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What really matters in Google’s nofollow changes? SEOs ask

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What really matters in Google's nofollow changes? SEOs ask


Google’s news Tuesday that it is treating the nofollow attribute as a “hint” for ranking rather than a directive to ignore a link, and the introduction of rel="sponsored"andrel="ugc" raised reactions and questions from SEOs about next steps and the impact of the change to a nearly 15-year-old link attribute.

Choices for choice sake?

As Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan stated in a tweet Tuesday, the announcement expands the options for site owners and SEOs to specify the nature of a link beyond the singular nofollow attribute. The additional sponsored and ugc attributes are aimed at giving Google more granular signals about the nature of link content.

As a point of clarification, Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that nofollow in meta robots will also be treated as a “hint,” but there are no ugc or sponsored robot meta tags. He also stated that he’ll be updating the official documentation to explicitly reflect this.

There is no real benefit for the sites that implement these new attributes instead of nofollow, other than organizational classification if it’s helpful. That has some viewing it through a lens of skepticism.

“Massive impact” whether you adopt or not

Drawing the focus back to that the key change that nofollow is now a ranking “hint,” not a directive, Sullivan tweeted, “As Gary says, that’s very helpful to our systems that impact *lots* of people. The new attributes are a minor aspect.”

That was in reference to Illyes earlier tweet that the treatment of nofollow could have a “massive impact on the end user.”

It can be hard to reconcile hearing that the change could mean significant improvements in search results for users while also being told that most sites won’t see any ranking affect from the new nofollow treatment.

According to the announcement, these changes have already taken effect (save for nofollow being used as a crawling and indexing “hint,” which goes into effect in March 2020). “In most cases, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how we treat such links,” Sullivan and Illyes wrote in the announcement. “We’ll generally treat them as we did with nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes.”

Who benefits from the new attributes?

Implementing the more granular sponsored andugc attributes is optional, and Google clearly stated there is no need for SEOs to go back and update any existing nofollows. So will site owners adopt the new attributes if they don’t have to?

As Sullivan has stated, the purpose of them is to provide options to help it classify these kinds of links more clearly. The nuances Google looks at between nofollow,sponsored and ugc attributes won’t have an impact on your own site and the new attributes are voluntary to implement. “If you do want to help us understand the web better, implement them. If you don’t want to, don’t,” tweeted Illyes.

More work?

Making the new attributes voluntary means you don’t have to bang down IT’s door, but it could also mean the change request may fall to the bottom of the priority list for a lot of companies and never get implemented. As consultant Kristine Schachinger expressed in the tweet below, even the slightest SEO change can be hard to get implemented.

Google seems very clearly fine with that. At this stage, the actual work involved should be minimal. If your dev teams can’t implement a code change to incorporate ugc or sponsored attributes for several more sprints, or quarters (and you’ve been implementing nofollow when appropriate), you don’t have to fret.

For WordPress sites, Yoast SEO plugin founder and Chief Product Officer Joost de Valk said Tuesday that support will be coming in the next release.

“It’s quite easy,” said de Valk. If other vendors follow suit, it could speed up adoption of the new attributes.

An opportunity for manipulation?

Now that nofollow is a “hint,” some are also concerned about spammers that might want to test out whether their tactics have a new lease on life.

Google says this shouldn’t spur spammers because most links will still be ignored just as before, whether they use the nofollow, ugc or sponsored attributes. Further, given that one of the stated reasons Google made the change to consider nofollow a “hint” is to be able to better understand link schemes, this spam tactic could be more risky than before.

What now?

This change should not have you overhauling your nofollow strategy. If you publish sponsored content or host forums or comments on your site, consider implementing the new attributes when you are able to make a code change. If you can’t or just don’t want to, there’s no harm in that either.

“On the surface, this only benefits Google,” Chris Silver Smith, president of Argent Media, commented via Facebook. “But, if you read between the lines, ‘hints’ mean a passing of PageRank or equivalent values. They’re already using Nofollowed links in some cases. They just want it easier to choose between links to use now in more cases.”


