Stop Wasting SEO Juice – NoFollow Links To Flickr

Mar 10, 2009   //   by Hackadelic   //   Blog, Featured  //  32 Comments

Catchy ColorsThis may not be big news, but I wasn’t really aware of it, and I can imagine there are others who aren’t aware either.

In early 2008, Flickr began NOFOLLOWing hyperlinks in their photo profile pages.

What does that mean?

FYI, nofollowing is the means by which you stop SEO juice flowing out from one (your) site to another.1 In other words, it means Flickr are stopping SEO juice from flowing away from them.

On the other hand, many blogs embed Flickr images, and link back to it, thereby giving some of their juice to Flickr.

The bottom line is that Flickr has effectively become a sink for SEO juice. But they haven’t been one from the beginning. After getting everybody’s juice, the have changed the rules and stopped giving back any.

What you should know is: SEO juice is the currency on the web (alongside with respect). It’s an economic value, equivalent to real money. As with any economic value, it’s a “give and take” thing. To exchange economic values is trade. To give economic value, and not request anything in return, is a gift. To take economic value, and not give anything back in return, is robbery.

Flickr receives huge economic value in form of user contribution. The value they used to give back in return was that precious SEO juice. But all of a sudden, they changed their policy and stopped “paying back”. I don’t know about you, but I think that sucks. Badly!

Mt. Doom?So what to do about it?

For one, you can nofollow your own links to Flickr. If nothing more, then to re-establish “economical justice”. In case you don’t know, you can do that this way:2

  • Open the image dialog for the image.
  • Go to the “Advanced Setting” tab.
  • Scroll down to “Advanced Link Settings”.
  • In the field “Link Rel” enter “nofollow”.

Unfortunately, Flickr is not the only “last minute” policy switcher. Other famous non-commercial sites, Wikipedia and, have done similarly before. And not surprisingly, many (most?) commercial sites are routinely nofollowing thier outgoing links.

So you can also go one step further, and use the NoFollow Reciprocity plugin.3 (Note that the WordPres plugin page says it is compatible up to 2.6.1, but AFAICT it works with my 2.7.1 version flawlessly.)

The plugin will automatically nofollow links to sites you select, and comes with an already preset list of 1000 (!) “unfair” sites that nofollow their links.4 Unfortunately, that list is hard-coded, so you’ll have to change the plugin code if you want to add or remove sites, but the place in the code is quickly spotted (it starts at line 80 in version 2.1 of the plugin), and easily changed, too.

  1. There is an excellent introductory article about the origins of “nofollow” at []
  2. Actually, I wonder why the Insights plugin that I’m using is not providing an option to automatically nofollow image links, especially as the author claims to be a SEO expert. []
  3. The NoFollow Reciprocity homepage gives some excellent insights about SEO juice distribution, and how “nofollow” has brought an unbalance into the SEO game. []
  4. Of course, you can abuse the plugin to nofollow links to fair sites, too, but that’s up to your conscience. 😉 []


  • I see, this discussion started more than 4 years ago and things have changed. I am trying to find a way how to increase pagerank of my site. I have too many outbound links to flickr, whose I changed to nofollow. I have changed backlinks with some PR4 sites, but nothing helped. My site is still PR0. I started FB page and Twitter account, but from these sites I have nofollow links. It is quite challenging to increase PR and I will be happy if PR of my site increase. Thanks for this post anyway.

  • Pagerank is not the only rankings factor. It’s clear as soon as you see that a PR3 site ranking above a PR4 that there are other rankings factors than simply Pagerank.

  • I recently installed the Sitemap plugin from images, and videos on my WP blogs. If I make the links to Flickr images NoFollow will that have a negative impact on images which might otherwise appear in the search results. In other words, could I be shooting myself in the foot by NoFollowing these links?

    • There is no difference to you in terms of page rank if you nofollow the links or not.

  • With almost every single site in existence today having nofollow turned on how are people supposed to get links?

