Google changes nofollow

by Jim September 17, 2019

Big changes this week: Google has changed the nofollow tag. Yep, I’m that excited too. Nofollows were meant to combat backlinking (of which you know we’re huge fans of!) with the aim being to tell search engines that a specific link has no relevance. At the end of the day we don’t care where the traffic comes from.

What I learned

  • Nofollows were meant to control backlinks
  • They got out of hand – so we ignored them
  • What are the nofollow alternatives?
  • Who cares? Traffic is traffic


Hey, welcome back, Rankers. Big news this week is that Google has changed the nofollow tag. Yay! What? Look, if you`re into backlinks, which we`re not, you might be familiar with a thing called the nofollow attribute, which is basically something that Google and a bunch of other large corporations brought in many years ago mainly to combat this problem that Google had created, which was backlinking.

What is `nofollow?`

So the idea behind it is that the nofollow attribute, if you applied it to any of your links, especially for bloggers with comments, and WordPress applied it to all comments as the standard, it would nofollow, meaning that it would say to the search engines, `The person who`s left this link, this link has no relevance to this story. Don`t follow it.`

Okay, now since then, nofollows are being used extensively. We had a play with it years ago. There`s been all this stuff around nofollow, and these days we pretty much ignore it.

However, Google doesn`t, and the two variations, if you like, to nofollow that have been brought out, one is UGC. So you could add that to the link, and that would say it`s user-generated content. So Wikipedia, for instance, might use that. Another one is sponsored. So a blogger who has a sponsor on their site or on their post might want to say sponsored instead of nofollow.

Why would you do these things? I don`t know. All I can think of is that Google is somehow needing more information about some of these links, or maybe that a sponsored link is actually a signal for a blogger of a citation, or because there might be a big brand paying this blogger money. Well, that might be a citation for that blogger. They might be important, because that big corporation is paying them money. Maybe we should follow that link. I don`t know. There could be a thousand reasons. The user-generated content thing, it seems like it`s trying to get more granularity around external linking.

Test your posts

I had this conversation recently, and someone said to me, `Oh Jim, I know you don`t like links, but there`s only two ways to get traffic and one`s from a backlink, the other`s from a search engine.` Well, yeah. Traffic, right? That`s what we`re interested in. We`re not interested in backlinks. We`re interested in traffic. And if that traffic comes from a link that`s covered in nofollows and sponsored and UGCs, link attributes, I don`t care. Right? Because we want the traffic.

So if Google wants to mess about with all these attributes, and I know I`m going to get questions from bloggers about this, my only advice would be have a play with some of your posts that you`ve done recently. Maybe. And if you want to change the attribute from nofollow to a sponsored link, maybe? I don`t know why you would want to do that, why you`d want to put that extra work in. But if it works for you and there`s a reason for it, and then please share with us, let us know.

Just remember, if you`ve learned anything from this show or if you get anything out of it, this is our 15th year, so please share it with your friends and subscribe if you`re on YouTube. If you`re not on YouTube, if you`re seeing this on LinkedIn or Facebook, you can comment there, comment here, and I`ll make sure I find you. Thanks very much, and we`ll see you next week. Thanks.

Jim’s been here for a while, you know who he is.

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