Is rel = “noopener noreferrer” the same as “nofollow”?

Brian Bojan Dordevic
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Since HTML offers multiple options to search engines for a better understanding of the data on your website, which further implies better ranking positions on search engines, using the benefits of HTML as a search engine optimization tool is a wise decision that will positively affect your SEO results. Those three elements added to outgoing links are defined as link attributes – “noopener noreferrer nofollow”. More precisely, HTML recognizes those elements as values that belong to the rel attribute of the anchor tag. Understanding the interaction between HTML and SEO is the very first step. In the following article, you will find the meanings of those relations, why they are so important, and how the usage of rel attribute values can impact SEO results..

What are rel attributes in HTML?

Rel attributes (rel – coming from RELationship) signify the relationship between the current website and linked website. Rel attributes are used inside HTML in the form of links or tags, and we could describe them as a type of instruction.

What is rel=”noreferrer”?

The rel=”noreferrer” tag is an HTML attribute that is usually added to link tag <a> to prevent the transition of the referrer information and the targeted website by removing the referral info. This implies that visits from your website won’t add up on Google Analytics referral traffic on the other website. Instead, those clicks will be counted as direct traffic..

Let’s see an example that will describe how rel=”noreferrer” functions.

Imagine that you are establishing the link from website A to website B, not using the rel “noreferrer.” When checking out the Google Analytics Acquisition Report, the website’s B owner will see that traffic is coming to its website as referral traffic.

On the other hand, if the owner of website A uses the rel “noreferrer,” the owner of website B will have an opportunity to see this traffic categorized as direct in Google Analytics Report, which means that there will be no provided the exact address from which the traffic is derived from.

Hence, whenever you don’t want to provide the piece of information to the website you are linking to, whenever you don’t want them to see where the traffic is coming from, you will use the rel “noreferrer. The situation when you should avoid using the rel “noreferrer” is connected to internal linking because you don’t want that mess in the Googles report.

How the rel=”noreferrer” impact your SEO results?

Although adding the “noreferrer” tag to your links does not directly impact your SEO results, it affects it indirectly in terms of link building and paid ads. As stated by Google, showing the source of the data you are using on your website can be very useful because it can inspire the quoted website owner to return you the favor and give your website the backlink, which will positively influence your SEO results. Still, if you are using the “noreferrer” tag, this information will not be visible, and thus the possibility of backlinking to your website will be significantly reduced.

There has been a lot of debate going on regarding the “noreferrer noopener issue” for affiliate websites; however, the rel “noreferrer” has no impact on Affiliate links either because those reward programs are mainly based on the affiliate ID that is already included in the link.

What is rel=”nofollow”?

The rel=”nofollow” tag is a link attribute introduced by Google in 2005 to prevent low-quality websites impact SEO through spammy links on forums, blog comments, and similar.  This attribute value signals search engines not to follow the link and, therefore, not pass any link juice to the targeted page. You might want to add nofollow tag in the following scenarios:

  • You don’t want Google to associate your website with another website
  • You don’t want Google bots to crawl the linked page
  • You are placing Certification Badges
  • You have been paid to link to another website or vice versa

It is also a good idea to occasionally perform a backlink analysis to check if some of your links have obtained nofollow attribute values that are preventing you from obtaining more link juice.

Is there a difference between rel=”nofollow” and rel=”noreferrer”?

By adding a rel “nofollow” to the hyperlink means instructing search engines not to pass any page rank from one to another website. More precisely, you are giving them instructions to neglect that link for search engine optimization purposes. Google introduced this option in 2005 when it noticed that there were many so-called comment spams used by people who had an idea to raise their website in search engines in this way. Hence, Google decided to block those spam by enabling an option “nofollow,” which stops those links from getting any credit in ranking on the search results.

So, the answer to our primer question is yes. There is a difference between rel “nofollow” and “noreferrer.” While “no follow” provides the referral information to the browser without an option to follow the link, the rel “noreferrer” provides information to the search engines, and the link is followed.