  • Thanks for the post, I had a flickr account a few years ago and pulled it due to some mistreatment to a friend who was posting there by flickr. I was just about to set up an account again to upload some of my hipstamatic images and get a little juice back to my pro site, now I am not sure. So thanks for the post and the thread has been interesting to read.

    Cheers Dave::

  • How to insert links without nofollow on Flickr:

  • I have actually done a lot of research on this, and I have come to the conclusion that although NoFollow does definitely curb the amount of juice that comes from the link, it doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

    People used to create large numbers of spam pages on their website, and nofollow all of the irrelevant links. What eventually happened was webpages were only being indexed for the top content they have, and they were able to throw spammy content all over the website for keyword stuffing purposes. So they can throw tons of keywords in links, and have crap at the destination.

    But Google understood this exploit, and has therefore diminished the power of NoFollow on all but the top high profile websites such as wikipedia.

  • As from my experience, best way to raise your PR is backlinks, i have a website which has 10 links from 10 .edu domains, and i am on the top search keyword. So if you want to get there fast, find some link exchange with edu domains rather than getting 100000 backlinks which are equal to 10 edu links.

  • They threatened to remove my account because I had links to my website in my descriptions.
    The links were not even to a sales site.
    I’m thinking of just closing my account.

  • If no follow is the way forward and building good links is good for SEO or website then how will other sites rank over others.

    I feel and I am no SEO expert, just started, that google and so many other SEO companies, flood the internet with so much contradicting info that if becomes impossible to know what is true and fear of getting your own site banned from google.

    If the case is true. Then so many sites should have dropped off the radar, once blogs, flick, twitter, FB e.t.c changed to no follow

    It’s al confusing and a mess…

    • DJH, you are right, the SEO biz is more driven by myths than by reality. (Many SEO’s admit this – about other SEO’s. ;-))

      It’s because nobody knows for sure how Google works internally. Some conduct their own experiments, but they are far from being “scientific” (since SEO’s are not scientists), and the conclusions drawn from them are almost certainly not representative of the truth (even if they do manage to derive some effective but IMO mostly short-lived techniques from them).

      The point is, the whole SEO biz is actually trying to beat an evaluation system (which Google is), instead of providing their best content and allowing the system to evaluate it without manipulation. When we were at school, trying to beat the school’s evaluation system to get better grades was clearly known as cheating. Need I say more?

  • Thanks to this post, also for the comments above thank you.

  • Just wanna say that this discussion was very useful to me, thank’s all.

  • Sorry to bring this debate back to life on your post. Yes, I was referring to ranking. You’re right; nofollow links do not have an effect on PageRank and this is very clear.

    My contention is that nofollow links may have an effect on other rankings factors; thus, that even links with the nofollow attribute can affect rankings (albeit not PR).

    I feel there has been a mis-communication between us… I stated that “it’s safe to say that the existence of links from nofollow sites […] will have an effect on rankings” if it doesn’t already. Your contention is that “[i]t is safe to say that nofollowed links DO NOT pass page rank.”

    These are not mutually exclusive claims. I agree that they do not pass PR – in fact, that is the express purpose of the nofollow attribute. I am contending that PR is not the only factor of “SEO juice” and thus Flickr links to your site can possibly still increase “SEO juice,” if the definition of “juice” is relevancy and authority in the eyes of search engines.

    Speculation, yes. Wild speculation, no. There are only two possibilities here: either nofollow links have an effect on your site’s position in search (again, not making this claim for PageRank) or they do not.

    I’m torn on the topic myself, and this is why I use language like “Flickr links to your site can POSSIBLY still increase…” There have been studies ( that correlate links from Twitter (all nofollow as well) with a higher position in search. Note that the validity of the statistical claims made by SEOmoz has been called into question (, so again, there is no strong evidence either way on the topic of whether nofollow links are in any way valuable from a natural search rankings standpoint.

    • Tony, I feel you are right in a way that any link has the potential to increase human traffic. Search engines are trying to emulate that behavior, so it may be that there is correlation to keyword-wise SE positioning.

