Google Nofollow Links Ranking Change – How it Affects SEO

Google announced a major change to how nofollow links are counted. Previously nofollow links were treated as a directive, meaning Google obeyed the nofollow, period. Starting today, for ranking purposes, Google is treating nofollow as a hint. This means that Google will decide whether to use the link for ranking purposes or not. This change impacts on-page SEO, content marketing, link building and link spam.

What is Nofollow?

Nofollow is an HTML attribute that is added to links. It tells Google that a link is not trusted. It was originally designed to combat blog comment spam. It evolved for use on advertising links and for user generated links that couldn’t be 100% trusted.

Google’s Official Statement on Nofollow Hints

This is Google’s official announcement of the change in nofollow links:

“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.”

What’s In it For Publishers?

There is no discernible upside for publishers to introduce these new nofollow attributes. In fact, there many reasons not to add the new link attributes.

Forensic SEO Audit consultant, Alan Bleiweiss tweeted:

“There’s ZERO incentive to adapt the new nofollow changes. If it has direct, significant impact on rankings, sure. Forced change. Except Google claims is not going to.

The cost of revamping entire CMS’s & training teams to accommodate this, outweighs the motive.”

Screenshot of tweet by Alan Bleweiss discussing Google's nofollow hint announcement

Nofollow Hint Gives Zero Benefit to Publishers

Alan raises three important points:

  1. No incentive for publishers to use the new link attributes
  2. No benefit to publishers in the form of ranking boost
  3. Cost of implementing change outweighs any perceived…

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