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How To Automatically Nofollow External Links In WordPress


Adding a rel=”nofollow” tag to external links present in your site ensures that the search engine indexing your site (such as Google or Bing) does not follow those links and associate them with your site’s rankings. However, Matt Cutts says that we shouldn’t be worrying too much about which links to follow or ‘nofollow’ as Google’s search ranking algorithms are changing everyday and the old school methods of ‘fooling’ a search engine are long gone. Folks into SEO will know what I’m talking about, especially after the whole Google Panda 2.0 update fiasco.

A bit about Link Building and SEO

Link building is one of the oldest and best practices in search engine optimization. When a website contains your site’s link (i.e. links to your site), in terms of search engine score, it’s a plus point for your site. The generic term you’re probably looking for is ‘backlink’.
Get a backlink from an educational (such as a university – .edu) or a government (.gov) institution, you secure the maximum possible points. However, all backlinks you get must be from sites relevant to your website’s niche or topic in general.

You might think “Hey let’s create a site where people exchange links – that’s plus points for all the sites in the network!”

Google is not stupid. In fact, Google penalizes the site/domain running such link exchange hubs and all participating websites.

On to “nofollowing” External Links in WordPress

Webmasters have a practice of ‘nofollowing’ all external links present in their site (especially the links to a competing site), save a few. Whether nofollowing a link is good for SEO or bad is a whole different and largely debatable issue altogether.

In this tutorial we’ll show you how to automatically nofollow all external links in your posts or pages using a simple plugin – External Links.

  • First off, install and activate the External Links WordPress plugin
  • Next, head over to its (the plugin’s) settings from Settings >> External Links
  • You could choose your settings accordingly. Below is a snapshot of my settings:

External Links Settings

Once I apply my settings, the changes are visibly in every blog post and page. Here’s the code displayed by Google Chrome’s website inspector tool.


Notice how the internal links are not given a “rel=nofollow” tag. Not following your internal links is a very bad idea – Google loves a strongly interlinked website.

If you decide to apply icons to external links, then this is how your posts would look like:

External Link with Icon

For your reference, the ‘online store’ is an internal link.

Download External Links

Wrapping Things Up

We tested External Links as well as Nofollow for External Link in WordPress 3.6.1 and found that the latter is a (comparatively) simpler plugin which adds rel=”nofollow” tags to all external links and target=”_blank” to all links in your site and does not have a settings page. If you’re looking for something barebone simple, you could consider this. What plugins and/or code snippets do you use to nofollow external links in your site?

Important: Some users have reported the External Link plugin causing large speed issues on your site. So if you use the plugin and find that your site is now running really slow it could be the issue.

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