Noindex Vs. Nofollow: What’s The Difference Between These Search Engine Directives?

noindex vs. nofollow

Noindex is a command that tells search engines not to put a webpage in their indices. It means that they cannot save this information in their records. As such, the page will not appear in search results. 

On the other hand, nofollow is a directive telling search engines not to follow a link found on a web page. And because of that, any SEO or authority that that page has will not trickle down to the hyperlinked page. 

What is indexing?

Google, in particular, has robots that crawl the entire surface web. These robots are called spiders, and they read every page they can find. Once they read it, they report back to the main algorithm, and then the algorithm indexes the data. 

If a user types a specific keyword, the algorithm checks the index and then shows the best content. The index is the data source of what search engines offer to the users.

Some web developers do not want their website to be indexed—they do not want their website showing in search engine result pages. It is why they employ the noindex command. 

Obviously, this case is rare. People who have a website, especially those who do affiliate marketing for a living, want their content to be indexed to get free or organic traffic. 

What is following?

Let us say Google found your page; it will crawl the content of that webpage. Somewhere on your page is a link to another website. If Google’s spider bots see this, they will “open” this link and follow where it leads them.

From there, they can create a web of information and decide what your site is about. Google loves websites that give value to readers, and one of these values is sharing information that can benefit the reader.

That is what we call a follow because Google follows the hyperlink. So, let us say that a popular website like CNET hyperlinked to your webpage. If this happens, CNET is essentially telling people and Google to follow that hyperlink to your webpage because there is information that can benefit them. 

In this case, the authority of the CNET site kind of trickles down to you. Google will think that since CNET referred its readers to your site, then you must be a credible source of information, too. 

In short, Google found your website and also improved your webpage’s ranking because of CNET’s recommendation—CNET is referring readers to you. 

Now, some website developers do not like this at all. They worked hard for their ranking, and they do not want their site to be the source of Google for finding you. In this regard, CNET will write a command telling Google not to follow the link that goes back to your website.

It is kind of selfish if you think about it. However, do not be quick to judge. 

Backlinks can affect how Google sees CNET. If the Google algorithm thinks that the backlink to you is spammy, then it will rank down CNET—all because your content is spam. 

So, the solution is to tell Google not to follow the link back to you. CNET will retain its credibility, and CNET can still link back to you without any damage or harm done to them. 

Another reason they do this is they do not know if your web page will be forever active. If the authority website has tens of thousands of backlinks, and one of these backlinks, the one leading to you, is dead, Google will not like it. 

Google will not like it because CNET sends users to a dead website. Again, it will affect their ranking. So, it is better to just tell Google not to follow that link to you. 

When should you use noindex?

As a webmaster, there are some excellent reasons why you do not want Google to index your page. Let me show you some. 

  • Low-value Content – these are webpages or content that no one is particularly looking for, or they do not serve high value. Examples of these are thin pages. 
  • Marketing Content – these are pages that you use for your ads, like online versions of your email marketing campaign or rules of your contest. 
  • User-Generated Content – examples of these are forums.

Some forums are great for indexing, provided that the website is a forum itself. On most occasions, you do not want Google to index a forum because when people click on the page and leave, it can affect your ranking—your bounce rate is high, and Google may not like it.   

When should you use nofollow?

Like the noindex command, there are some excellent uses for nofollow, and below are some examples.  

  • Paid links and ads
  • Affiliate links
  • Links likely to die

You do not want Google to follow links that lead to paid ads or affiliate links. Google knows how to identify these things, and it can impact the way Google looks at your site. If you keep sending people to affiliate sites, Google will eventually consider your site spam. 

Also, you do not want Google to follow links to sites that may die one day. You interviewed a person who has a website, and you linked back to that person. 

This person’s website may close and become inaccessible one day. If you link back to dead or unreachable sites, it will also have a negative impact on your SEO rankings. 


Noindex and nofollow are two different commands for Google. The noindex command tells Google not to list down a particular webpage found on your site. You do not want it listed because it is not something you want users to find, or it may affect your ranking. 

Nofollow is what you use to tell Google not to follow a hyperlink that you placed on your web pages. You do not want to pass on your authority to other sites, or you want to make sure that the poor quality of these pages does not affect your site. 

John Kilmerstone

I'm an Aussie living in Japan who enjoys traveling, photography, and blogging. Please visit this website and explore the wonderful world of blogging. Discover how to turn your passions and pastimes into an online business.

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