optimization data. Sign up to start enjoying these benefits now.

FAQ

Can I use noindex and nofollow tags on the same webpage?

Yes, you can use both noindex and nofollow tags on the same webpage. Noindex tags are used to indicate to search engines that a specific page should not be indexed, while nofollow tags are used to indicate that a link should not be followed by search engines. These tags can be used together to prevent search engines from indexing a page and following links on that page.

How do search engines crawl web pages?

Search engines use automated software called crawlers or spiders to find and scan web pages. These crawlers follow links on a webpage to discover new pages and then index the content of those pages to be included in search results. The process of crawling involves visiting a website, reading the information on the page, and then following the links on that page to other pages. This allows the search engine to discover new pages and update its index with new or updated content.

What other kinds of meta tags are relevant for SEO?

Some other types of meta tags that are relevant for SEO include:

– Title tags: These tags provide the title of the webpage and are displayed as the clickable headline for a webpage in search engine results.

– Description tags: These tags provide a brief summary of the web page's content and are displayed below the title in search engine results.

– Canonical tags: These tags are used to specify the preferred version of a webpage when there are multiple versions available.

– Open Graph tags: These tags provide information about a webpage, such as its title, description, and images, that are used when the webpage is shared on social media platforms.

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