What is Google Crawl and Indexing (Nofollow) Update? Will this Update Affect my Page Ranking?

Recently, Google announced a new update that Nofollow links will be seen as hints rather than directives as of March 1, 2020.


The way Google crawls and indexes web pages has evolved a lot with time; however, this is the first time when it is going to treat “no follow” links differently. The Nofollow link attribute has been an integral part of the SEO industry for around 15 years to fight the comment spam and flag advertising-related and sponsor links. Now, it is going to evolve for the better.

To ensure that you are doing things the right way and following what Google prefers can be the potion to stay unaffected or improve your link building, backlinking, and ranking strategies.

But, before we move on to Google Crawl and Index Update March 1, 2020, let’s take a glimpse of what exactly a nofollow link is.

What is a Nofollow Link?

A link with the attribute rel = “nofollow” is known as nofollow link. The main purpose of using this HTML tag is to inform search engines to ignore that link.

These links do not pass PageRank and as such, they don’t impact the search engine rankings.

However, with the forthcoming “nofollow” update for Google crawling and indexing, the way Google treats nofollow links is going to change forever.

What is [March 1, 2020] Google Crawl and Indexing “Nofollow” Update?

Google announced that-

“For crawling and indexing purposes, nofollow will become a hint as of March 1, 2020”.

Danny Sullivan, an American Technologist, journalist, and co-founder of Search Engine Land also tweeted about this new update and shared his views through a post.



In 2019, Google announced a two-part update related to the handling and treatment of nofollows.

While the first part that affects the search engine ranking is already in effect and playing its role, the second part is going to be rolled out soon.

According to the announcement made by Google, the nofollow links would be treated the same way until March 1, 2020. Since the date is approaching, the hype of this update is getting intense and gaining huge momentum right now.

This new update will not only influence the digital marketing trends but also make a substantial impact on how Googlebot will treat “nofollow links” for crawling and indexing.

So, It’s Time to Revisit Your Nofollow Policy

As aforementioned, the nofollow link attribute was introduced 15 years ago as a way to fight the comment spam. Thereafter, it also became the ‘recommended method’ for flagging advertisement-related and sponsored links.

On the contrary, many SEO professionals and site owners started to depend solely on the nofollow attribute to block a web page from being crawled and indexed – which was never recommended to practice.

Though this practice hasn’t affected them throughout these years, these people need to now shift to more robust mechanisms, such as the Meta robots noindex direction.

Two Additional New Attributes Introduced by Google along with the Update

Google has announced two new attribute values that will help webmasters to identify the nature of particular links as an additional way to Google Search.

These attributes, along with nofollow, are summarized below:

rel = “sponsored”  

The sponsored attribute value will help identify the links on your website that were created for advertisements, sponsorships, or other compensation agreements.

rel = “ugc”

The ugc attribute value is introduced for links that are used within “user-generated content”, for instance, forum posts and comments.

rel = “nofollow”

Now, use this attribute in cases where you want to link to a page but don’t want to involve any kind of endorsement, for example, passing along ranking credit to another page.

For all these years, Google did not count any link marked with nofollow to use within Google’s search algorithms.

But, this has changed now.

Rather than using as directives, all of the above link attributes will be treated as “hints” about –which links to consider and which links to exclude for crawling and indexing. 

In a post shared by Danny Sullivan and Gary, they quoted:

“We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.”

Should I change the Existing Nofollow Links?

There is no need to make any change in your existing nofollows. If you are using nofollow to block your sponsored links or to indicate that you don’t vouch for a page you are linking to, it will still be supported.

Besides, you can also continue to use nofollow for flagging ads or sponsored links to avoid possible link related penalties. However, it is recommended to switch over to sponsored and ugc attributes, if and when it seems appropriate.

In case you are thinking that you don’t need to flag ad or sponsored links, remember that you still need to flag such links by using either nofollow (acceptable) or sponsored (preferred) attribute.

Can I use Multiple Link Attributes in the same link tag?

Of course, Yes. You are allowed to use one or more attributes in the same link tag. For instance, when the link comes from user-generated content and is also sponsored, you can use rel = “ugc sponsored”.

What to expect if I use the Wrong Attribute Value in the link?

Nothing major! To be honest, there is no wrong attribute except in the case of sponsored links. When you flag a UGC or non-ad link as sponsored, it would be seen as a hint. However, this link then might not be counted as a credit to another page.

Should I bother to use ‘sponsored’ or ‘ugc’ attribute?

Using sponsored and ugc attributes will help Googlebot or spider to better process links for web analysis. This might also be your content in case other people who link to you use these attributes.

These attributes will add a bit more context and describe the content they are pointed at. It will help Google to better understand unnatural linking patterns and avoid losing important information while allowing site owners to indicate that some links should not be given the importance of a first-party endorsement.

Will nofollow update have any impact on page rankings?

Right now, it is not clear how this update will impact rankings. It depends on Google what factors it prefers to crawl, index, and rank web pages. There is a possibility that it might devise new rules to determine which page to index and which page to not index. Certainly, it won’t choose to index low-quality pages.

Key Points for Takeaway

As the time comes for nofollow attribute to evolve, SEO professionals and site owners should be aware of the March 1, 2020 nofollow update of Google crawl and indexing and what attributes they should prefer for marking links.

1. Change Perception to the Use of Nofollow

While using nofollow, you need to change your perception of “Google won’t consider this page for indexing” to “Google may or may not consider this page for crawling and indexing”.

If Google comes to a point of view that this page is actually useful, the chances are that this page will be indexed by Google.

2. Use Robust Mechanisms for Blocking Purposes

From now onwards, when you want to block Google from crawling and indexing, it is better to use the robust mechanism of Meta robots noindex rather than using nofollow.

3. Prefer to switch to ‘sponsored’ for ads or sponsored links

Start using relevant attributes – nofollow, sponsored, and ugc, accordingly for better processing of links and create a clear distinction line between different links. Google recommends preferring ‘sponsored’ attribute for ads and sponsored links; however, ‘nofollow’ is also acceptable in this case.

Stay in tune with Google’s latest updates to ensure that your SEO strategies for ranking don’t become obsolete as this is the only way to be relevant in the SEO industry.


Dhirendra Kumar

Dhirendra Pandey is the Co-Founder & CEO of Media Search Group. He has been working in the Digital Marketing industry more than 10+years.