Seeing nofollow links

Update: The ChromEdit extension I mention below is stale and doesn’t work with Firefox 1.5. Someone has made a version for FF1.5 though; it’s called ChromEdit Plus. Follow the directions at the top of that page. The short version is 1. save the .xpi file to your desktop, then 2. drag the .xpi file over onto your browser to install the .xpi file. 3. Restart Firefox to install the extension. 4. To use, select Tools->ChromeEdit Plus->ChromEdit. Select the userContent.css tab and paste the code

a[rel~="nofollow"] {
  border: thin dashed firebrick ! important;
  background-color: rgb(255, 200, 200) ! important;
}

into the userContent.css area, then click Save. You might need to restart Firefox once more, but when you do, this link should have a pink background, and a dotted red line around it.


Old post follows:
The blessing/curse of learning more about SEO is that it’s often in the back of your mind; it affects how you look at regular web pages. Here’s a simple tip that will help with your X-ray vision: make nofollow links visible.

When you’re using Firefox, you can make a file called userContent.css to override the css on a given page. First you have to find the right directory; all your Firefox settings are stored in a profile directory. This page tells how to find your profile directory. Once you know the profile directory location, go into the “chrome” directory and look for a file userContent.css. If no such file exists, there may be a file called “userContent-example.css” that you can rename. Here’s what you can put into userContent.css:

a[rel~="nofollow"] {
  border: thin dashed firebrick ! important;
  background-color: rgb(255, 200, 200) ! important;
}

(Note: you may need to restart Firefox as well for the changes to take effect.)

Then if you want to link to a blackhat spammer without it counting as a vote in Google, just add rel=”nofollow” to the hyperlink, and you’ll be able to tell the difference between normal and nofollow links.

When you view a page, you’ll see something like this (please pardon the self-referential snapshot):


Example of visible nofollow CSS

I highly recommend adding code to your userContent.css file so that you can see nofollow links easily. Note: ChromEdit is a nice extension that makes editing your userContent.css file really easy, but it currently (Jan. 14, 2006) only works with Firefox versions less than 1.5.

89 Responses to Seeing nofollow links (Leave a comment)

  1. Matt,

    Give some interesting stuff on hidden texts. How google is going to combat hidden texts (old black hat seo technique). Still i am seeing lots of sites are ranking well using hidden texts.

  2. So Google doesn’t count the link when it sees the URL on the page, as long as it can’t follow it to the destination?
    Can you do that to all of the pages links that you want the Googlebot off of, instead of a nofollow .htaccess file?
    Good advice – There’s also a nice extension for Firefox (SEOpen) that you can use to pull the css off of the page or replace it with your own tags in a sidebar menu that works just as well.

  3. Low

    I prefer the following solution because it doesn’t modify the original styles but just adds a blinking “!”:

    a[rel~="nofollow"]:after {
    content: “!”;
    background-color: white !important;
    color: red !important;
    font-weight: bold !important;
    text-decoration: blink !important;
    }

  4. Very cool trick! Got any more fun CSS Firefox tricks?

  5. I see no reason in doing this at all, at least from a user’s standpoint. Does a link endorsement (ie. not containing rel=”nofollow”) really mean that much to me as the end-user?

    Not once have I been put in the position where I had to decide on whether to follow the Black Hat SEO Link w/ the nofollow or the one w/o it, and never would I base my decision on that.

    It’s good for GoogleBot’s algorithms, means little to surfers. The rel=”nofollow” is a way for GoogleBot to understand the context in which a link is placed in the page. GoogelBot doesn’t understand “OMG, this site [link] suck horribly – don’t ever go there!”

    Humans do.

  6. Great tip Matt. I have to agree that after getting into SEO/M I can never look at another website the same.

    Off topic questions/suggestion. Netcraft offers a “Risk Rating” feature on their Toolbar for possible phishing. Has Google considered coming out with a “Spam Rating” for their Toolbar? Many of the factors they are considering for phishing could be taken into account for Spam.
    ———————-
    * Any other known phishing sites in the same domain.
    * Whether a hostname or a numeric IP address is used in the URL.
    * Whether or not a port number appears in the URL.
    * The hosting ISP’s history with respect to phishing sites.
    * The hosting country’s history with respect to phishing sites.
    * The top level domain’s history with respect to phishing sites.
    * The site’s popularity with Netcraft Toolbar users.
    ———————-

    Could be a good replacement for that current green bar *smirk*

  7. Actually, it would be useful for identifying people who try to “preserve PR”, which is still a popular notion in some SEO groups.

