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Google: Nofollow Change Was A Policy Change; No Action Was Necessarily Taken By Googlers Yet

We are all still trying to figure out if Google took any action with the nofollow link attribute change on March 1, 2020 or not. It seems the answer is not. John Mueller said in a Google webmaster hangout at the 17:22 mark that this is a policy change and as far as he knows, no engineer or anyone at Google has actually done anything differently since the change.

The question was from Glenn Gabe, who asked “I know there’s a lot of talk this week but do you know if the nofollow change is live for crawling and indexing? I know the original date was March 1st. Just wondering if that’s live now?”

John Mueller read off the question and responded first by summarizing what was announced back in September. “So this is something where where we made some changes in our search algorithms with regards to how we treat nofollow links,” John said. “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.”

He then explained that this is a policy change and if Google employees want to do something with it, they can. He said “And essentially on our side the change is that internal systems are now able to do this. 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 what teams internally are kind of testing evaluating and what makes sense for them.”

I then asked “John do you know if teams are actually doing anything with that now?”

John responded “I don’t know. They can but I don’t know.”

He then added that even if they did, you probably won’t see anything. He said “I also think it’s not something where you would see kind of a big and visible change in the search results just because like they’re suddenly doing this. I imagine the changes would be more subtle.” He added “I mean it’s something where we also try to use it as a signal so it’s not like we will just ignore it completely but we’ll try to figure out where it makes sense and where it doesn’t make sense.”

I tried to summarize what he said by saying “So to summarize the policy change allows you, anybody in Google to use it for indexing and ranking purposes but it doesn’t mean that you are doing it and as far as you know nobody is really doing anything at Google since the change.”

John responded “So I have looked into whether or not people are actually doing it but I don’t know of anything specific.”

Here is the video embed so you can watch John answer this question:

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Seems to me that no one at Google has made any use of this policy change as of yet but they might in the future.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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