Google’s Nofollow, Sponsored and UGC Link Attributes Update


Google always tries to serve all users with excellence. In one of their latest upgrades, Google has introduced a new update in link attribution for publishers. The change is helpful for Google to understand the nature of the link and webpage associated with it. This announcement by Google was made on 10 September 2019. Here are the reasons for introducing this update by Google and how it will impact SEO:

What is Nofollow Link Attribute?

According to basic definition, Nofollow links are the links that are not followed by Google Crawler. In other words, Google does not crawl or index Nofollow Links. Google introduced the Nofollow link attribute in January 2005 (preventing comment spam). There were two major reasons behind the launch of Nofollow attribute:

  1. To prevent the publishers from hurting themselves by linking to low-quality sites or spam in UGC (User Generated Content).
  2. To prevent getting penalized from paid or sponsored links as Google can penalize the websites that offer links in exchange for any amount.

Why did Google introduce this new update?

After introducing the Nofollow attribute, many websites started offering Nofollow links from the entire website to keep them safe from getting penalized. This made the Link Graph less effective to understand by the web and this is what made Google change the attribute for better understanding.

Link Attribution and Impact on SEO

Till now the attribution was rel=”nofollow” which was used for all the UGC, sponsored, and untrusted links. But there was no impact on ranking because the links were not crawled or indexed by Google.

With this update, now the attribution has changed and the new attributions are as follows:

               rel=”ugc” for User-generated Content

               rel=”sponsored” for paid and sponsored links

               rel=”nofollow” for untrusted sites

As of now these links will not be crawled and indexed by Google but they will offer a hint to Google for ranking, which means these links will be helpful for ranking.

Also, according to the hint, Google is going to update the impact over ranking in March 2020. According to the upcoming update, the link structure will remain the same but these links may be used for crawling and indexing purposes in certain cases. Besides, they may be impacted over ranking in the future.

Do you need to update your links structure? If yes, then which attribute should you use?

There is no need to make this change for most of the sites and it depends upon you if you want to. But in certain cases, publishers should implement the changes. Firstly, sites that want Google to understand the nature of sites better. For example, sites like Forbes can implement this update, which also will be beneficial for users. In other cases, sites that want to control crawl using Nofollow can do the same. These websites can make the change because in future Nofollow links will also offer hints in crawling and indexing.

If you are updating your website with this feature but confused with link attributes as to which one to choose, here are the Google guidelines to Qualify your Outbound links to Google.

To learn more about Google’s Nofollow, Sponsored and UGC Link Attributes Update here is an image from Moz that can help you.

Moz nofollow link attribute update

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