      I’ll also add that I use the term “SEO juice” as a metaphor for PR flow, so in the context of my article, if a link does not pass PR, it does not pass “SEO juice”.

  • May I toss in a suggestion? In addition to no-following links to Flickr, no-follow all links to, and any other domain owned by Yahoo.

    After all, Flickr is nothing more than one of the masks that Yahoo wears these days.

    • N.F.S., IMO the “nofollow reciprocity” plugin nofollows all these and more already. 🙂

    • If you really wanted to get mean (and why not), one thing that might be fun is nofollowing everybody who advertises with Yahoo (or Flickr), and being public about it. So longer as Yahoo (and Flickr) nofollow outbound links, these companies would be nofollowed in reply, even after they stopped advertising with Yahoo. Hit them where it hurts: in the pocketbook, getting their own advertisers on their back about this, if enough people participate in this link love boycott.

      BTW, sorry to seem to be following up on myself, when I’m really posting a follow up to your post, but I saw no way to reply to a reply.

  • Massy, I think there’s more to be said than a strict “no” for your question.

    Hackadelic, you know that Pagerank is not the only rankings factor. It’s clear as soon as you see that a PR3 site ranking above a PR4 that there are other rankings factors than simply Pagerank.

    Whether Nofollow links are included in any of these “other” rankings factors is up in the air. Google has neither confirmed nor denied that a simple citation (just having your URL listed on another page, not necessarily DoFollow and not necessarily even a link) influences rankings.

    I think it’s safe to say that the existence of links from nofollow sites, including Twitter, Wikipedia, Flickr, and Facebook will have an effect on rankings in the future (that is, if they do not currently have such an effect).

    • Tony, the “ranking” you talk about is keyword ranking, i.e. actual position in search results for a specific keyword. Of course it’s not the only factor, there are many on-page factors that influence this. But according to Google – and they did confirm this – page rank does not flow through a nofollowed link. Hence, all other things being equal, nofollowed links are worthless in terms of PR.

      I wonder why you say “it’s safe to say that the existence of links from nofollow sites […] will have an effect on rankings in the future”, while one paragraph before you wrote that the influence of nofollowed links is “up in the air” and unconfirmed by Google. Unless you have some evidence, this sounds like wild speculation to me.

      The opposite is true: It is safe to say that nofollowed links DO NOT pass page rank. First and foremost, because Google have invented nofollow, and they gave it its semantics, too (to not pass PR).

  • While a nofollowed link doesn’t give pagerank does it affect your actual ranking in google?

    • Massy, it should be obvious that the answer is “No”. (No page rank given => no change in ranking.)

  • I for one have noticed that my Flickr photos do add another search result for my companies website. In a field as niche as mine having a few search results for my company is a big plus in my opinion. Or am I just ignorant?


    • James, right, images (and videos) are known to have that effect. But it does not affect your pagerank, while a dofollowed link from Flickr would.

  • Hackadelic, thanks for this news. I have spent time on Flickr building optimized sets thinking it might do my site good… go figure.

    • Charlotte, welcome. FYI, you still get the human traffic from the flickr pages, but the page rank those pages have doesn’t contribute to your website.

  • that the biggest problem:you look for high rank value links instead of writing unique information.Google has no smart algorithm whatever she says she has.

  • It may sound good to Flickr and Wikipedia to add nofollow to their links but if all of the large sites do this then what happens to SEO? Do we go back to keyword density and other basic ranking techniques? Will we be forced to purchase any links that we need SEO juice from? I’ve contributed a LOT to Flickr and I think this is rotten. Thanks for helping get the word out on this.

    • Mark, the situation is even more ridiculous today actually than it was back then. Meanwhile Google changed their nofollow policy and Flickr & Co. do not gain the slightest SEO advantage from nofollowing links on their sites. They could as well dofollow them again. The status quo is just plain dumb… and understandably, very disturbing to contributors like you.

      On the other hand, AFAICT modern SEO is unthinkable without link building, it’s just becoming harder every day to get high value links for free.

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