    I don’t like the NOFOLLOW attribute, but now that it’s here, people need ways to see that it’s being used without having to sift through ugly source code all the time.

  8. Amish

    Matt,

    Do you at google have plans to track “nofollow” taged URLs for evaluation ?? like are they using tricks or techniques, etc. ??

  9. There is also a much easier way to do this (at least for firefox/mozilla). Simply use the TargetAlert extension.

  10. Yeah, about hidden text. Our favorite spammers, the Zahariev’s, have hidden links on their own (Bulgarian language) website. How about penalizing them?

    They cause so many bloggers grief…

  11. TallTroll

    *sigh* some people just don’t get it, do they?

    BTW, I could have suggested some much more appropriate targets for the BH link ;)

  12. I’ve just added this as a feature to the latest version of the SearchStatus extension, version 1.9. It’s available on the right-click ‘q’ menu, as a setting that persists from one session to the next. Great suggestion, thanks.

    http://www.quirk.co.za/searchstatus

  13. I’m like Matt — SEO tricks jump out at me from a web page. I think keyword density is probably the most obvious thing I notice.

    About “Search Engine Web”‘s commentary about labeling a website blackhat: Perhaps Matt should have written “bad neighborhood” instead? I commented recently about featureblog.com — they haven’t been banned from Google (yet), but there is no way that I’ll link to that site, even with a nofollow anchor tag.

  14. I dont see why you all have a downer on the Black Hat Spammers.
    Does my head in that my profession is always slagged off.
    Leave us alone :(

  15. From Google’s POV, does it make sense to use the votelinks microformat (rev=”vote-for | vote-abstain | vote-against”), possibly in conjunction with rel, e.g. rev=vote-against rel=nofollow in controversial links? It carries a message for the user and the search engine as well, rel=nofollow instead is just a geeky thingy and meaningless for most human users.

  16. Hi Matt,

    does the “nofollow” affects the notion of “neighbourhood”. ie if there is too much “nofollow”‘s on a site, does this determine the site as “stand alone” and without any “neighbourhood”?

    Riley

  17. Ok I spoke to soon. I can’t get that to work. :(

  18. Third time’s the charm. Make sure your quotes are proper quotes. Not those fancy ones that I got when I copied and pasted the code above.

  19. One of the big problems with nofollow, in my opinion, is that it’s just become a poor man’s way of trying to hog PageRank.

    I still have FireFox CSS set to highlight with a red background nofollow links from when it first launched – and there are a lot of very ugle pages out there, who nofollow for no apparent reason that the old “must hog PR to rank” mentality.

    Some are even trying to use it to block spidering of pages, rather than a robots.txt.

  20. It’s a neat trick, but what about the rel=’external nofollow’ that, for example, WordPress uses?

    I think it’s better to use it as a plugin (as in SearchStatus) then to override all CSS by default. Too many people use the nofollow attribute and it’ll do no good to user-experience.

  21. There, I made it into a favelet: Show nofollow links. The CSS used can easily be modified by simply editing the favelet.

  22. So your comment system ate my favelet.

    javascript:(function(){function cE(element){if(typeof document.createElementNS!=’undefined’){return document.createElementNS(‘http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml’,element);}if(typeof document.createElement!=’undefined’){return document.cE(element);}return false;};var css=document.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(cE(‘link’));css.setAttribute(‘rel’,’stylesheet’);css.setAttribute(‘type’,’text/css’);css.setAttribute(‘href’,’data:text/css,a[rel~="nofollow"]{border:thin dashed firebrick !important;background-color:#ffc8c8 !important;}’);})();

  23. Matt / Mick / Rick -

    SEO tips are EXCELLENT and helpful, though I think many large legitimate sites like ours (ohwy.com) would like some clues about how we can avoid the sting of the duplicate content filter. We’ve made tons of changes to no avail and remain with effectively zero traffic. If you think this site deserves it feel free to tear us apart in this blog – I just want to know how we got so hated by Google after very favorable ranking for years.

