“No-follow links are worthless.”

“I don’t waste time pitching websites that add the no-follow attribute to all outbound links.”

“Google doesn’t use no-follow links in their algorithm.”

“Building no-follow links is a waste of time and they will not help push you up in the SERPs.”

You’ve heard statements and claims very similar to these hundreds of times, as have I, throughout the years. There has always been a general view regarding no-follow links as being useless and not worth the effort.


Why No-Follow Links Have Always Been Important

I always defended them, to a sense, because of one main reason:

Having no-follow links in your profile looks natural and helps you stay under the radar. I’m not even going to get into the whole “they don’t impact ranking” debate. Let’s just stick to the “natural link profile” theory.

Take a massive authority website like Huffington Post. They publish so much content that they end up being linked from thousands of websites and blogs daily. There is a good mix of no-follow and follow links. Why? Because outside of the aggressive SEO and link building world that is how it works.

Think of how many websites and blogs there are that either don’t know what a no-follow tag is, or simply don’t care. Natural link “earning” results in a wide variety of links. So, if you want to take advantage of SEO, and speed up the SERP advancement, you need links, but you need to make your link profile look as natural and diverse as possible.

Let’s assume there are three blogs in the fitness space, each with 1,000 links, broken down into the following link types:

Blog A: 1,000 links, all do-follow from mega authority websites and all pointing to the homepage.

Blog B: 800 do-follow authority links, 50 no-follow blog comment links, 50 directory links, 50 forum links, and 50 blog footer links all pointing to the homepage.

Blog C: A complete random assortment of authority links, blog comment links, forum links, directory links, resource links, etc., all spread out across all pages and content.

Blog A might be crushing it now, but they will get slapped silly because their link profile is clearly purchased. Blog B looks like they purchased one diversification package. Blog C looks like a real website and under review it would not raise any red flags.

You have to build a natural looking link profile. I don’t know how many times I have said that, and in doing so you need to build no-follow links.


The Big News Google Dropped

The entire SEO world had a meltdown when Google announced new ways to attribute no-follow links. If you follow the industry you probably saw the tweetstorms that filled Twitter feeds and all the speculation and guessing.

It was quite comical and honestly most people were overreacting for absolutely nothing. There were so many questions, yet nobody used common sense. The issue causing the most questions was the “why” — why, after almost 15 years, was Google changing no-follow link attributions.

They are just adapting to current trends online. That is all.

Let me break down what all this means in a simple and logical way:


  • You can attribute no-follow links three ways now: “nofollow,” (like before) “sponsored,” (like a paid advertorial or sponsored blog post) and “ugc” (user generated content) — and each is meant to explain what each link is better to Google.


  • Now, for SEO value, Google now views and considers no-follow links as “hints” – they haven’t come out and said they directly impact the SERPs, but Google may consider them in certain circumstances. What are those? Nobody knows — only Google.


  • Google is still gray when it comes to whether or not they will crawl and index no-follow links using the new tags. If they decide to use a particular link as a “hint” then you would logically assume yes, they will crawl and potentially index it because they see it as valuable. Again, only Google knows.


  • You don’t have to use them. You don’t have to worry about your website if you used regular no-follow tags in the past. There is ZERO benefit of changing anything. Don’t waste your time.


  • This is CLEARLY a way for Google to get websites to do their work — identify paid links. I would never personally use the “sponsored” tag on a website because it’s saying, “Hey Google, look over here!” Publishers that use this are insane.


  • Some websites might try to slide paid links under the radar using the “ugc” tag, but again, why draw attention? Don’t help Google.



Why Google Changed No-Follow

The main question and confusion since this announcement stems from the “Why” factor. SEOs want to know why Google decided to make this change after nearly 15 years. Just like SEO and organic search advances, so does Google and how they want to identify things, specifically problems.

Let me explain in a way that makes it very clear.

Why did Google introduce the no-follow tag 15 years ago? Because SEOs were exploiting their algorithm spamming blog comment links and forum links. Remember those days? You could throw up spun content, fire up XRumer and blast tens of thousands of links, and be ranking in no time.

Well, the exploiting has just advanced and now Google wants to combat that as well.

Anyone can get links on authority sites by spending money and securing a sponsored post. It’s a loophole. Why create “quality content” and do outreach when you can skip all the nonsense and just buy your way on? Now Google has introduced a way to help identify these links.

Same with user generated content on the big websites.

Also, many major websites, like Forbes just no-followed their entire website because they were scared of being penalized. Think of how much organic traffic those websites get daily. If that stopped their ad revenue would disappear overnight.

So, they just fired the no-follow tag site-wide. Google introduced these new attributes to help properly identify links, and they will now consider them as “hints” — whatever that means. Speculate all you want, because we will never know 100%.


How Does it Change SEO and Ranking?

There has always been confusion and argument regarding whether or not no-follow links help ranking, and guess what? That will remain the same. Now SEOs just have a few new attribution tags to throw into the mix.

It basically just gives people more material to discuss.

