Did Google Just Say Links In PDFs Treated As Nofollow Links?

Jan 28, 2020 • 8:15 am | comments (5) by | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

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Google's John Mueller said at the 9:43 mark into a Google hangout that for SEO purposes, links in PDF files are treated like links that have the nofollow attribute on them. But the weird thing is, Gary Illyes from Google in 2011 documented on the Google blog that those links do pass PageRank and signals. So which is it?

First, here is what John Mueller said:

With regards to to SEO. Because within PDFs there's no way to kind of let us know that a link is is really a link that you want to use to pass signals we would generally view these links as kind of text links that we also find in text files. Essentially, as similar to a nofollow link in that we recognize the link is there, we can look at where this link is pointing at but for the most part we would not be forwarding any signals through those links. So from a pure SEO point of view I would say it's questionable that you had any advantage from this. But from a usability point of view I would totally make sure you have those links within your PDFs.

Here is the video embed so you can watch it:

Now, as Glenn Gabe pointed out on Twitter, Gary Illyes from Google said in 2011 and also in 2015 that links in PDFs do pass PageRanks and signals. The blog post reads "generally links in PDF files are treated similarly to links in HTML: they can pass PageRank and other indexing signals, and we may follow them after we have crawled the PDF file. It’s currently not possible to "nofollow" links within a PDF document."

The two statements seem to contradict.

John Mueller responded to Glenn saying "I think Gary might still be right. I mean, he's usually right." John then went on to say that it isn't that important because links in PDFs do not really impact websearch in a big way anyway, he said "it's about having any practical effect in websearch either way."

But maybe, just maybe, things did change. Maybe now that Google treats the nofollow attribute differently - as a hint, maybe now Google treats links in PDFs as nofollowed because they can?

I am not sure.

Would be nice to get a concrete answer from Google on this - do links in PDFs pass signals or are they treated as nofollow links?

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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