How guest post sellers are secretly nofollowing your links

By Yuri Burchenya | SEO


Even if you’re not buying links, knowing if a link is “taken into account by Google” aka passes PageRank is crucial.

Too many people just open the guest post article and hope that Moz toolbar will highlight the link for them if it’s nofollow.

Or even worse, they open the page, find their link, click “inspect element” and check the rel attribute to see if it’s “nofollow“ or not.

What if I told you there are at least 5 other ways how webmasters can hide your link from Google?

Most of these check can be done without any software, but just to make things easier to spot, you can use a plugin like Detailed SEO extension.

Robots Meta Nofollow Directive

Robots meta directives are pieces of code that provide crawlers instructions on how to crawl and index your pages.

If the robots meta directive is set to nofollow, every link on the page will be treated by Google as nofollow.

In this example below, App store link looks like a regular followed link.

But if you check the source code of the page, you will easily discover this piece of code with content=”nofollow” directive.

X-robots nofollow

While the robots meta directive is part of the HTML page, x-robots-tag is sent as part of HTTP headers. Which means that you won’t notice if it’s set to nofollow, if you only check by “inspect element” or in “view page source”.

Similarly to meta robots, X-robots directive set to nofollow will override any other settings and make your link viewed by Google as nofollow.

But if you look closer and analyzer Response Headers, you’ll notice that x-robots is set to “nofollow”. Note that a plugin like Moz toolbar would also not mark this link as nofollow.

Non Self-referencing Canonical

Your guest post might contain a follow link, but have you checked if the canonical is self-referencing? Sometimes it’s neither self-referencing, nor is it missing.

But rather another page is declared as canonical. Would it surprise you if I tell that some webmasters will set your link as nofollow on the canonical page?

Robots.txt nofollow

In rare cases webmasters just straight out add your link or the whole directory where your article is published to Robots.txt and instruct bots (especially Googlebot) to not crawl the page.

The idea is that if Google can’t crawl your page, it can’t index it and therefore there’s no benefit for you.

You want to especially look out for Googlebot instructions in Robots.txt file.

Indexation check

To check if Google has crawled the guest post with your link – check if the page is indexed.

How to check that page is indexed?

Simply perform a site:URL search in Google. If guest post URL is present, the page is indexed. Otherwise – it’s not.

JavaScript link injection

Ok so your guest post is indexed, that means all good, right? Right?..

Well, not necessarily.

If the page uses Javascript for dynamically updating content, and for some reason Google couldn’t fully render the page, it is possible that only the initial HTML will be indexed.

In other words, the part with your link might not be indexed 😅

There are multiple reasons for why Google might render a page differently than it appears to the user, as explained in detail in this Ultimate Guide to JavaScript SEO.

To check if Google really indexed crucial JS content, first you’ll need to know which parts of the guest post page depend on JavaScript. You can disable JS in your browser, or you can use a tool like WWJD.

Copy any text fragment from part of the page that depends on JavaScript, and search for in Google, like this:

Google “unnatural links from your site” Penalty

Finally, the unnatural links from your site penalty.

There’s no way for you to know if the website where you want to publish the guest post has this penalty, unless you have access to their Google Search Console.

In an unlikely event that you do, this is the message to look out for:

While this penalty does decrease (or completely remove) the PageRank passed to the linked sites, it doesn’t appear to influence their own rankings. So don’t think you can spot the penalty by checking for a decrease in Ahrefs organic traffic estimate.

Further considerations

On top of tracking all of these issues, you need to remember that it’s necessary to check most of these things regularly. One day your link might be followed, the next day webmaster decides to use one of these tricks – and it’s gone.

There is some software out there that allows to check many of these things automatically, but none that I like enough to recommend. Most solutions don’t check for all of these issues or have serious problem with false positives.