Google has steadily been bringing its newest Material Theme to an ever-expanding list of products. After hitting the more popular apps, like the Play Store and the productivity suite in Drive, Google has moved on to bringing its less popular offerings into the fold. First, Blogger received a surprise coat of Material Design paint, and now the 15-year-old book preservation project, Google Books, is getting the same treatment.
Google Books is an ambitious project that sought to digitize the world’s printed books and make them accessible to the global community. After 15 years of development, it continues to be a powerful resource for students, professionals, and hobbyist readers alike.
Today’s update gives Google Books a much-needed redesign, bringing it to parity with Google’s other Material-themed apps and services. According to Google, this update centered around helping readers quickly find specific details, like book descriptions, author histories, related works, and reader reviews. The search engine within Google Books was also revamped, allowing readers to search for key phrases and excerpts down to the page number and paragraph.
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This week Google announced that after 15 years, they plan to evolve the “no follow” link attribute.
If you’re a blogger and you’re participating in affiliate programs or doing sponsored posts, you know that the “nofollow” attribute allows you to safely link to external sites without losing good standing with Google.
Why “No Follow” Came To Be
Back in the “Wild Wild West” days of blogging, bloggers and forum owners were bombarded with spammers leaving low-value comments in search of “SEO juice” in the form of backlinks.
The “nofollow” rule helped quiet all of that down.
WordPress, for example, assigns “nofollow” automatically when people leave a comment on your blog.
By simply adding the “nofollow” attribute to a link that’s sponsored (including affiliate links) or user-generated (e.g. comments), it signals to Google that you’re not endorsing the link.
Who you associate with (link to) affects the authority of your site. When in doubt, continue to use “nofollow.”
Note: It may be helpful to clarify this here — when you’re not being compensated and genuinely just linking to an external site because it’s useful for your website visitors (linking to high-quality sites is a signal to Google that your content is helpful), just a regular old link is all you need to do — no attribution necessary.
Another way to think about this is that “nofollow” disincentivizes shady organizations from sneakily buying links in the form of sponsored posts and affiliate programs or clogging up your website with spammy garbage. This is what Google does not like (any more than we do).
Why They Decided To Rethink “No Follow”
The problem as Google explains it is that when websites assign “nofollow” to all external links, it creates a disadvantage for websites that are legitimately deserving of an endorsement.
For example, a lot of incredibly valuable content is generated by users on forums and wiki-style websites. This expertise and value is something Google wants to know about.
Now what they’ll do rather than not allowing any link credit at all, is they’ll look at the “nofollow” attribute as a “hint” for what to do with that link. It’ll depend on the context and various other Googly factors.
(I know what you’re thinking but no, don’t go out and start spamming up people’s comments sections again! There’s no tricking Google when it comes to what is and is not a useful signal.)
New & Improved Link Attributes
rel=”sponsored”: Rather than rel=”nofollow”, now you can assign rel=”sponsored” for affiliate links and sponsored content. This will be the strongest signal to Google — they absolutely will not count the backlink credit.
rel=”ugc”: This stands for “user generated content” and can be used for things like comments and forum posts. (This is something that would obviously need to be done programmatically with the CMS — I expect we’ll see this change in an upcoming update for WordPress.)
rel=”nofollow”: Use when you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply endorsement and pass along the ranking credit. Google may or may not give a backlink credit here.
No, You Don’t Need To Update Your Legacy “No Follow” Links
Don’t even sweat it, Google doesn’t want you to go through all of your markup and change “nofollow” to “sponsored.”
But they do want you to consider switching if and when it’s convenient.
There’s no upside or downside for you to keep your “no follow” links as they are, so live your life and do what you want.
But, you must assign one or the other (rel=”nofollow” or rel=”sponsored”) to sponsored content and affiliate links!
Hope that was helpful, if you have any questions hit me up in comments. Or, just mosey on over to Google’s official blog, they explain it real-good-like. ?
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.
Google launches a lot of things, and some of them don’t survive. You’re probably familiar with the high-profile deaths like Google , Allo, and Reader, but there are numerous little-known services that never gain a following before Google kicks them to the curb. That’s the case for Follow Your World, which shuts down next month.
Follow Your World launched eight years ago as a way to track new satellite images in Maps. Simply set a point of interest, and Google would send you a notification when that area got new images. Cool, right? You probably wish you’d heard about it before it was dead. Users of Follow Your World can sign in any time between now and September 30th to download their data. New users won’t find anything when attempting to use the service.
Google says it has more ways to follow updated images in Maps these days, so Follow Your World isn’t necessary. There’s the Google Earth Medium account, which regularly posts about new imagery. There’s also Google Earth, which lists areas with new 3D coverage. It will soon get map layers for new 2D satellite images, which is vaguely similar to the functionality in Follow Your World.
Demand for expensive phones might be slowing, but consumerism as a whole continues. In the wake of our collective and unceasing desire for more, better, cheaper, Google is the latest company to stand up on a sustainability soapbox, announcing its intention to better the environmental impact of its “Made by Google” products. In a series of vague and easily met goals, the company wants to ensure that 100% of its hardware include recycled materials by 2022, with 100% of shipments being carbon neutral by next year.
Neither of these commitments aims too high, though Google isn’t too specific or verbose about the details. For example, when Google says that “100% of device orders shipping to and from Google customers will be carbon neutral by 2020,” Google doesn’t quite define what it means by “shipments” or if that claim extends beyond shipping/fulfillment to include the product itself.
When it comes to shipping, Google usually chooses FedEx to fulfill orders and RMAs here in the ‘states, and FedEx has some of its own environmental goals set for 2020, which could help Google with its desire for carbon-neutral deliveries. But essentially, any benefits in shipping/fulfillment (assuming that’s what Google means) would be a result of actions taken by shipping companies, not Google. Fast Company was told by Google that part of this improvement will come from a change in shipping methods earlier in the supply chain and separate from fulfillment (40% gains from using boats vs. planes), but Google could be a lot more clear in its own marketing, here.
Ensuring that 100% of all Made by Google products include recycled materials should be another walk in the easily-marketed park, since Google imposes no requirement for what sort of components or percentages need to be made of recycled materials. Google simply claims it will “maximize recycled content wherever possible,” but if it isn’t committing to any firm goals, that’s a pointless promise. “Possible” is such a flexible and weaselly word subject to interpretation and economic viability, it may as well not be a commitment.
According to Fast Company, an upcoming Google product will “reuse a third of a plastic bottle” in the fabric of its design, but Google itself hasn’t placed any firm numbers on its own claims or self-imposed requirements regarding any products.
Google’s final bulleted “commitment” is the vaguest of all. The list ends with: “And we will make technology that puts people first and expands access to the benefits of technology.” While it’s good that the company wants to reiterate how its products can genuinely improve lives through technology, it isn’t really committing to anything with that statement.
Earlier this year, Samsung actually committed itself to more defined and firm goals, opting only to use fiber materials certified by the Forest Stewardship Council in packaging and manuals, with specific numbers set for recycled material use in the far-off year 2030. Less numerically defined but quite still specific plans included switching to pulp mold trays and recycled/bio-plastics in packaging starting this year.
When it comes to marketing its sustainability moves, Google should probably make much more firm and specific commitments. As it stands, today’s announcement reads more like a handful of token, low-effort marketing points. The company clearly cares about improving the environmental impact of its hardware products, but it needs to make and express more clear and concrete goals.