    Joe

  24. Walkman

    Matt,
    this technique only serves those who are about to exchange links with sites they don’t know, or don’t trust. Instead of looking at thew source code to see if they’ll get screwed, they can just do this.

  25. Yeah, and look at all the nofollow tags on this page! :)

    I’d posted this trick months prior. Though I admit that mine makes it look even MORE annoying. :)

  26. Thanks a lot so far.
    What about visibility:hidden. This might be usefull for the website design. But I’m looking forward to see the hidden text.
    An easy deactivation for designer might be usefull, too.

  27. Thanks for the tip Matt. I used them now :).

  28. Being a little new to the game I see potential for enhancing the navigation of
    your own site using this little gem.

    Couldnt rel=”nofollow” also be used to help spiders index your site in cases where navigation bars provide multiple paths to the same page ?

  29. Daymon Hoag

    Why would you assume everyone who considers using rel=nofollow would be pointing to a black hat spammer? I was personally looking into the technique in an effort to protect ( hide ) my affiliate links from crooks and thieves. This assumption leads me to believe though Google won’t follow those links, anyone who uses them is going to be penalized.

  30. What’s mean about “external nofollow”?

  31. It would be interesting to see how much traffic the links in the blogs themselves actually create even if google ignores them.

  32. 虚拟主机 Said, What’s mean about “external nofollow”?

    Explanation: “This attribute usually use for outer links from a websites. It refers that outer link is an external link, which means don’t consider it and don’t share PageRank with this link.”

  33. My Problem is that I want to participate in Text Link Ads, but I don’t want them to effect Google’s relevancy, at the sametime I can’t add nofollow to them.

    Can I add a Meta Tag like to devalue all the links in the page. Will the Metatag effect my pagerank ? (My friends say that Google will award me a pagerank of zero if I do so. Is it correct ?

  34. This is awesome. I am new to all of this SEO stuff and have just learned about the significance of the nofollow attribute to the anchor tag and yes, it has already changed the way I look at links on pages. Very cool stuff.

  35. Hi Matt,

    Would you recommend using the “nofollow” attibute on affiliate links?

  36. I’ve noticed a lot of blogs using the “nofollow” statements and quite a few not using them. I don’t know if they just don’t know or don’t bother with it, but how much do those links affect PageRank really? Does Google weigh the difference between a blogger posted link vs. a link placed by the webmaster?

  37. Is the link in the comment box and such that big?

    Most of those page are a Pagerank 0 anyway?

  38. No follow has become a neccessary evil in blog world, like friction in real world. The very purpose of content syndicating through blogs are at stake by the use of no follow tag. People who write lenthy comments, in facts adding content to the blog, really deserve link back to their original blog as a mean of showing coutresy.

    Blogs should have other means of combating spam, if the comments are moderated, then the question of spam never arises. Recently I
    d started a blog about lcd buying guide and there are many blogs about these topic and I hope I’ll continously add more guidelines about the technological advances in lcd tv field, so the users and other bloggers will get really benefited.

  39. What is the difference between and “external nofollow” and just a plain old “nofollow”?

  40. The nofollow tag is good to use for internal links
    on your site for pages that don’t need page rank
    i.e. your privacy policy page, contact us page etc.

  41. I use the nofollow tag for links to pages such as Privacy, and also to links to other pages on my site that I don’t want spiders to be sidetracked to. Is this wrong? I believe that the spiders follow them anyway, just neither give PR to the destination page nor take it from the source page. Am I wrong?

    However, I had read so much rubbish about nofollow that I think many people seem completely confused.

  42. Is there a way to put rel=nofollow in css without having to put it in each tag?

  43. Eventually, all links will have a nofollow tag and google’s system of the value of links will be stone dead. And the google index will be reduced to a few million pages – all of them on google properties.

