Google Changes How They Deal With ‘No Follow’ Links

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Links and link building is still a massive part of SEO, and the battle between follow links and no follow links has been going on for almost a decade and when you think of it, that’s almost half the time that Google has been in existence.  So it seems fairly obvious to me that Google will change the way it deals with links. And in this blog we look at how Google have done just that in their latest update.

What is a Nofollow Link

First off, for those who are maybe less familiar with SEO, let’s just quickly go over what nofollow link is. Since the Penguin update back in 2012, the value of nofollow links has been making comment boxes explode with both love and rage in equal measures across the SEO community.

A nofollow link is essentially a link that has been tagged by the website developer or website owner to ask Google not to follow it, and essentially not consider that link in their algorithm.

Google confirmed that in general, they honor this and that they leave that link alone, and effectively discredit it. However (and it is a fairly big, however), Google also say that they do count, nofollow links in a couple of circumstances. The first is that if other websites consistently link to the website in question, but without using nofollow, Google may still count that and consider it’s content.

The second is that if the link in question is included in the site’s sitemap and it has been submitted to Google, again Google in some cases will still credit nofollow links.

Personally, I’ve seen that nofollow links still have their place in SEO for example, if you get a link from a major site like Reddit or Wikipedia, the chances are that that’s going to be a nofollow link. However, the effects that this can have on search and especially local search is absolutely huge, so to say that nofollow links should be avoided at all costs is abit misguided… I’ve not seen the proof of any negativity… and we’ve definitely seen positive results to that end.


What has Google changed about No Follow Links

Let’s take a look at what exactly has changed. So a week ago (middle of September)  Google announced that it was changing the way that it deals with links and that it was introducing 2 new Link attributes the first one is rel=”sponsored” and the second one is rel=”UGC” 

Rel Sponsored as the name suggests, is in relation to advertising links and sponsorship. Well UGC stands for user generated content. This should be used to flag content like post comments forums.

The Official Line

The official statement from Google says:

“links contain valuable information that can help us to improve search such as how the words within links describe contents they point at. The links, we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns by shifting to a hint model we no longer lose this important information while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first party endorsement”

It doesn’t really come as a shock to me that Google doesn’t want people hiding their links. And it goes hand in hand with Googles more ‘granular’ approach to everything.

I personally think this will be a fair way of working, where you can highlight what content is and how you want Google to regard it, but without hiding it completely.

Right so we know what has happened. We know what Google has told us is happening and why… so let’s take a look now of what we can do as SEO professionals a,nd as business owners to make the most out of this change.

So the first takeaway for me is that link attributes are still really important. In fact, I’d probably argue that now they are even more important than ever, because if Google is working this into their algorithm and changing things that they are not normally changing, means there’s a wider reason for that and we see this time and time again. So still really, really important to flag sponsored content in your website and this of course, is to avoid getting a link scheme penalty, which can cause really, really bad times for you and your business.

As I understand it, there’s no need to go out there and change everything on your website tomorrow. Google say they will continue to treat nofollow links, as it always has done. Sponsored and UGC attributes, will be treated from the outset as a hint as to what the content is about, and it will remain this way until March 2020. When Nofollow links will then themselves become a content hint. 

So no need to go out and nuke everything on your site tomorrow. Work through it systematically, you will always get better results that way.

How can we use these new attributes correctly?

The main thing is that you can use more than one attribute at the same time, which is a major difference to the old way of doing things. For example you could have rel=”UGC sponsored” which would tag that as both user generated content and sponsored. And that for me is actually really cool. Again, I think it gives us a lot more scope, so I’m really quite excited about this.

Those who may over depend or misused nofollow links should remember that they were never designed to ‘stuff google over’.

Maybe now is a good time to take stock of your website and do proper content on there and maybe reassess some of those link values.


Winners and Losers

The winners are going to be:

1) Those white hat content creating, authority seekers who can now write a better picture and a better story about what you’re putting online.

2) E-Commerce websites that naturally have a lot of reviews and comments such as hotels, restaurants. I think this is going to be a great way of reducing comment spam, and giving a more honest account of your content online.

3) Last of all, I think this is going to be great for online communities and membership sites, where there may be totally genuine reasons why you don’t want Google to follow a link but they now have a better toolkit to do this?


With all things there must be losers:

This is really bad news for affiliate marketers, loggers and Ghost bloggers. People who sell links on their website and of course sites that depend heavily on advertising and conduct things like those really annoying site takeovers


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