Google to consider nofollow link attribute as ‘hints’ – will add more link attributes too

Last week, Google Webmaster team announced that they will now be treating the nofollow link attribute (i.e. rel = nofollow) as ‘hint’ instead of a command used for ranking. Additionally, the search giant announced that they would be adding two more link attributes for sponsored content and user-generated content to join the nofollow link club.

According to the official announcement by Google, the rel = "sponsored" attribute will be used to determine links on the site that are created as part of advertisements, sponsored content, and other agreements that result in some sort of compensation.

On the other hand, the rel = "ugc" attribute value is suggested for links that are used for user-generated content. For example, in forum posts and comments.

And for those who are not aware the rel = "nofollow" link is for the cases where the webmaster wants to link to a page but does not want any type of endorsement.

From now onwards, Google will treat the nofollow link attributes as a hint. This means that they may count the links as credit, consider it spam, or even for ranking purposes. Google has also announced that starting from March 2020, they would also use the same link attribute for crawling and indexing.

Google explained that the change is being implemented in order to collect data on the individual links that can help in improving search results in the future.


However, Google claimed that the search results will not be impacted from the transformation and the change will only give algorithms more flexibility on the way they treat the links.

For the webmasters and site owners, Google said that they don’t have to make changes to their nofollow links right away, plus, "There’s absolutely no need to change any nofollow links that you already have". However, for the sponsored content, the search engine giant recommends making the changes as soon as possible. Webmasters can also use a combination of one or more of these attributes in a single link. For example, the rel = "ugc sponsored" would signify to Google that the links come from user-generated content and is sponsored as well.

Will there be more comment spam as a result?

Google says No!

According to Google, the changes would not result in more comment spams. In fact, the new link attributes would further enhance their spam protection functionality. Google will also continue to carefully assess how users use links within Search – just as they had been doing before.

Google launched the nofollow link attribute in 2005. Initially, it was aimed to prevent comment spam but expanded with a way of flagging advertising-related or sponsored links. The changes implemented now are said not to have any significant impact on search results. However, we suspect that some major changes in SEO will definitely follow. What do you think?


Photo: NurPhoto / GettyImages

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