On September 10th,2019, Google announced that they will be changing the way no-follow links are treated. This brought a lot of speculations from SEO specialists regarding how this will impact the rankings once the update rolls out. We are here to digest the no follow links change that is coming up in 2020.
What are link building attributes and how do they help Google?
The no follow attribute was introduced in 2005 by Google in order to help manage the spam comments all over the web. Ever since, no follow has been used to markup links that may not be coming from a confirmed source or are sponsor related links.
With the announcement of Google, they also rolled out two new link attributes that go deeper into helping link markup:
- rel=”sponsored”: This attribute will refer to sponsored links on your website which act as advertising or any other monetary value that was agreed upon.
- rel=”ugc”: This one stands for User Generated Content. This referees to links that are either comments or forum posts. These can contain really valuable information or in return be really spam related. (More on how this might be beneficial later in the article)
- rel=”nofollow”= This attribute becomes for cases where you might think there is valuable information but do not want to include passing ranking credit to the page.
What this new announcement means and how will this impact SEO?
Let’s recap on this. As before September 10,2019, Google did not treat no follow for any ranking or indexing purposes. This has been quite controversial amongst SEO but not it has been proven to be so. No follow had absolutely no impact on ranking or crawling. After September 10th,2019, the no follow attribute can be treated as a hint but still not used for indexing or crawling. What does this mean? It means that if Google finds the content “worthy” or “informative” it can simply ignore the no follow and use it for ranking purposes but NOT for crawling or indexing. On March 1st,2020 the no follow will also be used for crawling and indexing if Google chooses to so.
Should Google have implemented this no follow change long ago?
This change should have been done a long time ago in my opinion. Today we have huge trustworthy sites such as Forbes and other news media that use no follow attribute in order to protect themselves. This is just wrong. A news media that is read and followed my millions will most likely have accurate information on any related topic so a no follow link would be checked before published (this is 100% guaranteed as today even the tiniest blogs are checking any link before they publish the article). Having a link from there simply means that someone who is a trusted source (Blogger,Writer, or Expert) may have found useful information on the piece of content that you have created on your website. Why should the no follow not pass any ranking in this case? Regardless of what many SEO experts thought, Google literally confirmed that no follow was not used in ranking prior to September 10th.
How will this impact your SEO?
In the early years of Google, links were the biggest ranking factor on the web. This was an issue at the time because people were spamming all over the internet with irrelevant content just to get a link. Obviously this has changed as Google rolled out several updates. Today link building still has an impact but nowhere near to how it was in the past.
Will this impact your rankings? This really depends on your link profile. If you have rich profile with quite a few contextual and relevant no-follow links, then this will be a treat for you. Google may decide to use the link to your website as a ranking factor depending on the content. If you have links on websites like Forbes and Wikipedia, now they might be a huge boost to your link profile. This by no means suggests that Google is going back to the original ranking formula with links being on the top. However, any current no follow link that has been “cannibalized” by Google prior to September 10th, might be of huge boost to your page or website. Do not be surprised if you see a slight increase in your rankings all of the sudden.
Do you have to change anything?
Most likely not. Google will still use the no follow attribute as before except now it may decide to give you link power. If, however, you want to help Google map out the sites that are linking to you better, then you should use the new attributes. For example, you can combine an “ugc” and “nofollow” attribute together to show Google that a certain user generated comment might actually have some value and be used as a hint if the engine decides to. Another example is if you use nofollow for controlling the crawl budget on your website, you might want to consider adding the new attributes as Google might decide to “waste” crawling budget by using a link as a “hint”.
You can still be penalized if you do not markup your sponsored posts properly. You need to use “sponsored” or “nofollow” attribute and avoid “ugc”. If you have been using nofollow to markup sponsored posts you don’t have to change it to sponsored unless you want to help Google out by understanding deeper what kind of a link the engine is seeing.
Maybe this will impact you or it might not but this will certainly change the value of links across the web. If you felt like your hard earned no follow link might have been worthy of a follow, now this might be the chance for Google to decide that and not the webmasters of sites that are only trying to protect themselves.