Skip to Content
Main Content

Hiker Looking Out Over Mountains

Northwoods Team

Your Trusted Digital Trail Guides

For more than 20 years, the digital experts at Northwoods have been helping clients improve their websites, software, and digital strategy and marketing. How can we help you meet your goals? 

Learn more about our services.


Google’s Nofollow Update 2020

March 10, 2020 | Northwoods Team, Your Trusted Digital Trail Guides

4 Minute Read

Nofollow (rel= “nofollow”) links have a Google tag telling search engines to ignore them. In 2005, Google introduced the nofollow attribute to help fight comment spam. Since then, the nofollow tag has evolved to flag advertising or sponsored related website links that could be link schemes.

The most recent nofollow update has caused concern and raised questions. We’re here to help with info on the update and how it could affect your website.

What Is the 2020 Nofollow Link Treatment?

On March 1, Google released its update of rel= “nofollow”. The update adds ways to classify a Google Search as:

rel= “sponsored”: This attribute will be for identifying links created for advertisements, sponsors, or any other compensation agreements.

rel= “ugc”: The rel ugc – user-generated content – attribute will be for links such as comments and forum posts.

rel= “nofollow”: the original attribute tells Google you do not want any endorsement or ranking credit to another page.

Does the New Nofollow Treatment Impact Rankings?

Your website rank will depend on several factors. Publishers used the nofollow link to keep track of what pages are being crawled. With the new Google nofollow treatment, the nofollow link will be treated as a “hint” rather than an “ignore.”

Google is making this change to collect data more efficiently in order to identify link schemes while still considering the link attribute signals. Therefore, the new nofollow update will not greatly affect your ranking. This is because links provide information that helps improve search. Switching to the hint rule from the ignore rule will (1) save Google from missing important information within the link and (2) allow site owners to identify what links shouldn’t be given the ranking.

Will this Affect Google Searches?

The new nofollow will affect your Google Search slightly to not at all. This update gives Google more flexibility with how it treats links within the search. It provides Google more information and data to use in its search ranking systems.

Why Did Google Update the Nofollow Attribute?

Google constantly seeks more information about the web; the nofollow update is part of that endless effort. Better knowledge of the web helps Google generate better search results. The nofollow 2020 update also gives site owners the option to classify their links.

Adding sponsored and ugc attributes will give Google an advantage with link calculations. This contributes to Google’s understanding of the website page itself. That is, Google will know if a certain page is sponsored or user-generated.

This update allows multiple link attributes; you can apply a combination of one or more attributes within a single tag. For example, you can have a single link with rel = “nofollow ugc”. This would tell Google you have a link that is user-generated content and you don’t want to imply any type of endorsement.

What to Do Now?

No rush. Update the links to sponsor or ugc, if you wish, or leave the nofollow as is. But we do recommend changing attributes when it’s convenient for you.

If you currently use nofollow to restrict crawling efforts on your website, it would be a good idea to look over those sites. Since the new nofollow update is switching from ignore to hint, it might smart to protect those areas a different way.

Re-attributing from nofollow to sponsored or ugc can be voluntary. Whether you give Google that information or not, your website will not be affected. The new attributing is really for your own benefit, as you can label parts of your site.

Google’s Nofollow Treatment 2020 Overall

Google has stated that the nofollow update will have no major impact on the search results page. All three linking attributes – nofollow, ugc, and sponsored – are treated as hints about which links to include or exclude within a Google Search. As far as rankings, if your site is large and respected, you may see your ranking increase depending on how Google reads the nofollow attribute. The nofollow update of 2020 really affects Google, SEO agencies, link builders, and website owners – not the user experience.