If you like to keep a close eye on the SEO changes impacting your rankings, you may want to know more about Google’s recent updates surrounding NoFollow links.
NoFollow links have often been seen in the digital community as useless, and many marketers have consistently championed that brands and businesses should be trying to secure high-quality, relevant follow backlinks. After all, the more high-quality backlink juice, the better your rankings, right?
But Google likes to keep us on our toes, and with the NoFollow update occurring in 2019, it seems that everything digital marketers and SEO experts have been preaching is all about to change.
What is a NoFollow Link?
To put it as simply as possible, a NoFollow is an HTML attribute that is added to links. This NoFollow piece of code tells Google that a link is not trusted. The NoFollow feature was traditionally created to stop blog comment spam and other poor quality links in the content. For example, advertising links. As you can imagine, for those who were uneducated in the realm of SEO and NoFollow/Follow Links, it meant that even established and trusted brands and businesses were often given a NoFollow Link when they were featured in a press article or web feature.
The reason many site editors and bloggers began harnessing the NoFollow link was due to a rumour that if you included a follow link on your site, it would impact your own website’s rankings.
However, this is not true. Linking out to relevant, high-quality content is a key factor in supporting a featured piece of content in gaining strong ranks. You should not only be linking internally to other pages of your own website that are relevant but also linking to other sources or resources that support your feature.
Yes, a website may have been impacted if it contained lots of spammy advertising links in its content, but this is not the case if the brand or business was trusted and reputable.
So, what can we say, we are rather glad the NoFollow has finally had an update. Its misuse among web editors and bloggers has caused many businesses and brands to miss out on the links they deserve.
What’s Changing with NoFollow Links?
Now let’s explain the big change on NoFollow Links that was revealed by Google back in 2019. When NoFollow Links were first initiated in the earlier days of SEO, they were treated as a directive, which meant Google obeyed the NoFollow completely. However, starting from September 2019, Google is now treating NoFollow Links as more of a hint than an outright no. This change means that Google itself will now decide how to use the link, not the web editors.
For ranking purposes, even with a NoFollow Link Google will decide if that link can be used as a ranking factor or not.
This is Google’s official announcement about the update;
“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.” With this new NoFollow update, we will see huge impacts on rankings in both on-page SEO, content marketing and link building.
Finally Well-Earned Links Are Coming
As previously mentioned, for a long time, it’s been a general policy of web editors and publishers to not allow any Follow links within their content. For brands and businesses who are being regularly featured, and working on a link building campaign, this can be highly frustrating, especially, as the reason for an outright ban on follow links feels extreme to say the least.
However, with the new NoFollow rule in place, brands and businesses may finally be given the links they deserve, as it’s now up to Google to make that decision and not the publisher.
As SEO specialists at Omni Search, Google’s update makes complete sense. After all, journalists are happy to gain data, resources and quotes from businesses for their features, but not endorse them fully with a Follow link?
What Happens for Publishers?
Of course, not everything is easy when it comes to a Google update, so naturally, Google has also provided publishers and web editors with the options of two new attributes to place on links featured in their content.
These include sponsored and UGC (user-generated content).
A sponsored attribute to a link indicates that a NoFollow link is from a sponsored piece of content. For example, a brand may have paid for the feature or pay to support it.
From September 2019, any NoFollow link that has a sponsored attribute will signal to Google that this page should not be given PageRank. This is due to Google’s own policy that links should not be paid for. Otherwise, that would make us all gamify the rankings depending on our marketing budget. Therefore, sponsored links will remain removed as a ranking factor.
The UGC attribute indicates that the NoFollow link is from a piece of content that was created by a user.
Compared to a sponsored link, a UGC link may be a positive signal to Google that this link might be useful to rank. After all, if a user is issuing this link, then this is most likely an honest and genuine suggestion that other users may find helpful. Therefore, NoFollow links on forums may sometimes be given preference to be used as ranking factors.
For publishers, this now means they have a choice on which attribute to attach to a link, but this again doesn’t mean Google will always directly follow the signal.
Why the NoFollow Change?
After such a long time rolling our eyes at NoFollow links many marketing experts and SEO specialists are wondering what made Google make this big change in the first place? – Especially as we’re all aware of the importance of links as ranking signals. There are many speculations about why Google has decided to update its NoFollow policy. As always, they are very quiet about where their decisions come from. The only insight Google has shared is that the change was related to link signals becoming weaker.
For many in the online world, this is no surprise. After all, forum traffic is down, as people have moved to social platforms, blogging is down, which means fewer bloggers are publishing or creating links, and video and audio content do not generate links.
At present, there are many speculations about how the NoFollow change will impact SEO, but one thing is for sure, we are definitely going to see fluctuations over the next coming months as the update is rolled out and more publishers begin to specify their link attributes.
Our Advice on NoFollow Links
To help you weather these new Google updates on NoFollow links, we would recommend you work on the following;
- Continue to naturally build high-quality, relevant links
- Ensure you’re linking in your own content, including your blogs
- Continue creating high-quality blog content to help increase natural links
- Avoid sponsored content and instead build relationships with web publishers