Meta robots nofollow gets the hint treatment too

Robots won’t support the new UGC and sponsored link attributes, says Google’s Gary Illyes.

Chat with SearchBot

The robots meta tag will also be treated as a hint, in accordance with Google’s new treatment of the nofollow link attribute, Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes tweeted on September 11.

Robots won’t support the new link attributes, though. “There’s no meta robots ugc and sponsored, it won’t do anything if you add that,” Illyes also stated in his tweet. 

Many SEOs are questioning why they should adopt the ugc and sponsored link attributes. Illyes and Danny Sullivan, who co-authored the announcement, have reiterated that they only serve to help Google understand the web better and enable webmasters classify the nature of their links, if they want. The nuances Google looks at between the nofollow, ugc and sponsored attributes won’t have an impact on your own site, and implementing the new attributes is completely voluntary.

Distinguishing between noindex and nofollow. “The robots meta tag remains the same as before, noindex affects the page, nofollow affects the links on the page. It’s just that nofollow on the links is now different,” Google’s John Mueller added for further clarification.

Why we should care. Whether you’re using it as a link attribute or within meta robots, Google will now look at nofollow as a “hint” about the context of the link — not a directive to ignore the link altogether. In most cases, Google says, nofollow links will be treated as they always have and won’t pass link equity, but it will collect the data within the links and, in some cases, those signals may impact rankings.

For sites on the receiving end of nofollow links, if Google chooses to count those links in certain scenarios — links from sites such as Wikipedia, for example — then pages being linked to could see ranking improvements. Operative word being “could.”

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

George Nguyen
George Nguyen is the Director of SEO Editorial at Wix, where he manages the Wix SEO Learning Hub. His career is focused on disseminating best practices and reducing misinformation in search. George formerly served as an editor for Search Engine Land, covering organic and paid search.

Get the must-read newsletter for search marketers.