Google: we now treat nofollow links as hints

As announced some months ago, Google has started to count nofollow links as ‘hints’ on March, 1st. Before, nofollow links were not considered by Google’s ranking algorithm.

Google nofollow links

There are two link attributes in addition to ‘nofollow’

When Google introduced the nofollow attribute about 15 years ago, it was introduced as a means to fight comment spam. The nofollow attribute was also used to flag sponsored links. As the web has evolved since 2005, Google has introduced two new link attributes for sponsored content and user-generated content.

1. The rel=”sponsored” attribute

The rel=”sponsored” should be used to identify links on your site that were created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements:

<a href=”https://www.example.com” rel=”sponsored”>This is a paid link</a>

2. The rel=”ugc” attribute

UGC stands for ‘User Generated Content’. The ugc attribute value is recommended for links within user generated content, such as comments and forum posts:

<a href=”https://www.example.com” rel=”ugc”>This link was created by a user</a>

3. The rel=”nofollow” attribute

Use this attribute for cases where you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply any type of endorsement, including passing along ranking credit to another page:

<a href=”https://www.example.com” rel=”nofollow”>We do not endorse this site</a>

rel=”nofollow”: Use this attribute for cases where you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply any type of endorsement, including passing along ranking credit to another page.

All of these links are ‘hints’

Previously, Google would not count any nofollow link as a signal to use within the search algorithms. This has now changed.

Google treats all link attributes (sponsored, UGC and nofollow) as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. Google does not ignore these links completely as links contain valuable information that can help Google improve search. For example, the words within links describe the content they point at.

Google’s Martin Splitt recently confirmed on Twitter that nofollow links won’t be associated with your website:

You don’t have to change anything (but you can)

Although it is not necessary to change your existing nofollow links, you might want to use the new link attributes for future links:

  • If you use nofollow now as a way to block sponsored links, or to signify that you don’t vouch for a page you link to, that will continue to be supported.
  • There’s absolutely no need to change any nofollow links that you already have.
  • You can use more than one attribute, for example, rel=”ugc sponsored” or rel=”nofollow ugc”.
  • If you want to avoid a possible link scheme action, use rel=”sponsored” or rel=”nofollow” to flag these links.

According to Google, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how Google treats such links. It will treat them as it did with nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes.

All the link attributes, sponsored, ugc and nofollow, now work today as hints for Google to incorporate for ranking purposes. Google’s John Mueller said that the change on March, 1st probably has no visible effect on most sites:

How to find nofollow links that point to your website

To find link that use the nofollow attribute to link to your website, just use the Link Profiler tool in SEOprofiler. The Link Profiler tool also finds UGC and sponsored links:

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Johannes Selbach

Johannes Selbach is the CEO of SEOprofiler. He blogs about search engine optimization and website marketing topics at "http://blog.seoprofiler.com".