Nofollow, Sponsored and UGC (User-Generated Content) Changes Made by Google

Google announced a change to the nofollow link attribute a couple of days ago and with that announcement, Googlers respond to the questions about it on Twitter the next day.

Around 15 years ago, the nofollow attribute was launched as a way to help fight the comment spam. It additionally rapidly ended up one of Google’s prescribed strategies for flagging sponsored or ad-related links. The web has evolved since nofollow was announced in 2005 and it is time for nofollow to grow also.

Until a couple of days back, if you have used the nofollow attribute on the links, Google would ignore the link. It would not follow it, it wouldn’t check it, and it would imagine that the link is not live. Google would not register the link, not follow it for indexing or crawling and Google would not even make use of it for ranking.

A few days ago, with the change, Google said they’ll currently use nofollow link attribute as a “hint” for ranking. Meaning, Google could see the content, the link, anchor text, use it for spam uses, and use it for the ranking purposes, and much more – in case that they considered essential. It is currently only a hint to Google for ranking purposes as well as it is not a clear directive.

Significant Changes about Nofollow Link Attribute

Google couple of days back announced critical changes to how they take care of the “nofollow” link attribute. The key points are listed below:

  • Link attribution should be possible in 3 different ways: “nofollow”, “ugc” and “sponsored”— each suggesting an alternate meaning. (The 4th way, default, implies no value attribute)
  • For ranking, Google currently treats all the nofollow features as “hints” — meaning they are expected to be not affect ranking, yet Google might ignore the directive and make use of nofollow links for ranking purposes.
  • Google continues to ignore the nofollow links for crawling as well as indexing purposes, on the other hand, these severe behavior changes March 1, 2020, at that point Google starts treating the nofollow attributes as “hints”, meaning they might crawl them.
  • You could utilize the new attributes in combination with other attributes. For instance, rel=”nofollow ugc sponsored” is valid.
  • Paid links should either make use of the sponsored or nofollow attribute (either single-handedly or in combination with the other attributes.) Simply using the “ugc” on the paid links could most probably prompt a punishment.
  • Publishers don’t need to do anything. Google offers no support for changing, or punishment for not evolving.
  • Publishers that are using the nofollow to control crawling might need to re-evaluate their plan.

Do publishers need to make changes?

For most of the websites, the answer is no — just in case they need to. Google isn’t expecting websites to make changes, and as of yet, there is no business case to be made.

So, there are two or three cases where the website owners might have to implement the new attributes:

  • Websites that need to help Google better understand the websites they or their contributors are linking to. For instance, it could be to the benefit of everyone for websites such as Wikipedia to get these changes. Or on the other hand possibly Moz could switch how it increases links in the user-generated Q&A area (which regularly links to the high-quality sources.)
  • The websites that are using the nofollow for controlling crawling. For websites with huge faceted navigation, nofollow is sometimes a valuable tool to stop Google from wasting the crawl budget. It is too soon to inform if the publishers are using the nofollow should transform anything before Google begins treating nofollow as the crawling “hint” however it might be imperative to focus on.

All things considered, if a website is appropriately utilizing nofollow today, SEOs don’t have to suggest any changes be made. Even though websites are allowed to do as such, they shouldn’t expect any rankings boost up for doing as such, or new penalties for not evolving.

So, use of these new link attributes by Google might develop, and it will be great to find in the future, through analysis and study, if a ranking advantage emerges from making use of nofollow attributes with a particular goal in mind.

Can you use nofollow attributes to direct crawling and indexing?

Nofollow has consistently been a poor approach to avoid Google from indexing the content, and it continues to be that way.

In case that you need to prevent Google from indexing your content, it is prescribed to use a few different techniques, most frequently some form of “noindex”.

Which link attribute should you use?

If you change the nofollow links to be increasingly unambiguous, Google’s rules are clear, so we won’t go over them in-depth here. To sum up the things up, your options are:

  • rel=”sponsored” – For the sponsored or paid links. This would assumingly incorporate affiliate links, even though Google hasn’t clearly said.
  • rel=”ugc” – Links in all the user-generated content. Google has expressed if UGC is made by a trusted provider, this might not be fundamental.
  • rel=”nofollow” – A catchall for all the nofollow links. As with the other nofollow directives, these links will not be used for crawling, indexing or ranking purposes generally.

What SEOs and Site Owners Need to Know?

Link attributes are still important

It is still similarly as critical to flag sponsored and ad links to stay away from possible link scheme punishments. The Google inclines toward the use of the “sponsored,” however “nofollow” is fine also.

No compelling reason to change existing attributes

There’s no compelling reason to modify any existing nofollow links. Google will keep on honoring nofollow characteristics that are as of now set up.

There is no requirement for website owners and SEO’s to change how they make use of the “nofollow” attribute to flag the links pertaining to sponsorships and ads. In any case, Google recommends changing to the “sponsored” attribute when suitable.

This change ought not to make them revise your nofollow strategy. If that you distribute sponsored content or host comments or forums on your website, consider implementing the new attributes when you are making a change in the code. In case you can’t or simply would prefer to, there’s no problem with that either.

Why you should bother about using any of the new attributes?

Using the latest attributes enables us to more readily process links for web analysis. That could incorporate your content, if individuals who link to you make use of these attributes.

These changes go into effect today

The 3 link attributes known as sponsored, nofollow and ugc – presently function as of today.

Ugc and Sponsored attributes are treated as ” the hints.” Nofollow will function the same as always up till March 2020, at which time it’ll likewise be treated as a hint.

The individuals who depend exclusively on the nofollow attribute, which was never prescribed in the first place, should strongly think about changing to one of the new attributes.

Alex D,

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