  44. Is the link in the comment box and such that big?

    Most of those page are a Pagerank 0 anyway?

  45. Thanks for shedding lights on no follow. From what i understand, wordpress blogs now have as default no follow tags to blog post and comments. Is it the same with blogger and typepad?

  46. Hey, i’d have to agree that SEOpen the firefox plugin is well worth it.

    Cheers, ToNy!

  47. Actually i just found i can do it with another plugin i was already running, “SearhStatus”

    It shows the PR, Alexa ranks in your bottom bar and i just found it had an option to turn on “No Follow” highlighting.

  48. I can think of good ways of using nofollow tags in the future but I’m a little cautious; will they be causing sites to be penalised in the future for using SEO techniques? I know I shouldn’t be paranoid but … OK, so I’m paranoid.

  49. The nofollow tag is good to use for internal links
    on your site for pages that don’t need page rank

  50. Concert Tickets asked: Does Google weigh the difference between a blogger posted link vs. a link placed by the webmaster?

    Someone?

  51. Matt Cutts,
    this technique only serves those who are about to exchange links with sites… they don’t know, or don’t trust. Instead of looking at thew source code to see if they’ll get screwed, they can just do this!!

  52. Hey, i’d have to agree that SEOpen the firefox plugin is well worth it.

    Cheers, ToNy!

  53. Hi Matt…fyi was checking links in my webmastercentral and I noticed labs.darkseoteam.com had seemingly duplicated entire content of your blog? and they were shown as a link to me as a result of a previous post on your blog!? Not a backlink I’m interested in…Whassup? And also…where is a good place you might suggest for a question like this? Thanks and best regards… please feel free to contact me directly for more details and of course delete this post…hmmm. I’m seeing the suggestion to go to the forum…I’ll do that, but wanted to be sure you knew of your personal blog being duplicated…

  54. There are also FF plugins that do that!

  55. sam

    Matt,
    I am new to website publishing, I admit to being a little lost on the no-follow tag. I wonder what good is it to the blog publisher to use no-follow tags? Is it to control where your site is linked? Just wondering.

  56. Hi Sam,

    The purpose of this tag is a bit mysterious. First it only applies to google.

    Secondly, it will still pass a “vote” on for that particular url. Apparently, google’s index spider won’t follow it for caching and indexing purposes.

    So if it’s a link to another page in your own site it won’t get indexed but if it’s a link to another website then a vote will be passed.

  57. Hi Matt, Grate stuff inhere i liked the css tricks and thank you all for sharing this grate information.

  58. Thanks for this useful tool.
    A question to Marcos: I thought that the nofollow tag would prevent passing a vote (i.e. a portion of the PR for that page) to another site.

  59. This is great information that I have been googling for. Thanks for the post and God Bless!

  60. rel=”No Follow” is used to stop the search engines from counting the link as a vote from site A for site B. The link is still found by the search engines, however it is ignored when it is time to calculate Pagerank and the ranking systems of all the major search engines. It is used by all the major search engines. NOT only Google.

    Hope this clarifies a few things!

  61. Is there a tool I can use in IE to see if a particular link is ‘No Follow’ or not?

  62. Thats a nice CSS code. I have been looking for it. Thanks…

  63. Why uses WordPress nofollow in the comments? The admin can check the comments. It’s a terrible feature, beacause many bloggers don’t want to use nofollow. It would be great to use nofollow with internal pages.

  64. AOF

    I tried TargetAlert – very cool tool but “external nofollow” are not being highlighted (“nofollow”) are. I’ve written to the author to ask for this to be fixed.

    /AOF

  65. So if it’s a link to another page in your own site it won’t get indexed but if it’s a link to another website then a vote will be passed.

  66. Is there a plugin for Internet Explorer that does this?

  67. Gabi

    Hi Matt. I do have a question related to nofollow. I found in wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nofollow some information that Google counts the anchor text of nofollow links for SERPs. Is it true?
    Thanks.

  68. app

    You know who will end up using this stupid CSS hack?

    Bloggers that refuse to comment on blogs that use nofollow, thinking that somehow their comment has less value on that type of blog.

