Major Change: Nofollow Links Handled Differently by Google

By Peter Nyiri | SEO

Sep 11
Nofollow change 2019

Nofollow links are handled differently starting Sept 10, 2019.

Google launched the nofollow link attribute in 2005 as a way to fight comment spam. It then expanded it to be used as a way of “flagging advertising-related or sponsored links” that might get you in trouble with link schemes.

Many of us suspected that Google does count such links and would not simply interpret the NoFollow tag as a black and white thing as some SEOs declared recently.

  • We all know the positive effects of Nofollow (e.g. from Wikipedia which is only nofollowed links)
  • Google in certain cases tries to identify intents of mass spamming even if NoFollow links are used.

After 15 years Google now introduced two new link tags “UGC” and “SPONSORED”.

Definition of Link Types

rel=”sponsored”: The new sponsored attribute can be used to identify links on your site that were created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.

rel=”ugc”: The ugc attribute value is recommended for links within user generated content, such as comments and forum posts.

rel=”nofollow”: The nofollow attribute is for cases where you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply any type of endorsement, including passing along ranking credit to another page, Google said.

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. We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.

Further Change In 2020

Today Google will treat the nofollow attribute as a hint for ranking purposes. Meaning Google might count a link as credit, consider it as part of spam analysis or for other ranking purposes.

On March 2, 2020, Google will use it also for crawling and indexing. That means will Google use it as a “hint” as to what should be indexed or crawled but it is better to use robots.txt or meta tags for that purpose anyway.

Will the search results change? Google said that it does not expect significant changes to the search results as a result of this. However, Google is now able to begin looking at how to use this data in its search ranking systems and changing to the hint treatment will give Google more flexibility in how it treats links with these attributes in search.

Despite, you might see unexpected link effects positive and negative as Google starts to count nofollowed links now.

Recommended: How Pagerank Works in 2019

Google Cancels Support for Robots.txt Noindex

Google officially announced that GoogleBot will no longer obey a Robots.txt directive related to indexing. Publishers relying on the robots.txt noindex directive have until September 1, 2019 to remove it and begin using an alternative.

“Today we’re saying goodbye to undocumented and unsupported rules in robots.txt

If you were relying on these rules, learn about your options in our blog post.”

Google’s official blog post listed five ways to control indexing:

  • Noindex in robots meta tags
  • 404 and 410 HTTP status codes
  • Password protection
  • Disallow in robots.txt
  • Search Console Remove URL tool

The above are vital changes, please spread the word.

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