Google Makes Changes to Nofollow Links
Linking is a big part of your SEO strategy. Search engines can both see and acknowledge the links you put on your site, along with links to your site from other sources. While it sees them all, it only acknowledges or recognizes the dofollow links. For those links with the added nofollow tag, it ignores the link.
At least, that's how it worked until last month.
As a quick overview, most links on a webpage, with typical HTML coding, are dofollow links. That's the standard way that a search engine reads the code. It only changes if you manually add in a "nofollow" tag to that code. When people talk about tags and nofollow or dofollow links, it's natural to assume that they would both have their own tags, but that's not how it works. Only nofollow links have the tags; everything else is a dofollow link by default.
Taking a Hint
In the past, as noted, the nofollow tag was a directive. It told Google to ignore the link when ranking the page. Google did so every single time. It was simple, black or white coding.
That simplicity is what changed. Under the new rules, you're better off to think of that tag like a hint. It tells Google that you don't think they want to use the link for ranking purposes, and they may not. But they'll make the call on their end. They can still decide to use the link to rank the page, no matter what tags you add. Or they can decide to ignore it. This takes the power out of the coder's hands and gives it to the search engine.
How will the change impact you? Well, the automatic move for some websites has been to include a nofollow link every single time. No matter what. To any source material or third-party content. This means that the links do not help those other sites, despite the connection back to them. Since Google can now use the nofollow links for ranking if they so choose, some of these sites may rise in the rankings. The true impact remains to be seen, as this is a very new process, but that's where many feel this is headed.
Two New Attributes
On top of changing the nofollow rules, Google also created two new attributes for links. The first is UGC, and it shows that the link leads to User Generated Content. The other is a "sponsored" tag for linking out to sponsored content. The company stressed that people can choose if they want to use these attributes. They certainly don't have to, but they now have the option if they would like it.
In essence, people were using nofollow links for a wide variety of reasons. Google wants more information to better refine its results. Now it can know if a page sells products via sponsored links or if it provides informational value to the reader with user-generated content. Using these attributes, along with the nofollow tag as it is now defined as a hint, allows the system to determine which links are important for page ranking purposes and which are not.
Breaking Down the Changes
Wondering how these changes are going to impact your SEO? Thinking about what they mean for the future of your site content and link building tactics? Let us help. Here at Content Customs, we keep a close eye on all changes to Google's policies and strategies, and we can help you determine exactly what you need to do to keep your rank high.