Link audit tool

Nofollow links nearly NEVER pass any value

Why I think nofollow links haven't changed, even after Google changed the way they deal with them from a directive to a hint. 

Back in 2019, Google changed how they deal with nofollow links from treating the tag as a directive to saying they just use it as a hint. The implication is that some links would then be allowed to carry value. 

Googles announcement in 2019

This was the announcement

Ever since then, I have probably 1 or 2 debates a month with clients or SEO’s who insist that nofollow links are worth including in a link acquisition campaign.

I dont share that view.

If you gain some links that are nofollowed then they can be useful if they send traffic but they won't be contributing in any meaningful way to your rankings.

I have seen SEO’s argue that the links they earn from high-quality domains, but which are nofollowed, will actually now be passing ranking value. I have had clients parrot that advice back to me, and I feel obliged to make the opposite argument.

Why am I in the minority here?

Why do I believe this and what evidence do I have to convince me to maintain that position?

We know that nofollow is designed to prevent a link from passing its value, and its supposed to be used when you can't vouch for the site you're linking to or where there is activity that is against Google’s guidelines (paid advertisements, sponsorships etc) 

That advice from Google, that we should nofollow such links has meant that when you look at the average link profile nowadays, more than 50% of the inbound links will have a nofollow attribute applied (nofollow, UGC or sponsored).

We have also seen more and more pressure from top-tier publications to nofollow a lot of the links that we earn. 

So let's look at the evidence.

When Google made the announcement, that change would have turned on a large number of nofollow links to start passing some value again (remember ~50% of links get nofollowed).

That influx of link value washing through the link graph would have thrown the SERPs into complete turmoil and there was frankly ZERO volatility.

Google said nofollow became a hint on March 1st 2020, here is the historical serp volatility for the whole of March 2020. By search engine standards thats as calm as a millpond… 

Source -

People could argue that Google slowly applied this change over a period of months, but I would argue that you'd still see a lot of flux in the rankings of sites as that value flowed through the system, both offpage links and internal.

So why did Google say what it said?

I have never been a fan of SEO conspiracy theories and tin foil hat statements, but I do believe that we have to be cautious of taking every Google statement at face value. Part of the job of controlling our activity is to nudge us towards how Google wants us to behave. By telling us that it is now a hint, they just told us that they are reserving the right to count a link if they want to, that's probably always been the case behind the scenes. Telling us in a public statement makes the SEO industry leap to a conclusion and act in ways that Google would prefer. 

It remains a debate and I am just one opinion, I would be interested to hear your view and evidence.

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