Search engines communicate with your website partly by following its links, so you want links, except when you don’t.
The links on your website help search engines understand what your site’s purpose is. Outbound links tell Google which sites you consider to be your colleagues and contemporaries. Inbound links (backlinks) from other sites are desired because they may build your site’s authority. Internal links reinforce site structure. When a colleague or friend links to your site, they’re telling Google that they think your content is worthy of notice, and this is called passing authority. The more respected your site is, the more authority you have. So, you want search engines to take note of your links, right? Mostly, yes.
Why wouldn’t you want links to be followed? Several reasons.
- When you add a link but it doesn’t relate to the site’s overall keywords/key phrases or reinforce your SEO, you may want to add a no follow attribute. For example, I have added no index attributes to all my posts in the category of work-life balance.
- When you want to cite a source but it’s on a website that may be seen as spammy, search engines might ding your SEO. Add a no follow attribute and you can still site the page, but not pass authority to it.
There are also pages that you don’t want to show up in search results.
- Password-protected pages
- Surveys meant for just people who have been given the URL
- Cart, order summary, or thank you pages
Finally, you can make whole sites private. Why would you do that?
- You have a private blog or site such as a family genealogy that you want to limit access to.
- Your site is dedicated to just your company’s internal communications.
So how do you tell search engines to ignore links, posts, pages, or whole sites?
No index, no follow, and search engine visibility
So what are no follow links and no index attributes? These links ask search engines to disregard individual links or whole pages or posts. There’s no guarantee they’ll comply, but adding no follow or no index attributes should reduce the amount of attention those elements get from search engines.
- No index is applied to pages or posts, telling search engines to not add them to search results.
- No follow is applied to links, telling search engines to not improve the authority of those websites.
Apply search engine visibility to whole sites in the WordPress dashboard menu on the left of your screen. Go to Settings > Reading > Search Engine Visibility and check the box labelled, “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”.
Yoast no follow or no index settings
You can add a no index directive in WordPress with code, but it’s much easier to use a plugin. When you add link, page, or post to your site and tell your software not to index or follow it, the plugin adds an HTML tag with the proper code. I use the Yoast plugin on my websites.
The advanced tab in the Yoast panel gives you three different settings.
As you add pages, posts, and links, consider whether they will help your SEO or dilute your message. If they link to a site that you don’t want to pass authority to or if they’re interesting but won’t boost your SEO, add a no-follow. Add a no index attribute if it’s a page with a specific purpose that you don’t want to show up in search results.
Authority – a search engine ranking system; the more respected your site is, the higher it’s authority is
Hyperlink – a link that connects you to a place or thing, such as a website, a .pdf, or a place on a page. Click here for more info.
No follow – HTML code that asks search engines to not add authority to the destination page
No index – HTML code that asks search engines to not include the page in search results