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Hint: it Involves User-Generated and Sponsored Content

In an unprecedented move, Google has announced that it is changing how nofollow links are counted after 15 years. Google has decided to use nofollow links as hints instead of as directives, as they were previously used.

When nofollow links were first introduced, they were done so as a way to combat comment spam, and soon became a recommended method of advertisement-related and sponsored link flagging.

Nofollow links are HTML attributes that are added to links to inform Google that the link is suspicious and cannot be trusted.

According to Google, this is being done for ranking purposes. The decision of whether or not to use the link will be made for the purposes of ranking.

Changes include two new attributes that will allow webmasters additional ways to inform Google Search the nature of links. The new attributes are “ugc” and “sponsored,” which will be used in conjunction with “nofollow.”

  • Nofollow- This will be used when you want to link to another page but not provide an endorsement such as passing a ranking credit to a different site.
  • UGC- This stands for User Generated Content and should be used when links are posted within comments or forums.
  • Sponsored- This attribute is for identifying links that are a part of an advertisement, sponsorship, or another compensation agreement.

All three link attributes will be treated as hints that allow Google to either exclude or consider within Search. Instead of merely ignoring these links as was previously the case with nofollow, the combination of attributes helps to improve Search by helping understand unnatural linking patterns and how words within links describe the content it points towards.

Google indicates that using a hint model will ensure that they don’t lose the information, but will allow owners of websites to specify links that should not receive the first-party endorsement. 

Essentially, changes were made to enable Google to collect information that it was unable to collect the way that nofollow links were previously. It will provide the ability for Google to better inform ranking in Search Engine Results Pages.

There is no foreseeable benefit of the nofollow changes for publishers, and in fact, it is widely believed that the changes cause more trouble than they’re worth. There is no incentive or ranking boost to publishers, yet they will have a large cost of implementing the changes which will include revamping CMS’s and training teams.

Google has stated that no one will be forced to implement the nofollow changes and that those who do not will still be able to use nofollow for sponsored links.

Sources:

https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-nofollow-hints-seo/325363/
https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2019/09/evolving-nofollow-new-ways-to-identify.html