Google Evolves Nofollow & New Link Attributes: Sponsored & User Generated Content

Google is changing how rel=nofollow links work, and is introducing 2 new link attributes.

These are for sponsored links and user generated content.

What’s changed with nofollow?

Google is changing how the nofollow link attribute will work. Google will now see the link as a hint, as opposed to a directive for rankings.

Additionally, Google is adding new link attributes, including the following:

rel=”sponsored”
This is used to identify links which are part of sponsorships, advertisements or other uses where compensation is involved.

rel=”ugc”
This is used where a link is within user generated content (UGC stands for user generated content). This could be posts on a forum or within the comments section.

rel=”nofollow”
This still means the same, and is used where you don’t wish to pass on link juice or imply endorsement.

What’s changing, is that Google will now look at nofollow links as a “hint” for ranking. This means that Google may use the link as an indicator of quality, or it may see it as spam or anything else.

However in March 2020, Google will be using nofollow links for crawling and indexing. Google will be using the nofollow links to see what should be crawled or indexed, however robots.txt and meta tags would still serve this purpose.

These 3 link attributes

Why’s Google changing how nofollow works now?

How Google works has changed over the years, and it is now far more sophisticated. Google has determined a better way to analyse and use links to determine rankings.

Google explains:

Nearly 15 years ago, the nofollow attribute was introduced as a means to help fight comment spam. It also quickly became one of Google’s recommended methods for flagging advertising-related or sponsored links. The web has evolved since nofollow was introduced in 2005 and it’s time for nofollow to evolve as well. Today, we’re announcing two new link attributes that provide webmasters with additional ways to identify to Google Search the nature of particular links…

When nofollow was introduced, Google would not count any link marked this way as a signal to use within our search algorithms. This has now changed. All the link attributes — sponsored, UGC and nofollow — are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems. Why not completely ignore such links, as had been the case with nofollow? 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.

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2019/09/evolving-nofollow-new-ways-to-identify.html

What do I need to do now for SEO?

You don’t need to change nofollow links. These stay the same.

Nofollow is still fine to use for ads and sponsored links.

However, rel=sponsored or nofollow should be used to flag ad or sponsored links. Sponsored would be the best to use in these situations.

Overall, mostly this simply helps Google. The fact they are now considered hints means PageRank or value may be passed on. But it’s up to Google to decide.

These changes go into effect as of now. Nofollow will become a hint on the 1st of March 2020.