If you have a blog that links anywhere and care about your SEO and ranking, you need to be familiar with the terms nofollow, noopener and noreferrer, and how to use them. I’m no expert- I really just recently learned how they all work, and only because a recent WordPress update forced me to pay attention to them. So I thought I’d share a few basic details to help anyone else running into the same thing.
What does Nofollow, Noopener and Noreferrer mean?
These terms are values of the rel attribute of the anchor tag in HTML. To explain it in the simplest terms: Nofollow means Google doesn’t follow that link and you don’t pass on any “link juice,” noopener means the link opens in a new window and prevents the newly opened site from manipulating the window in any way, and noreferrer means no information is shared when someone clicks that link so they won’t know where the traffic is coming from.
The Noopener Noreferrer WordPress Update
A recent WordPress update now adds “noopener noreferrer” to your links automatically when you click the little box that says “Open link in a new window/tab.” This isn’t something you would even notice unless you check out the html version of your post. It’s added as soon as you press save, and you can’t remove it. If you do remove it, it’s added right back again as soon as you press save! Older posts will not be affected unless you update them, then it will change all your links on that post.
For example, the link above looks like this, but only after I click save, close the post, and open it again:
What I did today was add an external links plug-in that updated all my links to nofollow, and I was planning to go back through and exclude certain links later. Then I decided I didn’t want it and removed it. But because all my links had been updated, they were all changed to the new “noopener noreferrer” links. So in a span of a few minutes, pretty much every link I have will no longer show I am sending any traffic unless I choose to change every link to open in the same window.
Noopener Noreferrer Means No Traffic Source
WordPress added this as a safety feature, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Linking to another website leaves you a little vulnerable if that website is infested with malicious software. By adding the noopener and noreferrer attributes, this prevents any information being shared when that new window opens up. Unfortunately, sometimes you are linking to websites you not only trust, but want to show them you are sending traffic!
All the traffic you send will now be recorded by analytics as direct traffic. So they will have no idea if you send them 1 or 100 people, it will all look like they just went directly to that page unless you let the window open in the same page. The reason you don’t really want to do that is because then you are sending people away from your website! If a new window opens, then they can close it and pick up right where they left off. If you open in the same window then your site is gone and you’ve lost your reader.
After much research today, it seems there is a solution if you are comfortable with editing some of the major code with your website. I am definitely NOT going there, since most of my site was fine until I went tinkering with things today. I can only imagine the destruction I might cause if I got into the template code. So I’m just accepting this and have decided moving forward I will let companies I work with know that unfortunately they will not see any referral traffic in their stats.
A Note About Nofollow and Link Juice
The nofollow attribute is what started all this today. When I first started blogging, I didn’t know the importance of links and how they worked for SEO and page rank. Each time you link to someone with a dofollow link, you pass a little of your magical “link juice” to that page. You are basically telling Google, you should check this out, I endorse this page. Pages with a lower rank can benefit from a dofollow link from a higher ranking page. But also, linking to lower ranking or lower quality pages can penalize your own ranking, and that’s where the nofollow comes in.
You don’t have to do anything to create a dofollow link, just add the link and have it open in the same window. But to create a nofollow link, you have to add nofollow to the rel attributes.
You can do this manually by editing your links in the html view, or with a plug-in. The plug-ins are the fastest way to add it to your entire site, to every link. But, like me, you may not want that. So the solution is to just go in and add it manually to every link you may think is questionable, but you want to keep without it affecting your rank.
The Lesson in All This
While this is not an in-depth explanation of all the details about the nofollow, noopener and noreferrer attributes, I hope it at least gives you an idea of the importance of these attributes and why you should pay attention to them. This applies to all websites, not just blogs or WordPress. Where you link and how you link can have a powerful impact on your website’s ranking, SEO and analytics data.