September 10, 2019
In the past, when a website links out to another website (external link), oftentimes these websites would add an attribute to the link called ‘Nofollow’ meta tag. This attribute would tell search engines not to ‘follow’ the link so it would not endorse the other website, pass authority to another web page, or because it was a paid link.
To make this easier, some websites would use nofollow attributes at the page level versus specific individual links. Doing this at the page level actually hurts your website. Many would do this out of fear of linking out to another website and possibly loosing some of their own ‘SEO juice’ or authority.
Having ‘follow’ links is a good practice if the external links are linking to relative and authoritative websites that have something to do within your industry. The rule of thumb is always provide value to your audience. Often times, you only have so much information on your own website and linking supportive information, even in an external link can be a good thing in the eye’s of Google.
However, because of ‘nofollow’ links, Google has been missing useful link signal information. They are now changing how they view these links. ‘Nofollow’ links are now treated as hints about which links to include or dismiss for ranking signals. These links will not be ignored as they were in the past.
What Google says:
“Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at. Looking at all 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.”
Google also added two new link attributes to anchor tags:
rel=”sponsored” – to be used for links that point to sponsored content
rel=”ugc” – to be used for links that point to user-generated content (such as forum posts)
In response to this new update, there is not a need to change any existing no-follow links to either of these new link attributes. Google will continue to honor nofollow attributes that are currently being used – for now. However, Google does recommend switching to using these new link attributes for future content. The only major concern currently is for any paid links such as sponsored content is suggested to be using the new ‘sponsored’ attribute to help prevent any possible negative impact and the same goes for a link marked as sponsored when in fact it is not actually part of an ad or sponsorship.
Sponsored (“sponsored”) and User Generated Content (“ugc”) links will be treated as “hints”. In the meantime, Nofollow will continue to work as normal until March 2020. At this time, nofollows will be treated as “hints” for the search algorithm as well.