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Google clarifies nofollow link change text with magnifying glass and Google logo

Google Confirms They Have Not Made Use of Nofollow Link Update

Just when you thought you’d heard the last about Google’s recent nofollow link change, Google decided it wanted to have the last word on the matter by speaking out about some confusion surrounding the change.

The change, which allowed Google to treat the nofollow link attribute as a hint, rather than a directive, for ranking, crawling and indexing purposes, was rolled out on March 1st. However, shortly before the rollout, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, stated on Twitter that he didn’t anticipate the change having an impact on sites.

Other than that, we didn’t have much more to go on, so we were forced to just take Mueller’s word for it. Until now, that is.

Mueller recently clarified his vague Twitter statement and provided a bit more insight into the change during a Google webmaster hangout by saying:

“So, this is something where we made some changes in our search algorithms with regards to how we treat nofollow links. I believe the change was split into two parts, one kind of being able to pass signals through nofollow links and the other with using nofollow links for discovering new URLs.”

Mueller added that this nofollow attribute change was merely a policy update, and that as far as he knows, no engineer nor anyone else at Google had actually done anything differently since the change.

“Essentially on our side the change is that internal systems are now able to do this,” said Mueller. “That doesn’t mean that internal systems are currently doing it. But at least from a policy point of view they’re able to take this on. And if there are teams within Google that say I will be able to I would want to use this then that’s something that they’re open to doing that. So, it’s possible for them to do it, it’s not the case that it’s like we’re like pumping everything full through those links now. It really depends on what teams internally are kind of testing evaluating and what makes sense for them.”

Translation – just because they can do something, doesn’t mean they will.

via GIPHY

When probed further and asked whether “teams are actually doing anything with that now?” Mueller added that he wasn’t sure.

“They can but I don’t know,” he said.

So, the takeaway here is that while the change has been in place since March 1, nobody at Google has actually made use of it yet, and they may or may not do so in the future. Thanks for the very ambiguous update, Google.