Google is changing its nofollow link attribute and is introducing two new attributes to further streamline the search engine’s way of dealing with links.
In addition to the rel=“nofollow,” Google now has rel=“sponsored” for identification of links made for advertising, sponsorship, etc., and rel=“ugc” for links that appear in comments, forum posts, and other forms of user-generated content.
From now on, Google will use these three attributes as clues as to whether or not a link must be excluded in its ranking criteria. This means they will not be overlooked, as has been the custom up to this day.
When asked about why these links should not be ignored, here’s Google’s answer:
“Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at.
Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.”
What does this mean for SEOs and website owners?
Link attributes remain an important factor in the SEO climate. Similar to sponsored links and flag ads, link attributes play an important role for SEOs and site owners to avoid link scheme penalties. While Google prefers “sponsored,” the use of “nofollow” is just as fine.
Existing nofollow links need not be changed though. The search engine will continue to honor nofollow attributes that have been set in place. Furthermore, SEOs and site owners don’t have to change the way they use the “nofollow” attribute to flag ad and sponsors’ links. Google, however, recommends changing to the “sponsored” attribute whenever fitting.
How to use new attributes the right way?
You can use more than one attribute on one link. For instance, rel=“ugc sponsored” can be used for a sponsored link in a user-generated content.
According to Google, there is no wrong attribute to use except when it comes to sponsored links. If a link is labeled sponsored when it does not belong to a sponsorship or ad, the impact will be less.
“… we’ll see that hint but the impact — if any at all — would be at most that we might not count the link as a credit for another page. In this regard, it’s no different than the status quo of many UGC and non-ad links already marked as nofollow.”
In summary, any link that is identified as a sponsorship or advertisement link must use “sponsored” or “nofollow.”
The three link attributes—sponsored, ugc, and nofollow—started to work in effect on September 10, 2019.
UGC and sponsored attributes are viewed as “hints.” Nofollow, on the other hand, will work similarly as before until March 2020, when it will also be seen as a hint.
If you rely only on the nofollow attribute, though it was never recommended in the first place, you must consider changing to one of the new link attributes.