Google Nofollow Links Ranking Change: Identifying Its Implications on SEO

October 16, 2019

On 10th September 2019, Google announced to change the nofollow link attribute. Google had been having nofollow link attribute that was introduced way back in 2005 with the primary objective of preventing or safeguarding against comment spam. This was then further expanded to be utilized for any link that you did not want Google to consider and was then necessary to be utilized on any link that was incorporated that could be influencing Google’s search results that seemed to be paid for in a certain way.

Until 10th Sept 2019, if you were using the nofollow attribute on any links, Google would automatically ignore those links. Google would not follow those links, or count them, or would simply pretend that those links did not seem to exist. Google would not be counting those nofollow links, and would not follow them even for indexing or crawling. Moreover, Google would not be using any nofollow links for ranking purposes.

But with the latest change, Google has announced that they would now be using its nofollow link attribute basically as a hint even for ranking purposes. This implies that Google could examine the content, the link, the anchor text, utilize it for specifically spam purposes, ranking purposes, etc. in the event they deemed it necessary. It is currently only a hint for ranking purposes to Google but it is certainly not supposed to be an explicit directive as of now. Google would still not use the nofollow links for indexing or crawling purposes currently. However, after 1st March 2020, Google has plans of expanding the purview of nofollow links from being just a hint for ranking to also, a hint for indexing and crawling purposes.

If you are concerned about your website’s overall performance and rankings on search engines, then understanding when and precisely when not to utilize nofollow links is not only important but extremely critical. Google practically turned the SEO agency world upside down by making announcements of dramatic modifications regarding ways publishers must mark nofollow links. These modifications are supposed to be hugely beneficial for Google in understanding the web. Despite that, these dramatic changes caused a lot of confusion and even raised several questions.

What is Nofollow?

 

Nofollow is supposed to be an HTML attribute that could be incorporated into links. It is useful in telling Google that a particular link is not to be trusted. The Nofollow link was originally designed for combating blog comment spam. It gradually evolved to be used for user-generated links and on advertising links that could not be trusted 100 percent. Nofollow links are, therefore, hyperlinks having rel=“nofollow” tag. Until September this year, these links did not impact the rankings of any destination URL since Google is not in the habit of transferring anchor text or PageRank across them. In reality, Google has not been crawling nofollow links.

Official Statement from Google on Nofollow Hints

Google officially announced that when nofollow was launched, Google did not consider any nofollow links as an effective signal for using within their search algorithms. However, this has undergone a dramatic change now in 2019. Today, practically all link attributes- UGC, sponsored, and even nofollow are regarded as hints about the links to exclude or consider within Search. Google now seems determined to utilize these hints along with certain other signals for better-understanding ways to effectively analyze and utilize links very much within their systems.

As per https://moz.com, link attribution could be performed in three distinct ways: UGC, sponsored, and nofollow-each is known to signify a different meaning.

  • For ranking purposes, nofollow attributes would be regarded as hints, implying that they probably would not influence ranking, however, Google may decide to ignore the directive. It may consider using nofollow links for rankings.
  • Google would continue to go on ignoring nofollow links for indexing and crawling purposes, however, this stringent behavior would get transformed from 1st March 2020, when Google may consider using nofollow links for crawling purposes.
  • You could utilize the new attributes combined together. For instance, rel=”nofollow sponsored ugc” would be valid.
  • Paid links are supposed to utilize the sponsored or the nofollow attribute either in combination or alone. Remember using “ugc” on your paid links could culminate in a penalty.
  • It is not mandatory for publishers to do anything. Google would be offering no punishment for steering clear of any changes or no incentives for changing.
  • Publishers who are utilizing nofollow for controlling crawling may require reconsidering their stratagem.

Outcomes & Implications of the Nofollow Change In 2019

The Nofollow Change Would Be Helping Sites Obtain Link Equity that They Deserve

It is pretty much a known fact that websites would be automatically placing nofollow links practically on all links. This should be creating a somewhat unfair situation. Google’s recent change makes it possible for websites to obtain a ranking boost and link equity that they pretty well deserve.

How Is Google Being Benefitted?

Google has launched a couple of all-new nofollow link attributes. One of the attributes is meant for effectively indicating that a particular nofollow link seems to be from UGC or User Generated Content. The next attribute is for indicating that the nofollow link seems to be on sponsored content. We understand that these two all-new attributes would be beneficial to Google as they would be assisting Google with accurate link calculations.

Why Has Google Changed Nofollow Link to a Hint?

Numerous people believe that there are fewer avenues for links since no one is interested in generating links anymore. Here are some of the reasons why Google changed nofollow links to a hint.

  • Forum traffic seems to be down. Moreover, there seem to be far fewer people present on forums generating links.
  • Blogging seems to be very much down. There is less number of bloggers creating or publishing links.
  • Audio and video content do not seem to be generating any links either.
  • It may be possible that the link signal may have progressively become weaker.

Nofollow Hint Links Could Be Leading to More Spam

If you have experience in working with huge sites particularly e-commerce sites that have numerous filtered pages, you would easily understand that Google could be quite poor at identifying the canonical URL. If the situation seems to be the same with nofollow links, Google would fail to be accurate while understanding precisely which nofollow links would be passing link equity. This should encourage black-hat SEO and you would be witnessing a sharp boost in the use of such techniques like comment, as well as, forum spam.

Conclusion: SEO Will Be Impacted by the Change

Google’s recent announcement would henceforth, change the way links are calculated for ranking purposes. This change has brought about an element of fairness as links that were arbitrarily not counted since they were nofollow links would now be considered and counted. However, this change may trigger a boost in link spam. This change would certainly provide an opportunity for many to start selling nofollow links.

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