Practical Ecommerce

Ask an Expert: Do No-Follow Links Help with SEO?

“Ask an Expert” is an occasional feature where we ask ecommerce experts questions from online merchants. For this installment, we address a question about the search-engine-optimization value to no-follow links on social bookmarking sites, such as Digg and StumbleUpon. The question comes not from a merchant, but from our own social media director, Paul Chaney.

For the answer, we turn to Jill Kocher, SEO manager with, a deal-of-the day site. Kocher is an SEO expert and a Practical eCommerce contributor.

If you’d like to submit a question, email Kate Monteith, staff writer, at and we’ll attempt to address it.

Paul Chaney

Paul Chaney

Paul Chaney: “Social bookmarking sites, such as Digg and StumbleUpon, use no-follow links. If I were to ‘Digg’ an ecommerce product, the link back to the ecommerce site would be no-followed. Many people use Digg, of course. Do no-follow links on these bookmarking sites have SEO value to the site that’s been bookmarked?”


Jill Kocher

Jill Kocher

Jill Kocher: “The short answer is that social media sites and other sites that no-follow their links provide no measurable, direct link building value. That said, all relevant links to quality content from quality sites have indirect link building value, as well as crawl boosting, traffic-driving and brand recognition value.

“Search engines treat the rel=nofollow attribute applied to the anchor tag as a signal that link popularity should not be passed through that link. It’s essentially a way of not vouching for the quality of the site being linked to, and is heavily used by sites that allow users to insert links into content that isn’t reviewed before being published. If Twitter, for example, didn’t no-follow links that users put into the tweets they posted, Twitter would seem to be vouching for all sorts of low quality or even spammy pages to which users chose to link. So from the social media sites’ points of view, rel=nofollow protects them from vouching for spammy sites. Unfortunately, it also prevents them from vouching for high quality sites.

“On the indirect link-building front, sites can’t link to content that they don’t know exists. Social media sites play a role in indirect link building by promoting content to an ever-widening set of users and their friends. Some fraction of those users will theoretically find that content useful or valuable in some way and link to it from a blog they own. It may also be cited in the media. These links may be able to pass link popularity.

“As to whether it’s valuable to submit individual product pages to social sites, typically the answer is ‘no.’ Unless the product has some sort of mass appeal, loyal fan base, or is accompanied by a contest, question or other form of user engagement, a product page post to a social media site will likely just be ignored. Moreover, over time ‘friend’ levels will deteriorate if only product pages are submitted.”

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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  1. Paul Chaney August 16, 2010 Reply

    So, in short, would it be fair to say that, even with the use of nofollow, links from social bookmarking sites have some value, even if it’s limited?

  2. Paul Anthony August 17, 2010 Reply

    Hi Paul – to bounce in here – yes, they have some limited value, however, spending time bookmarking product detail pages to try and gain some sort of link juice / SEO benefit, is a really poor use of your time. For one, the communities such as Digg will absolutely hate you for it, and for two – those sorts of pages aren’t likely to gain links unless they are particularly special – think the review pages of amazon’s Three Wolf Moon T-Shirts – see here:

    I’ve seen far too many articles which don’t mention the REAL way that social bookmarking should be used, to seed really good content that is likely to get shared , go viral and result in the backlinks that retailers need. These in turn can then be linked to the product detail pages to push them higher in the SERPs. I’ve written about the concept more in depth at my own site.

  3. Paul Chaney August 18, 2010 Reply

    Paul (great name btw), thanks for the info. "Really good content…" is our mantra here at PeC. I believe wholeheartedly that great editorial content will not go unnoticed and is its own form of SEO.

    Thanks for the expert advice. I’m sure it’s appreciated by our readers. I know it is by me.

  4. Jill Kocher August 24, 2010 Reply

    Pauls x 2, agreed!

  5. thetechnologyvault December 8, 2010 Reply

    I believe there is value in using social bookmarking to build links to web sites. I have been marketing a site for a client of mine using a mixture heavily weighted towards social bookmarking and web 2.0 properties. I’ve seen increases in traffic from search referrals and from the natural results of the social bookmarks. I don’t believe that nofollow = novalue, but I agree that for a commerce store to really win, valuable do-follow links from authority sites must be part of the strategy.

  6. aphstone August 18, 2011 Reply

    Hello, I’m involved in a SEO camping to my company Aph stone solutions:
    since a week ago i’m taggin links in all kinds of social bookmarking site, like reddit, dig, etc… the true is that the traffic level is increasing but, there is no change in google rank….
    Please I need a pice off advice to get my page index in at least top 100 with granite countertops key phrase… there is no way… my web has a high keyword density, there is a link in multiple directories, but, elsewhere there is no way… Any recommendation from the expert?