In mid-2019, Google released two major updates on nofollow links. Previously, Google did literally what the name of the link suggested. Google did not follow nofollow links. Period. However, recent news stated that Google treats them as ‘hints’. So, does Google crawl nofollow links? Let’s see.
In 2005, search engines released this nofollow tags as a way to combat comment spam. However, the definition has evolved. Nofollow links signal the crawlers NOT to follow the hyperlinked website. Hence, no SEO strength passes to the linked site.
In theory, nofollow links do not contribute to your page rankings. However, these links can significantly contribute to your SEO efforts, if managed right. This is why the question of whether Google does crawl nofollow links or not, is important.
Google’s official statement said that,
“For crawling and indexing purposes, nofollow will become a hint as of March 1, 2020.”
Initially nofollow links were basically signals. Apart from nofollow links, Google is introducing two new rel attributes. These rel attributes will help Google understand the true nature of the links.
As the name suggests, this link attribute will identify the sponsored or advertised links. Previously, nofollow links were used for this purpose. Now this sponsored rel attribute will signal Google that a link is not untrustworthy; rather it is just sponsored.
UGC means User-Generated content. So, this link will identify the comments and forum posts generated by visitors. For a webmaster, it means that they can signal Google that they do not, in any form, endorse the link. Not because it is untrustworthy but because the link does not come from a credible source.
As of now, Google declared to treat these links as hints. So what exactly is hint? With the help of the new links, site owners can send hints to Google that they do not completely endorse the generated links in their site. In other words, these links should not be given the same weight as first-party endorsement.
]Therefore, Google will be able to build a well-organized link architecture. Thus, it will also be better prepared to identify unorthodox links. Moreover, the relevance of the anchor text to the linked destination can be better judged.
Ideally, no. As we said, Google does not actually crawl your website via nofollow links. Hence, no so-called signal or link juice is transferred to the linked site. Simply put, your page rank does not get affected.
But there is always a BUT. Nofollow links can open up opportunities for dofollow links. Nofollow links drive more referral traffic to your site. More traffic results to more user engagement and greater sales. Greater sales, in turn, lead to profitability and authority. Therefore, you still need to be careful about managing your nofollow links.
Till now, webmasters haven’t been provided any incentive for using the new link attributes. The new links also seem to have no visible contribution to SEO. However, using these links wisely fashion may save you time and money.
Webmasters can now flag inappropriate ads or irrelevant sponsored links. Here is some more advice as to how to use Google nofollow update.
So, our answer? No. Google does not crawl nofollow links. Hence, they do not contribute to your page rankings directly. However, nofollow links are more significant than you think. They can play a vital role, if not direct, in your SEO efforts. Use nofollow links wisely, and you will reap the benefits in the long run.