Google’s John Mueller said it is possible that Google Search Console’s URL inspection tool can show a nofollowed link as the referring page but he also said it is rare. It does make you question if Google holds by the nofollow as a very strict hint or not but John said we are “too focused on links.”
This came up when I asked on Twitter if anyone has any examples of the referring URL in the Google Search Console URL Inspection tool shows Twitter or YouTube? I got a number of responses including this one from James Singleton:
So I have one under “Redirect error” that shows the referring page as Twitter. Not sure why it is an error but that is besides the point here pic.twitter.com/O7HrB3TBZQ
— James Singleton (@ThisIsSingleton) December 30, 2022
Yes, Google is showing here a link that should be nofollowed as the referring page for this URL that Google discovered. Here is another screenshot:
I should add that I received a tone of examples of Google showing nofollowed links in this referring page section.
I asked John Mueller of Google about this and he replied on mastodon saying, “First off, I suspect folks are once again too focused on links.” “I don’t think it’s impossible, but I’d expect it to be rare. Search Console lists links even if they’re nofollow, even when the link “value” is zero. It could happen that we know of a page from a source, but only crawl & index it when we know more about a page. Then theoretically, the first mention is there, even if irrelevant, and it’s not the reason why the page is indexed,” he added.
Now, Praveen Sharma was getting to my point, which is why John replied with the links comment. Praveen Sharma wrote earlier that thread, “I could be wrong but there is a possibility that since Google treats nofollow tag as a hint and not an instruction, it has crawled this Twitter link (expecting some useful URL is available to crawl) and as a result it is mentioned in the inspection report.”
This goes back to 2019 when Google change the nofollow attribute from a directive to a hint. But then in 2020 we were told this was just a policy change and nothing technically changed with this policy change, ie Google still help it as a directive despite saying otherwise. So we suspected this was not a ranking change but Danny Sullivan said it was.
Anyway, we know Google Search Console’s link report shows all links, even nofollowed links. At one point, Google asked if we want a filter for nofollow links in that report – it never happened. But for the URL Inspection Tool referring page to show it makes you scratch your head.
Here is a screenshot of the mastodon thread:
Forum discussion at mastodon.