Google today (September 10th, 2019) announced some changes to their handling of nofollow.
You can read all about it here.
In a nutshell, we used to have the nofollow directive. Google are now moving towards a hint format.
That’s important, because a directive is considered a firm command, whereas a hint, is not.
We used to have one directive:
Now we have multiple hints:
Why would Google do this?
By switching from a directive to a hint, it allows google to loosen up its interpretation of nofollows.
My only suggestion here, is that they’ve found that indexation and ranking quality is becoming tougher, with blanket nofollow policies in place at many large PageRank black holes (large sites that nofollow all external links).
Additionally, it helps them better understand linking relationships with paid incentives, by clearly marking them as such and not simply allowing them to fall into the nofollow black hole. This further enriches their dataset, while hopefully allowing them to improve the overall ranking model.
But why should WE do this?
As SEOs, we have to interpret current recommendations and best practices, either in-house or for clients, and implement them according to both our existing resource restrictions and perceived benefit. That’s our job, as SEOs.
Tagging up specific sets of links at a large publisher, in this format, wouldn’t be a tough thing to implement, but – right now I have absolutely zero understanding as to how this could possibly help us, as SEOs or publishers, with our ranking.
Google are normally excellent at the carrot/stick approach – they forced PageSpeed on us, they forced HTTPs on us, both using ranking improvement or filters respectively. They know how to carrot/stick.
I don’t see what either the carrot, or the stick are here.
Until such a point, I personally can’t recommend investing development effort into implementing this new ‘hint’ format.
Over to you Google 🙂