Since those two rel are so different, the best option to use rel “nofollow” on the external links is when you don’t trust those links while using rel=”noreferrer” is a good option for bypassing the other site to know that you have linked to them.

How the rel=”nofollow” impact your SEO results?

Not transferring the page rank over another website means no passing the link weight from one to another site, which impacts the SEO in the mean of ranking position. The more quality links you have, the higher your website will be in the SERP. Still, numerous rel “nofollow” attributes do not mean that it negatively affects the SEO results; it just means that search engines do not consider the “nofollow” attribute when following a link on your website.

However, in 2019, Google has changed some rules regarding the “nofollow” attribute, stating that the “nofollow” tag is not recognized as a strict directive, but as a hint, which gives Google not to follow this directive. All this means that the users still can mark the “nofollow” attribute option, but Google has not the obligation to follow this directive.

Furthermore, Google has introduced two new options that could be connected to the “nofollow” attribute. Since it has recognized that there is a specific need for paid quality links, Google has presented rel=”sponsored” that can go on “nofollow” tag, and which shows that a specific link is a sponsored content or a promoted post. The second newish option is rel=”UGC”, which stands for User Generated Content, is recommended for links within user-generated content, such as comments and forum posts.

So, from March 1, 2020, the “nofollow” attribute has become only a hint for crawling and indexing purposes, but it positively can affect your ranking positions on Google.

In fear of getting penalized by Google, many website owners use “nofollow” link attribute even when it is not necessary. For example, you should avoid using nofollow attribute value when linking to another page on your website, as building internal links is vital for SEO. In addition, by removing unnecessary lines of HTML code, you will be able to achieve better loading times for your pages. This could benefit your website’s performance in search engines since there is an undoubtful connection between site speed and SEO.

What is rel= “noopener”?

The rel “noopener” is another HTML attribute that is used for external links, intending to prevent that the opening page obtains any access to the originated page. This rel is applicable when the link is selected to open in a new tab.

The rel “noopener” is more related to the website’s security, for example, the rel “no opener” will be very useful in preventing your website from being hijacked when you are linking to a website that might be malicious.

How the rel =”noopener” impact your SEO results?

Some website owners avoid using rel=”noopener” attribute because they wrongly believe it can damage their website’s performance in search engines. Noopener attribute value has no implications on your SEO results, and it is recommended to use it to handle a browser security issue hackers can exploit to gain partial access to the previous page and redirect you or your visitors to a phishing website. This hacking technique is often called “a reverse tabnabbing attack”.

In many cases, this rel is automatically set in order to provide enhanced security to your website and help you prevent SEO spam. If you notice that the link in your paragraph block field contains “noopener” attribute value, we advise against removing it since there is usually not any strong reason to do so. Noopener links will not hurt your search engine optimization efforts.

Final Thoughts

Let’s summarize the impact of noopener noreferrer nofollow relations on search engine optimization and how we use them here at digital marketing agency Chicago:

  • Noreferrer is the only rel attribute value that can influence your SEO results in terms of link building. It is also unlikely to impact your affiliate links.
  • Nofollow attribute value instructs search engines not to pass the page rank or anchor text across them. Although those links are generally not crawled, from March 1, 2020, Google considers it only as a hint. Anyway, rel=”nofollow” certainly affects SEO results by not transferring link juice to a specific page. Web developers usually use them when they want to add external links without vouching for the quality of the other website.
  • Noopener tag is more of a security thing. It is recommended to use noopener attribute value on all links opening in new tabs because when allowing your links to be opened in new tabs, it means an open possibility for a malicious attacker to change the content and location of the originating page.

As you can see, if you use them correctly – rel= “nofollow noopener noreferrer” attribute values can help you improve the security of your website and boost its performance in search engines.

If you found this article helpful, keep reading Alpha Efficiency’s blog and stay tuned for more SEO, web development, and web designs trend posts.


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