    A lot of good blogs protecting themselves will end up sufferring because of the misguided notion that seems to be going around like wildfire that says you should not comment on any nofollow blogs because it’s a wasted effort.

    It will also increase the spam comments on blogs that have removed nofollow, because it is now a snap for spammers to see which blogs have removed it.

    So basicly, only idiots and spammers have a use for this hack.

  69. Can you update us on how to do this in Google Chrome?

    Thanks!

  70. i like this solution! nice solution! probably some more exprerienced webmasters consider this tip silly.
    thanx

  71. kL

    I’d use outline rather than border. It’s less likely to interfere with page’s styles.

  72. Hi Matt. Can i ask why yahoo explorer treating links with nofollow as backlinks and not for google?

    Regards,
    Jumar

  73. Yes it would be nice to know how to do in google Chrome

  74. I have no follow incoming links showing in webmaster tools. I assume that means google does follow them sometimes at least.

  75. I have been reading about this a lot. For what I can see, any link will show as a back link – the nofollow tag will ensure that the linked site does not get credit for the page rank. More or less, the linking site does not want to pass the “juice” to the external site. I see the nofollow uses, just wish there was a single standard (one can always hope).

  76. Google’s latest about page rank sculpting is interesting. So, even if you have nofollow, you would still lose the pr. So for contact us, privacy, terms for instance, you leak PR three times. Would it be better to put them all on one link so you only leak once?

    Thanks,

    Ed

  77. I once had this supersweet nofollow plugin for Firefox, it only showed nofollow links as red, not anything else, just cant seem to find the right one, I keep bumping into these SEO packs with too much info I find elsewhere.

  78. This is a good tool people – go to big G and search for “firefox nofollow” – you will see the Add on for Firefox. It’s a simple extension to highlight links in a page according to nofollow / dofollow status. This tool is a must have! Enjoy.

  79. what is funny is I implemented this hack as you described, then i waded through the comments and saw Craig Raw say that he put this into his SearchStatus plugin. as it turns out i’m already using that plugin and i had no idea it had that option! its actually better since you can toggle it on and off at will without having to edit the chrome and restart firefox. cheers for the great idea though

  80. Hi,
    I have no idea why I found your page so late. I was always facing problem with nofollow and dofollow. Your solution is really helpful. Thanks

  81. Dan

    Thanks, that helps alot. I wanted to know about back-linking pages and if its smart to prevent the search enginge from seeing or spidering them. By back-linking pages, I mean a page thats designated to use for links to link back to partners.

  82. Omri

    Say I have a site linking to one of my pages and this page has the robots meta tag set to “noindex”, “nofollow”. Will this incoming link still count as an incoming link for my domain?

  83. Hi Matt… I am wanting to know if rel=’external’ (as opposed to rel=’external nofollow’) prevents page rank from being passed on?

    Cheers,

    Bruce

  84. Actually there is a ready-made easy to install extension for firefox named NoDoFollow. Mine is version 1.1. What is does is actually put a link to your “right-click” menu that activates/deactivates the nofollow link detection.

    This add-on works similar as you described here Matt. Reds the unfollow and greens the dofollows.

    Cheers,

  85. Isn’t there a faster “plug&play” solution? Like installing an addon or something? Don’t want to mess around with code :-(.

  86. “Alan June 4, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Eventually, all links will have a nofollow tag and google’s system of the value of links will be stone dead. And the google index will be reduced to a few million pages – all of them on google properties.”

    Sad, but true. I really do feel Google has lost sight of the fact it’s a search engine. Or at least, was :( It’s fast become a jack of all trades, and master of none, with it’s saving grace being that it’s been branded so well, impeccably in fact, that it’s still *the* #1 ‘SE’ of choice.

  87. I don’t like the nofollow system. People are putting nofollow on all of their links, thinking that doing so will help them to not leak pagerank. The problem is that when every link is nofollow that whole link system (with regards to Google SERP rankings) will be worthless.

    People should only use nofollow if they have a very good reason.

  88. if all links would have nofollow then how would a site benefit from these links

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