Do nofollow links need to be added to a disavow file?

There is some confusion in the SEO world in regards to whether or not nofollowed links need to be removed when dealing with an unnatural links penalty.  Here is what John Mueller from Google says on the matter.  The following is a Webmaster Central Office Hours hangout.  John addresses nofollowed links at 30:46.


A user asks whether he needs to add nofollowed links to his disavow file.  John says,

You don’t need to include any nofollow links…because essentially what happens with links that you submit as a disavow, when we recrawl them we treat them similarly to other nofollowed links.  Including a nofollow link there wouldn’t be necessary.


There is no harm in including nofollowed links in your disavow file (provided it doesn’t cause you to exceed the maximum size of file allowed for the tool.)  Some would argue that nofollowed links could eventually turn into followed links if a site owner decides to change their site format, but really the chances of that happening are very small.


What if you are cleaning up your link profile in an attempt to recover from Penguin?  The same thing applies.  In this hangout, John Mueller explains that nofollowed links are not used by any algorithms including Penguin.  Start watching at 5:16.



The question was, “Do many nofollow links cause an algorithmic penalty?“.  John’s quick answer was, “No.“.

He goes on to say,

At least from Google’s point of view, if [the links] have a nofollow on these links then they aren’t used for our algorithms.

Nofollowed links do not need to be addressed at all whether you are dealing with an unnatural links penalty or trying to escape or avoid an algorithmic problem like Penguin.

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  • saurabh

    I think when you are actually disallowing the files there is no need to nofollow as these files are not taken by spiders when visiting your website

  • Gail Gardner

    Why did he not answer the simple question of how to tell if a link is dofollow or nofollow? The SEOBook toolbar can tell you that as can many other tools.

    • Marie Haynes

      Good point. If a site owner is not web savvy they may not know how to tell if a link is nofollowed. I usually recommend using the Chrome nofollow checker extension.

    • Justin Germino

      Yep, so many tools, I happen to use SEOQuake for checking pages. As far as those who use plugins to auto “nofollow” links, it is possible a plugin gets disabled/corrupted and bam, all links that were nofollow are follow again, so this could be a good reason to disavow all nofollow links too if you use a plugin in WordPress to auto nofollow them, instead of manually nofollowing them with the html source in the post.

  • John Britsios

    Marie, is there a maximum file size the disavow tool allows? Never heard that before. Can you clarify?

    • Marie Haynes

      Hi John. According to a hangout with Google employee Aaseesh Marina, there is a 2mb size limit to the disavow file. That is huge though…I’ve yet to see a site with a file that big.

      • John Britsios

        I would assume that if a site has a disavow file larger than 2MB, it would be wise to move to a new domain. Don’t you think?

        Just kidding… :)

        • Marie Haynes

          :) I think any site can be saved provided it can truly attract good links. I think that most sites approaching a 2MB disavow are going about things wrong and probably disavowing on the url level rather than the domain.

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