In my years working in the digital marketing space, one of the things I’ve learned is that SEO is a dynamic field where changes are constantly happening.
Just the other day, Google sent waves through the SEO world after announcing changes to how nofollow link attributes should be marked. They did this to help them better understand the web and get better control of the link graph. They have rolled out these changes in 2 parts- those implemented already and those that will come into effect in March 2020.
Let’s Recap The nofollow Link Attribute
The nofollow link attribute was introduced back in 2005 by Google as a way of combating spam, especially in blog comments. At that time, blogs were just starting to gain popularity and they attracted lots of spam where spammers would leave links back to their sites in the comments section. This had the effect of making spammy sites rank really high while simultaneously pushing quality sites down on the SERPs.
To address this spam issue, nofollow attributes were offered to help publishers protect their sites from shady links from UGC (user-generated content).
Additionally, Google required site owners to use the nofollow attribute for any sponsored or paid links in their sites, to avoid being penalized. Similarly, any links you paid for had to be marked as nofollow.
It’s important to note that Google often ignored the nofollow links and didn’t use them for crawling, indexing or ranking.
What are the New Link Attribution Changes?
With Google’s latest changes in this area, link attribution can be done in 3 different ways, each signifying something different:
- rel=”nofollow” – used for all the links you don’t trust
- rel=”sponsored” – used for any sponsored or paid links
- rel=”ugc” – used for user-generated content
These changes were effected immediately. However, while Google still doesn’t crawl or index such links, they have indicated that they may be treated as “hints”. This means that in some cases, they may be used for ranking.
Furthermore, as part of the current changes, you can now use a combination of these new attributes for e.g. rel=”nofollow sponsored ugc” is valid. Google also reminded publishers to mark paid or sponsored links as either “sponsored”, “nofollow” or a combination of the two but not as “ugc”.
There are also more changes on the way. Google has informed us that from March 2020, all link attributes across the board will be treated as hints and some may be used for ranking, crawling or indexing purposes.
It will certainly be interesting to see how these changes play out and whether they’ll affect site ranking in the future.
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While SEO might be confusing to business owners, it’s one of my areas of specialization. I can help you take advantage of the latest developments in this arena to give your business a boost. Get in touch with me today to schedule a free consultation.