Reference attributes nofollow, sponsored, ugc and their impact on SEO

Author: Cyrus Shepard (Cyrus Shepard) - expert technical SEO, a former employee of Moz, founder Zyppy.com.

In September 2019, 14 years after the introduction of a reference attribute nofollow, Google announced a significant change in his treatment. These innovations are designed to help search engines better understand the nature of the links that have caused confusion and a number of questions from webmasters. Answers to many of these can be found in this article.

The main changes

Currently, the links you can use three attributes: "nofollow", "sponsored" and "ugc", each of which reinforces a different value.

In order to Google's ranking now handles every attribute "nofollow" as a hint, not a directive. This means that the search engine can ignore him or to take into account - in its sole discretion.

The scanning and indexing, while Google continues to ignore nofollow-links, however, that behavior will change from March 1, 2020, when the search engine will also begin to regard them as a hint, not a directive.

New attributes can be combined with each other. For example, rel = "nofollow sponsored ugc".

The purchase-references to be used or nofollow, or sponsored (individually or together). Using attribute ugc for these links may lead to sanctions manual.

In this case, the site owners do not have to change anything on their resources without fail. No benefits or penalties for the use of new attributes Google does not have.

However, those publishers who use the nofollow to control the scanning must rethink its strategy.

Why did Google change its approach to handling nofollow?

Google wants to return the reference count.

Finder introduced attribute nofollow in 2005 to site owners can fight spam in the comments and questionable links UGC-content. Links to spam or low-quality sites can harm your system and nofollow allowed publishers to protect against them.

Google is also required to use nofollow for purchased and other artificial links. If the search engine site to incriminate reference circuits, it could impose sanctions on his hand.

The system as a whole to work, but some of the larger sites (such as Forbes and Wikipedia) added the nofollow attribute to all links - to avoid sanctions, or due to an inability to properly monitor user-generated content (UGC).

This made some of the reference graph less useful for Google. Why links from trusted Wikipedia authors should not be taken into account? , Google may be able to better understand the Internet, if nofollow was used only for its intended purpose.

Rastsenivaya nofollow as a hint, Google will be able to better incorporate these signals into their algorithms.

This change can have a positive impact on the notable content creators. The reason is that over a broad band of the reference graph is able to strongly influence the ranking. (Although it is unlikely much will change for most sites).

As nofollow-links affect ranking

Until recently optimizers believed that nofollow-links work like this:

  • Not used for the purpose of scanning and indexing (Google does not pass on them);
  • Not used for the purpose of ranking, which has been confirmed by Google (although many SEO-experts believed for years that it is not).

Frankly, in the second paragraph it has been a lot of discussion and debate. Experimental data and unacknowledged evidence suggests that Google for a long time considered the nofollow-links as a potential ranking signal.

To date, the search engine claims that the new attributes, including sponsored and ugc, are processed as follows:

  • Still not used for scanning and indexing (but this situation will change in the future);
  • In the ranking of all three attributes are officially considered "tips." This means that Google is how to account for them, and ignore. Meanwhile, many SEO-experts believe that in respect nofollow, this approach has been used for a long time.

Starting from March 1, 2020, these attributes will be treated as a clue in all processes - in the crawling, indexing and ranking. Sometimes they will be taken into account, but in most cases Google will ignore such links.

Do I need to make changes to the attributes of the links?

In most cases this is not necessary. Google does not require that the sites have made changes, and at the moment no benefit from the use of new attributes not. But they can be added as desired.

There are some cases when adding new attributes can be justified:

  • Website owners want to help Google better understand those sites to which they (or their invited authors) link. For example, it would be helpful if these changes are implemented sites such as Wikipedia.
  • Sites used nofollow, to control the scan. For sites with a large faceted navigation, the nofollow sometimes - an effective tool to help prevent wasting kraulingovogo budget with the Google side. It is too early to say whether publishers using this approach, to make any changes after Google starts to handle nofollow as the tip during scanning. However, it may be important to pay attention.

In general, if today on the website correctly uses the nofollow, the SEO-experts do not need to recommend any changes in that direction to their clients. Although sites can make these changes at its discretion, any improvements in the rankings or fines is not necessary to wait for it.

However, how Google uses these attributes may change over time. It would therefore be interesting to see in the future - through research and analytics - whether the benefits will appear in the ranking from the use of these attributes in a certain way.

What attributes should I use?

If you decide to change your nofollow-links, so that they are more specific, the Google recommendations are very clear and we will not repeat them in detail here. In short, you have the following options to select:

  • rel = "sponsored" - links related to advertising or paid placements (usually referred to as paid links) should be marked as advertising.
  • rel = "ugc" - for links that lead to user-generated content such as comments or forum entry, it is recommended to apply ugc attribute.
  • rel = "nofollow" - if you do not fit the above attributes, and you do not want Google robots to follow links on your site, use the value of nofollow.

Attributes can also be combined with each other. This means that the statement: rel = "nofollow sponsored" is 100% valid.

Can I get the approval, if not mark the paid links?

Yes, you can still fall under the sanctions, and this is where there are difficulties.

Google advises to mark paid / sponsored links with the attribute "sponsored" or "nofollow", but not "ugc".

This creates a certain confusion. What if users are added to their records or comments toll or affiliate links? Google has no clear recommendations on the case.

In this regard, the site owners are likely to continue to use the default content for UGC-attribute "nofollow" or alternatively, "nofollow ugc".

Can I use nofollow, to control crawling and indexing?

Reference nofollow attribute has always been a very bad way to prevent Google from indexing content, and in this respect nothing has changed.

If you want to block indexing of content, it is recommended to use one of the following methods .

Meanwhile scanning - is a slightly different story. Many SEO-experts use nofollow on large sites to save kraulingovy budget or disable Google scan support page within the faceted navigation.

Judging by statements made by Google, nofollow can still be used in this way. However, since March 1, 2020 a search engine can choose to ignore this directive.

Therefore, SEO-experts using nofollow for this purpose, have to be creative to Google from crawling unwanted sections of their sites.

Summing up: whether to introduce new attributes need?

Although no obvious valid reasons for this, the decision every SEO-experts should take for himself.

Given the initial confusion and the lack of obvious advantages, many publishers will undoubtedly wait for better information.

In any case, the introduction of these changes should not harm the site (provided that the attributes of the "nofollow" or "sponsored" are used for paid links).

Source: Блог Moz
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