I have always maintained the same stance when it comes to no-follow links: you need them and you should actively acquire them if you are aggressively building links. A natural link profile has them, and a wide variety of them.

A natural link profile is crucial for SEO and ranking, so with that being said, they have always been important and they will continue to be important.

If anything, these new changes should help those previous doubters of no-follow to smarten up. Google openly saying they will now treat each link as a “hint” and whatever that means, I know one thing: some links WILL impact rankings, regardless of being no-followed or not.

If I were to take a stab at it, I would be willing to bet that relevance and website authority will come into play. A no-follow link for a dentist on a finance blog won’t trigger a “hint,” but a no-follow link for a dentist on a medical or health blog might give Google a little “hint,” which then gets tossed into the algorithm.

So, the solution is simple: continue to build relevant links, both no-follow and do-follow, and if you happen to get a little of that “hint” juice, then great. If not, you are still building a natural looking link profile.

You cannot lose with this strategy.


Do You Need to Make Any Changes?

This is the number one reason why people need to chill out and not stress over this news. It doesn’t impact you, at all. If you own a website you don’t have to throw these tags on links, even if they are paid or user generated content. These are all voluntary action.

Remember, Google doesn’t own the internet. Yes, they dominate search, but they cannot force you to do anything to your website. The majority of websites and internet marketers don’t have to worry about these new attributes. There are however some instances where I would apply these on my website.

They include:

If you run a blog that is all contributor content and your editorial process is laid back. Then, you would want to apply the “ugc” tag to link, telling Google that the content is from a third-party. This will help you stay out of potential danger in the event someone links to a shady website. If your revenue comes from ad impressions and you don’t want to risk losing traffic down the line, use this tag.

If you run a paid directory, like a local business directory or a niche specific directory, like a listing of all dentists, etc. If they pay a fee to maintain that listing and it includes a link, the disclose it. Again, if your business model relies on organic traffic you want to be transparent.

There is no telling how these new tags will evolve, so use common sense for the time being, and only use them if you absolutely have to. For 9 out of 10 people reading this, these tags are irrelevant.



What Link Attributes Should Be Used Now?

For those that do want to use these new attributes and/or currently no-follow links on their own websites, let me dive into the three options and explain the situations that I would use them in. Again, this is all speculation and a little common sense.

Google hasn’t laid out a concrete explanation of these attributes, how they impact and how a “hint” even comes into play. With that being said, here we go:



This is the same old no-follow tag, and using this basically tells Google not to give the link any credit or juice. Using this more than likely won’t result in any “hints” as Google mysteriously mentions.



There is something important that many people are overlooking here and I want to point it out. Everyone immediately saying, “Oh , now guest blogging is dead! Guest posting links are now worthless!”

Not true! Why? Because Google said that if the user is trusted, like a long-term contributor or someone well-known then the tag shouldn’t be used.



Advertising links and affiliate links should get this, as they should have been using no-follow before anyway. If you are running affiliate links or advertising links on your website and NOT using the no-follow attribute you are letting precious link juice leak.

So, use them as you want, or don’t. It is entirely up to you. I just wouldn’t waste time stressing over it, like so many in the SEO world have been over the past few weeks.

I get it; no-follow news after 15 years of nothing is sure to make waves, but look at it for what it is — a way for Google to combat spam/gaming the SERPs like back in the day. They are just targeting different strategies, as SEO has evolved tremendously.

It’s also worth noting that you can combine attributes for the same link. If you really want to dive into this new option, something like rel=”nofollow ugc” will tell Google that it’s user generated content and not to follow it.


Does This Change Indexing or Crawling Now?

For those that think adding no-follow tags to links will stop Google from indexing content, you are doing it all wrong. You need to “no-index” specific pages or posts you don’t want to come up in the SERPS. The no-follow tag has nothing to do with that.

Some blackhat SEOs use no-follow as a way to keep Google bots from crawling certain pages, but coming in 2020 Google has made it public knowledge that the crawlers will ignore this, so if that is why you are interested in no-follow happenings then it’s time to get creative and come up with a new strategy to accomplish this.



No-Follow Conclusion

This basically comes down to a choice, and to be fair, no-follow has always been a choice. It’s an option available. If you own a website you now have other choices in addition to the standard no-follow tag.

There has always been confusion regarding no-follow and that will continue. People will guess and assume, and waste time debating over something they will NEVER have a clear understanding of.

Think about it.

Google now says these links are “hints” when it comes to their algorithm.

Hints? LOL.

Good old Google. They are masters when it comes to being as vague as possible and ever giving concrete information.

My best advice is to do whatever you feel like regarding using the new attributes.

But, I would shy away from the “sponsored” tag, as it is basically saying, “Hey Google, look: PAID LINKS!”

Keep building links, because they matter the most, and don’t worry about no-follow. Be consistent and be diversified. It’s the only way to stay under the radar.

What are your thoughts regarding this news? Are you going to change anything or make any adjustments? I’d love to hear what other SEOs and online marketers think about these new tags and if you, like myself, are paying very little attention to them.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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