On September 10th Google made an announcement following further updates into improving its own systems for both users and webmaster’s alike. The most recent feature to be overhauled is how links to external sites are to be treated by Google.
Launched in 2005 as a way to combat comment spamming, rel=”nofollow” links have been a useful way to prevent links from sites we don’t trust or would like to be ignored by GoogleBot when it crawls our sites. Until now it’s meant that our Domain Authority (DA) and rankings have had a layer of protection which kept them safe from unwanted intruders. But that’s all changing now.
Following the update, Google will now use rel=”nofollow” links to provide it with a ‘hint’ as to your page’s credibility and relevancy while stopping short of directly using them to assist in raking your site in the SERPs.
They have also highlighted two other links which should be used in certain circumstances and correct usage should offer a website owner/builder better control over what they want Google to interpret as links while also helping to protect and strengthen their own DA and rankings.
rel=”sponsored” – Is a link designed to encompass any links attributed from sponsored content or links which have been bought.
rel= “ugc” – Is designed to house all user-generated links such as from forums or comments.
rel=”nofollow” – Should be used to link to pages where you don’t want to imply any form of endorsement.
Google has also produced a handy chart to better understand the subtle differences of when you should or shouldn’t use each link type which can also be found on their support page.
Good News For SEO?
Thankfully for SEO purposes Google have confirmed all existing links will NOT have to be updated and they will continue to honour the previous system created before this update. Google has so far been open and clear as to why they have made these changes.
“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 allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first party endorsement. Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at,” Google said. “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’s comment on the recent changes – Source
While they have confirmed the details of when to use each link and that we won’t have to update existing links there still remains some confusion as to if further changes may be made to the system. Moz have released a guide to using the link types and they also speculate that by 2020 NoFollow links will attribute somewhat towards rankings, DA and Page Scores.On changes to 'NoFollow' links Google says - 'By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn't be given the weight of a first party endorsement.'Click To Tweet
Google has so far not made any comment regarding this speculation but if they are making these changes to make full use of the data available to them when positioning our websites it stands to reason, in the future it could be used in more than just a ‘hint’ capacity when crawling our sites.Good news for SEO's - Google Confirmed links dated before 10th September WILL NOT need to be updated - #TillisonNewsClick To Tweet
There has been some confusion as to what will change amongst the SEO community. Google’s Public Search liaison Danny Sullivan has thankfully been available to help clear things.
Have you any questions regarding these new changes or any questions SEO? Feel free to get in touch in the comments and our friendly SEO team will be sure to help you out. If you need help with your SEO or would like a free SEO audit you can get in touch with the team to find out more.