Google Updates NoFollow Links

For years there has been tons of debates and speculation on how and if nofollow links have an SEO benefit. Here at Juris Digital we simply ran tests and found that in many cases we did see positive ranking increases after building nofollow links for our clients as a part of a natural link profile for our clients.

There has been a lot of discussion in the SEO community about these links for years and on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, Google posted a blog on the Webmaster Central Blog titled “Evolving nofollow – new ways to identify the nature of links”. In this article, they discuss the new types of link attributes you can use for nofollow links. While we will get into that just a moment the article does have a big takeaway that I found interesting. In the article they say:

“When nofollow was introduced, Google would not count any link marked this way as a signal to use within our search algorithms. This has now changed. All the link attributes — sponsored, UGC and nofollow — are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search.”

Basically, they are saying that they didn’t use nofollow initially but at some point, they started to evaluate them to determine the quality of a link.

This is a reason why you should ABT (Always Be Testing)! But what are link attributes and how should you use them?

The New Link Attributes

The new link attributes are meant to further clarify why links are no-followed with specific examples. In theory, Google will be using this to further determine the quality of a link. Simply put, a link attribute is text in the HTML that identifies what the link is.

The new tags and their explanations are below:

rel=”sponsored“: This is meant to tag links that are paid sponsorship links or a part of a monetary agreement.

rel=”ugc”: UGC stands for user-generated content. This is particularly for links that you might find in forums or public article posting websites.

rel=”nofollow“: If you are using nofollow it indicates that you may not endorse the source that you’re linking to.

When Will These Be Required?

Although you may not need to make any changes for your website, Google says these will come into effect for crawling and indexing purposes on March 1, 2020.

What Are The Implications

This is an interesting change in my opinion and in some way indicates that Google may not have the best understanding of which links are sponsored. The potential implications, in my opinion, are based on adoption. For example, what if webmasters don’t adopt this change and make the change on their website?

While I think larger websites will do this the smaller ones probably won’t. One potential implication is that if your law firm pays for sponsorship links and you have a followed link. If this tag is changed to include a sponsorship attribute it might devalue the link.

At the moment I wouldn’t rush and make any changes. The exception to this would be if a large portion of your link profile will be affected by this change.

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Casey Meraz

Casey is the founder and president of Ethical SEO Consulting and Juris Digital based in Denver, CO. Casey's specialties are in organic and local SEO. He is a regular contributor to the Moz Blog and the author of How To Perform The Ultimate Local SEO Audit. If you have an SEO question or need advice please feel free to reach out by email: cmeraz@jurisdigital.com. Follow Casey on Twitter @CaseyMeraz.