The second phase of a planned algorithm update which changes how nofollow links are treated by Google will begin rolling out in just a few days. The update, which will go live on 01 March, will affect how the search engine crawls and indexes nofollow links.
Google gave early warning of the upcoming change with a statement in September which accompanied phase one of the update. The search engine’s Danny Sullivan and Gary Illyes explained that after 15 years of service, nofollow would be updated so that it was no longer taken as a hard and fast instruction to discard a page.
They said, “When nofollow was introduced, Google would not count any link marked this way as a signal to use within our search algorithms. This has now changed. All the link attributes — sponsored, UGC and nofollow — are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.”
Google has confirmed that the switch to treating nofollow as a signal rather than a concrete instruction to discard a page takes place this weekend, stating “For crawling and indexing purposes, nofollow will become a hint as of March 1, 2020.”
What to do now
Any change to how Google crawls and indexes web content has the potential to impact your search rankings and search visibility. Until the algorithm update rolls out, it’s impossible to determine exactly how your site will be affected but there are a few things you can do now to get prepared.
- Confirms how your site uses nofollow attributes
As the nofollow link attribute has been recommended for over a decade and a half, it’s likely that you have used this tag on your site at some point. This could have been to dissuade Google from crawling pages on your site that you felt were no longer up to scratch and in compliance with good quality content guidelines. The nofollow attribute has also been commonly used to block off pages such as user profiles.
Ahead of the change on 01 March, take the time to clarify how nofollow has been used on your site to date. Try and collate a list of links or pages where nofollow is used.
- Decide if you need to use other methods to stop crawling and indexing
If you identify links with nofollow attributes for pages that you expressly don’t want to be indexed, explore other options and strategies for maintaining that under the new algorithm. One such option is to consider using a meta robots no index instruction.
- Have systems in place to monitor rankings and traffic
For any business website, a loss of traffic or drop in rankings can have a direct financial consequence. Ensure you have systems in place to monitor your rankings and search traffic volumes so that you’re aware if your site is affected by the algorithm update.
Need more help? The Adrac team continually monitors developments in search to ensure our clients make the most of all opportunities that any changes may offer. Get in touch to find out more about working with us.