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Here’s how to set up the Google Site Kit WordPress plugin

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Here's how to set up the Google Site Kit WordPress plugin


On Oct. 31, Google announced the launch of its Site Kit WordPress plugin that, “enables you to set up and configure key Google services, get insights on how people find and use your site, learn how to improve, and easily monetize your content.”

This plugin allows you to easily connect the following Google Services in a dashboard format within your WordPress backend:

  • Search Console
  • Analytics
  • PageSpeed Insights
  • AdSense
  • Optimize
  • Tag Manager

It brings the convenience of accessing your site’s performance data while logged into the backend of the site. This is great for webmasters, developers and agencies who are often an admin for their own site or a client’s WordPress site. However, it does not offer the robust and dynamic capabilities of a Google Data Studio report or dashboard to sort data so it may not be ideal for a digital marketing manager or CMO.

With that said, it wouldn’t hurt to implement this plugin as it’s actually a nifty tool that can help you stay on top of your site’s performance metrics. It’s also another way to give Google more access to your site which can have some in-direct benefits organically. 

Here is what the Google Site Kit plugin looks like within the WordPress plugin directory.

Installing and setting up Google Site Kit

To utilize the plugin, simply click install and activate as you would any other WordPress plugin. You will then be prompted to complete the set up.

Step 1

Click on the “Start Setup” button.

Step 2

You will be prompted to give access to your site’s Google Search Console profile, which means you need to sign in to the Gmail account that has access to your site’s Search Console profile.

Step 3

Once logged in you need to grant permissions for Google to access the data in your Search Console profile.

Step 4

Once you’ve granted all the respective permissions, you will get a completion notification and can then click on “Go to my Dashboard.”

Step 5

Once you’re in the Dashboard you will see options to connect other services such as Analytics, AdSense and PageSpeed insights. You can now choose to connect these services if you like. If you go to the settings of the plugin you will see additional connection options for Optimize and Tag Manager.

Here is what the dashboard looks like with Search Console, analytics and PageSpeed Insights enabled. You can see a clear breakdown of the respective metrics.

The plugin allows you to dive into each reporting respectively with navigation options on the left to drill down into Search Console and analytics.

There is also an admin bar feature to see individual page stats.

In summary, this is a great plugin by Google but keep in mind it’s just version 1.0. I’m excited to see what features and integrations the later versions will have!


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

Tony Edward is a director of SEO at Tinuiti and an adjunct instructor of search marketing at NYU. Tony has been in the online marketing industry for over 10 years. His background stems from affiliate marketing and he has experience in paid search, social media and video marketing. Tony is also the founder of the Thinking Crypto YouTube channel.

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Bing Announces Link Penalties – Search Engine Journal

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Roger Montti


Bing announced a new link penalties. These link penalties are focused on taking down private blog networks (PBNs), subdomain leasing and manipulative cross-site linking.

Inorganic Site Structure

An inorganic site structure is a linking pattern that uses internal site-level link signals (with subdomains) or cross-site linking patterns (with external domains) in order to manipulate search engine rankings.

While these spam techniques already existed, Bing introduced the concept of calling them “inorganic site structure” in order to describe them.

Bing noted that sites legitimately create subdomains to keep different parts of the site separate, such as support.example.com. These are treated as belonging to the main domain, passing site-level signals to the subdomains.

Bing also said sites like WordPress create standalone sites under subdomains, in which case no site level signals are passed to the subdomains.

Examples of Inorganic Site Structure

An inorganic site structure is when a company leases a subdomain in order to take advantage of site-level signals to rank better. There have been

Private blog networks were also included as inorganic site structure

Domain Boundaries

Bing also introduced the idea of domain boundaries. The idea is that there are boundaries to a domain. Sometimes, as in the case of legitimate subdomains (ex. support.example.com), those boundaries extend out to the subdomain. In other cases like WordPress.com subdomains the boundaries do not extend to the subdomains.

