27 Jan How will Google’s new nofollow link attributes, ugc and sponsored, affect SEO rankings?
In September 2019, Google announced two new features as an upgrade to the HTML link attribute nofollow. The nofollow attribute was created in January 2005 to combat comment spam and ended up being used a lot to signal advertising links.
Since nofollow was introduced, Google hasn’t counted any links marked in this way as a signal to use in search algorithms or to use them as a measure of credibility of those links in the ranking algorithm. According to Google, that has now changed!
Google thus announced two new link attributes that deliver additional ways to webmasters to highlight the nature of specific links in Google Search.
These new attributes, along with nofollow, are identified and defined below:
- rel = “sponsored”: use the sponsored attribute to identify links on your website, which were created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other paid endorsements.
- rel = “ugc”: UGC stands for user-generated content and the value of the ugc attribute is recommended for links within user-generated content, such as comments and forum posts.
- rel = “nofollow”: use this attribute for cases where you want to link to a page, but it does not imply any type of endorsement, therefore it doesn’t pass any ranking credit to another page.
The introduction of nofollow was originally created to indicate to Google that links marked with this attribute should not be considered in its algorithm. Now, all attributes of the link – sponsored, UGC and nofollow – are treated as markers for which links to consider or to exclude in the search ranking algorithm.
Also Google says it is possible to combine various attributes for including targeting systems and services that have not adopted the recognition of the new attributes.
Google warns that the use of one of these attributes is highly recommended for content that may be confusing to classify for SEO. Sponsored content, exchange of links or links embedded by the user must always be specified, either with nofollow (as it was until then), or with the new sponsored and ugc.
Do I need to change my existing nofollow link?
No. If you are currently, using nofollow as a way to block sponsored links or to mean that you don’t really recommend a page to which you link, this will continue to be supported. There is no need to change the nofollow links that you already have.
Can I add more than one rel value in a single link?
Of course, you can add more than one rel value to a link. For example, rel = “ugc sponsored” is a valid attribute that suggests that the link came from user-generated content and is sponsored. It is also valid to use nofollow with the new attributes – like rel = “nofollow ugc” – when you want to be compatible with services that do not support the new attributes yet. In this way, rel = “nofollow sponsored” or rel = “nofollow ugc” could be interpreted correctly by both Google and third parties.
If I use nofollow for ads or sponsored links, do I need to change them?
No. You can continue to use nofollow as a method to flag these links to avoid possible link penalties. You do not need to change any existing markup. If you have plugins that attach attributes to new links, they can continue to do so. However, Google suggests switching to rel = “sponsored” if or whenever it is convenient for webmasters.
When do these attribute changes take effect?
Right now, all the attributes of links – sponsored, ugc, and nofollow, work as a hint for Google to consider them for ranking purposes. But from March 1, 2020, nofollow attributes will be used for tracking and indexing purposes.
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