This was first noticed yesterday by website owners at Webmasterworld.com. But before understanding how this may or may not impact your website's rankings in search engines, such as google, let's first take a quick look at what is a nofollow link.
According to Wikipedia, nofollow is a value that can be assigned to the relevancy attribute of an HTML a element to instruct the major search engines that the hyperlink should not influence the ranking of the link's target in the search engine's index. A major factor in search engine rankings is the number of authoritative links you website receives from other relevant website. For example, if your real estate website is being linked from other real estate related websites, this, among other things, help with your rankings in Google, Yahoo! and Bing. But if these other websites put a nofollow attribute to the link code that leads to your website, they basically tell search engines not to give importance to this link. And search engines don't follow this links.
Now, what should Realtors make of this?
1. What BBB has done is not good for websites
For many businesses having a link from such an authoritative website like BBB.org was a very valuable thing. The belief is that links like this help your listings and business website to rank a little better in search engine results. Now, it is assumed that as these links are dis-valued because of the nofollow attribute that BBB puts around them, many business owners, who joined BBB mainly for to get a link from BBB.org, will discontinue their membership. I read one webmaster saying that follow link was probably the biggest part of BBB's value proposition. He is now recommending to his clients to not pay for BBB's annual subscription.
2. What BBB has done is good for websites
Some other webmasters actually it the other way around. The thing is that many SEO specialists charge their clients, such as small or big website owners or real estate agents and use that money to buy links from different websites. Some do legally, others do illegally. Because link buying is illegal, search engines are trying to do everything to lower the value of links and use other signals such as social media and authority to rank websites. This, of course, applies to websites in housing and real estate industries. Because of this, a growing number of search engine optimization specialists now think that search engines do in some way follow and give certain value to nofollow links simply because these links are now more honest and people don't pay for them. This is why I read some people saying now the links from BBB.org to your website may actually carry more value.
It is very hard to say. This website Huliq.com used to have BBB membership years ago, but at some point I decided to discontinue when I realized that what drivers traffic to your business and improves your rankings are actually signals like, how authoritative are you, how many people who visit your website want to come back the next day, how interesting are the stories you publish, whether they are useful to readers or no and other signals similar to this.