Last year, the team at Google announced two new link attributes that provide webmasters with additional ways to Google Search the nature of particular links. The team is also evolving the nofollow attribute to identify the nature of links.
How are the new attribute links useful?
The sponsored attribute is used to identify links on the site that were created as part of sponsorships, advertisements, or other compensation agreements.
The UGC (User Generated Content) attribute value is used for the links within user-generated content, such as forum posts and comments.
Bloggers usually try to improve their websites’ search engine rankings by posting comments like “Visit my discount pharmaceuticals site” on other blogs, these are known as comment spam. Google took steps to solve this issue of comment spam by introducing the nofollow attribute in 2005 for flagging advertising-related or sponsored links.
So when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, it doesn’t give any credits to them that is used for ranking websites in the search results. This attribute was introduced so that spammers don’t get any benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, referrer lists, trackbacks, etc.
The nofollow attribute was originally used for combatting blog comment spam. It has now been evolved and used for combatting advertising links and user-generated links that aren’t reliable.
It is now also used for cases where webmasters want to link to a page but they don’t want to imply any type of endorsement. The nofollow link attribute will be used as a hint for crawling and indexing purposes by March 1, 2020.
Web analysis will be easier with these attributes
All of the above attributes will help in processing the links for better analysis of the web. As they are now treated as hints that can be used to identify which links need to be considered and which ones need to be excluded within Search. It is important to identify the links as they contain valuable information that can be used to improve search and can help in understanding as to how the words within these links describe the content they point at. These links can also be used to understand the unnatural linking patterns.
The official post reads, “The link attributes of “ugc” and “nofollow” will continue to be a further deterrent. In most cases, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how we treat such links. We’ll generally treat them as we did with nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes. We will still continue to carefully assess how to use links within Search, just as we always have and as we’ve had to do for situations where no attributions were provided.”
How will this affect publishers and SEO experts?
The links that were arbitrarily nofollowed might now get counted as per the new update so it might encourage the spammers and hence an increase in link spam. Also, if these nofollowed links get counted, a lot of sites would simply start implementing a nofollow link policy and Google might count those links and that would impact the rankings. For instance, if a website uses a lot of Wikipedia links and if Google counts them, its ranking might improve. SEO experts will now have to look into what link attributes need to be applied to a specific link and work on their strategies and CMS (Content Management Systems) based on the new change.
HOT TAKE: There's ZERO incentive to adapt the new nofollow changes. If it has direct, significant impact on rankings, sure. Forced change🤮. Except Google claims is not going to. 🤔The cost of revamping entire CMS's & training teams to accommodate this, outweighs the motive. pic.twitter.com/LAhNNjqFWC
— Alan Bleiweiss (@AlanBleiweiss) September 10, 2019
Most of the users on HackerNews seems to be sceptical about these new link attributes, according to them it won’t benefit them. A user commented on HackerNews, “I run large forums and mark my links “nofollow”. I see no reason or benefit to me to change to or add “ugc”. It’s not clear that there’s any benefits for me. And it’s vague enough that I don’t know that there are not downsides. Seems best to do nothing.”
Few others think that the puporse of nofollow attribute has changed. Another user commented, “This means the meaning of ‘nofollow’ is changing? That seems a horrible idea. Previously ‘nofollow’ meant exactly that – “don’t follow this link please googlebot”, now it will mean “follow this link, but don’t grant my site ranking onto the destination.” – Thats a VERY different use case, I can’t see all the millions of existing ‘nofollow’ tags being changed by site owners to any of these new tags. Surely a ‘nogrant’ or somesuch would be a better option, and leave ‘nofollow’ alone.”
Danny Sullivan, Google’s SearchLiaison, responded to the criticism around the newly updated nofollow attribute:
1) The two new attributes are voluntary choices for those who find it useful to be more granular. It's a *choice* and we don't need to put "teeth" into a choice. Use them. Don't. It's a choice.
2) Nofollow, as we explicitly said, continues to work for sponsored links. pic.twitter.com/q6YpTeE86y
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) September 10, 2019
To know more about this news, check out the official post.