On September 10, Google announced a major update to the nofollow link. There is a long history behind nofollow link. It was first introduced 15 years ago. Now Google is treating nofollow as a hint and for ranking purposes.
What Are Nofollow Links?
Nofollow links are the links with rel=”nofollow” HTML tag. As per previous concept links with nofollow tag tells search engines to ignore that referred link. Because nofollow links do not pass link juice or PageRank.
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The only technical difference between the dofollow and nofollow is that a nofollow link has a nofollow tag.
<a href=“https://wordpressradar.com” > (Dofollow)
<a href=“https://wordpressradar.com” rel=”nofollow”> (Nofollow)
All the links are dofollow in nature as long as you don’t add a rel=“nofollow” tag.
The nofollow link concept was originally introduced to stop blog comment spam. Then it is expanded for sponsored links or flagging advertising-related links.
Google’s Official Statement on Nofollow Links as a Hint
This is the official announcement on nofollow links. This was originally posted on Google’s webmaster central blog.
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.
Two New Link Attributes are Here
With this update, Google introduced two new attributes. These attributes are for sponsored content and user-generated content (UGC). These three attributes will function in the following ways:
rel=”sponsored”: This new sponsored attribute can be used for advertisements, sponsorships links on your site.
rel=”ugc”: The ugc attribute value is can be used for links within user-generated content. This is ideal for links in comments and forum posts.
rel=”nofollow”: The nofollow attribute can be used for the links where you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply any type of endorsement.
Meaning of “Hints”
Google said each of these attributes will be considered “hints”.
The changes made because it can now collect some valuable data on the individual links. It also includes the words within the anchor text as well.It will better identify link schemes and considering the link attribute signals.
Links contain valuable information and it can help search engine to improve the search result. By shifting to a hint model, Google no longer loses valuable information in the nofollow links.
Previously, Google ignores the nofollow links and loose valuable information. Google blindly believes that the link with nofollow tag has no value to them and simply ignores that.
Throughout the years Google is trying their best to prevent the link spam. That’s why they have introduced the nofollow concept in 2005. But as per Google now its time to “evolve”.
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Now Google can better analyze the anchor text and helps them better understand unnatural linking patterns. Spammers many follow a specific anchor text in various sites to get links. Now Google can identify them by adding it to the “hints”.
Will it Affect Search Results?
With this major update to the nofollow links, SEOs worrying for the ranking drop or search results. It’s an obvious reaction.
Google said it has no significant changes to the search result. It is just an additional layer where site owners have the freedom to add attributes to the respective scenarios.
Again, it’s too early to define the effect of this update. We have to wait for a while to see the results and the SEO community to respond.
What Does This Mean to Publishers?
After this update, publishers are in a hurry to do something with the existing links. You might want to change your existing nofollow links.
But Google said, no need of that. If you are using nofollow links for sponsored links or the links that you don’t want to pass the page rank, then you are ok.
They will work as they have been. With this update, the existing links will not be affected.
From now onwards, Google recommends switching over to rel=”sponsored” for sponsored links. To sum up, Using “sponsored” attribute is preferred, but “nofollow” is also acceptable.
Publishers can make a habit of these new rel value and use them when needed. CMS platforms like WordPress may take action to comply with this update. By default, WordPress adds a nofollow tag to all links in the comments automatically. So we may expect an update from them as well although many people say this update affects a much.
More Than One Real Value on a Link Acceptable?
You may have the doubt that can I use more than one rel attribute on a link?
Yes, you can. Google said that you can use one or more than one rel value on a link. For example, rel=”ugc sponsored” is a valid attribute. It tells Google that the link is user-generated content and also sponsored.
You can also use rel=”nofollow ugc”. It is also valid and tells Google that this link is from user-generated content and nofollow.
It does not make any sense if we use rel=”nofollow sponsored”. If it is a sponsored link, then you can only use rel=”sponsored” and it will do the rest of the work.
More than one rel value will give Google a better understanding of how to treat the link. In addition to that, the link text will play an important role in this update as well.
What will Happen on March 1, 2020?
Now, all the 3 attributes (nofollow, ugc and sponsored) treated as a hint for ranking purposes.
On March 1, 2020, Google will use it also for crawling and indexing. Then we can better understand the change and the effect of this update.
The SEO community and publishers are busy to figure out what can be done. It is obvious because it is a major update to the nofollow links.
Google has been treating links as the top-ranking factor and every one after link building. So this update creates hype in the SEO world.
Some SEOs said this will introduce an increase in link spam and encourages for selling nofollow links.To say frankly it’s too early to say anything until we see the effect.
But Google clearly said in the webmaster’s blog that, “In most cases, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how we treat such links.”
We know that SEO will be impacted but we have to wait to measure how much.