Private Blog Networks (PBNs)
Bing called out PBNs as a form of spam that abuse website boundaries.

“While not all link networks misrepresent website boundaries, there are many cases where a single website is artificially split across many different domains, all cross-linking to one another, for the obvious purpose of rank boosting. This is particularly true of PBNs (private blog networks).”

Subdomain Leasing Penalties

Bing explained why they consider subdomain leasing a spammy activity:

“…we heard concerns from the SEO community around the growing practice of hosting third-party content or letting a third party operate a designated subdomain or subfolder, generally in exchange for compensation.

…the practice equates to buying ranking signals, which is not much different from buying links.”

At the time of this article, I still see a news site subdomain ranking in Bing (and Google). This page belongs to another company. All the links are redirected affiliate type links with parameters meant for tracking the referrals.

According to Archive.org the subdomain page was credited to an anonymous news staffer. Sometime in the summer the author was switched to someone with a name who is labeled as an expert, although the content is still the same.

So if Bing is already handing out penalties that means Bing (and Google who also ranks this page) still have some catching up to do.

Cross-Site Linking

Bing mentioned sites that are essentially one site that are broken up into multiple interlinking sites. Curiously Bing said that these kinds of sites already in violation of other link spam rules but that additional penalties will apply.

Here’s the kind of link structure that Bing used as an example:

illustration of a spammy link networkAll these sites are interlinking to each other. All the sites have related content and according to Bing are essentially the same site. This kind of linking practice goes back many years. They are traditionally known as interlinked websites. They are generally topically related to each other.

Bing used the above example to illustrate interlinked sites that are really just one site.

That link structure resembles the structure of interlinked websites that belong to the same company. If you’re planning a new web venture, it’s generally a good idea to create a site that’s comprehensive than to create a multitude of sites that are focused on just a small part of the niche.

Curiously, in reference to the above illustration, Bing said that kind of link structure was already in violation of link guidelines and that more penalties would be piled on top of those:

“Fig. 3 – All these domains are effectively the same website.
This kind of behavior is already in violation of our link policy.

Going forward, it will be also in violation of our “inorganic site structure” policy and may receive additional penalties.

Takeaway

It’s good news to hear Bing is improving. Competition between search engines encourage innovation and as Bing improves perhaps search traffic may become more diversified as more people switch to Bing as well as other engines like DuckDuckGo.

Read Bing’s announcement: Some Thoughts on Website Boundaries



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Google Releases its Site Kit WordPress Plugin Out of Beta

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Matt Southern


Google has released version 1.0 of its Site Kit plugin for WordPress, which means its officially out of beta after 6 months.

In the time since the developer preview of Site Kit was released, Google says it drastically simplified the setup, fixed bugs, and polished the main user flows.

Site Kit allows WordPress users to access data from Google products right from their site’s dashboard. The plugin aggregates data from Google Search Console, Google Analytics, PageSpeed Insights, and AdSense.

Google Releases its Site Kit WordPress Plugin Out of Beta

With Site Kit there’s no additional code editing required, which makes it easy to set up products like Google Analytics for those without any developer experience.

Anyone can install Site Kit, but Google emphasizes that it’s especially useful for professionals who work on sites for clients. The reasons why include:

  • Clients and other teams can easily access data from Google products by logging into the WordPress dashboard.
  • Clients will see performance states and improvement recommendations directly from Google
  • Site Kit allows you to set roles and permissions and make sure only relevant people can see the data.

To get the most out of Site Kit, Google recommends reviewing the main dashboard on at least a weekly basis. You can also check the stats of individual pages by navigating to the page and clicking on Site Kit in the admin bar.

Google Releases its Site Kit WordPress Plugin Out of Beta

With this data, Google recommends comparing the top performing pages and seeing how people found them. This can help you discover trends, such as which topics get the most engagement on Twitter, which get the most engagement on Facebook, and so on.

To get started with Site Kit, simply install it from your WordPress dashboard.



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