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The Value of Nofollow Links is About to Change

Keeping up with Google’s ranking algorithms has never been easy, and since they did away with the PageRank tracking tool, it’s become even harder.  While everyone knows that links are an important factor in the ranking system, you’re probably also aware of the fact that nofollow links are totally useless when it comes to SEO since they are basically ignored by Google.

Is this actually true, though?  In fact, Google has never completely ignored nofollow links.  Even though bots aren’t supposed to use them for indexing purposes, there are ways to game the system.  For one thing, even a nofollow link can bring targeted traffic with the right exposure (i.e. placement on a high-ranking site).  Plus, very specific anchor text placed in nofollow links on quality sites could gain attention and help you to get ranked for target keywords.

So, nofollow links were never totally without value, even though they’re not viewed as being nearly as valuable as dofollow links.  Even better, it seems that Google is rethinking their approach to nofollow, and it could work to your advantage.  Here’s what you should know.

Google’s Announcement

Whenever Google announces a new algorithm launch, it’s major news and everyone starts running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to figure out what the changes will mean and how to tweak SEO strategies accordingly.  Although not quite as impactful, the recent news that Google is changing the way they look at nofollow links should definitely pique your interest.

In September of 2019, Google quietly announced that they would no longer “ignore” nofollow links, but would instead treat them as “hints”.  What does this mean?  To understand, you first need to know how nofollow links evolved.

In the early days of the internet, linking schemes abounded.  Knowing the power of links to gain rankings on Google, many unscrupulous parties did whatever they could to post as many backlinks as possible, resulting in a lot of skewed search results leading to irrelevant content.  Users were understandably frustrated.

In a bid to put an end to this lawlessness, Google created the nofollow link category, ostensibly to combat shady tactics like leaving tons of links in comments sections of blogs to gain undeserved rankings.  This type of advertising link and others like it pretty much became persona non grata overnight, receiving the nofollow tag and nullifying the tactic.

Why is Google Changing Their Stance on Nofollow?

Google’s algorithms are becoming more sophisticated all the time, and apparently the search giant has realized that not every nofollow link is created equal.  It seems that with context, it’s possible to determine if some are more valuable than others and to use this information for ranking purposes, potentially making nofollow links a lot more valuable in the future.

Google’s announcement also included sponsored and UGC (user-generated content) links, which will be viewed as hints, as well, increasing the nuance with which Google indexes websites and potentially allowing businesses greater opportunities to climb in the rankings.  The changes are set to take effect by March 1, 2020.

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