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Google Makes Big Changes to Link Attributes

The nofollow link attribute was introduced back in 2005, and was designed to allow webmasters to prevent link equity and page rank being passed, in instances when it shouldn’t be.
Any article that was sponsored, paid for, seen as forum or comment spam, should be set to nofollow – that way, the equity that a dofollow link would pass, wouldn’t benefit the receiving page/site in the same way.
Google has recently announced that the rel=”nofollow” attribute will now be seen as a ‘hint’ as opposed to a directive, in its entirety. This now means that, no longer does the rel=”nofollow” attribute count for absolutely nothing in ranking instructions, as was previously the case.
Now it has progressed to work alongside two new attributes, meaning link building tactics will need to change to ensure that they are not manipulative in their style.
google rel attributes
Source: Google 
As the table from Google above shows, the two new attributes are rel=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc”. The former is designed to mark links that have seen money changed hands, or indeed any other form of compensations.
If are paid by a third-party site for a backlink, then the new rel=”sponsored” attribute should be used.
The addition mentioned as the latter above, is designed to identify user-generated content. The rel=”ugc” attribute should be used to mark content such as forum posts, blog comments and so forth, and is likely to designed to prevent spammy and low-quality content posts from earning link juice and passed page rank.
Having said that, Google have advised that, “If you want to recognise and reward trustworthy contributors, you might remove this attribute from links posted by members or users who have consistently made high-quality contributions over time.”
Google have become far more granular in their attribution of links, but have also indicated that these new attributes don’t need to be used if the webmaster doesn’t so wish.
They’ve stated that there’s absolutely no need to change any nofollow links that are already in place. For crawling and indexation purposes, nofollow will move from a directive to a hint in March 2020.
The search engine giant has also announced that multiple link attributes will be supported, when the new system comes into place. This means that you can use a combination of tags in a single link, for example – rel=”sponsored ugc” would be supported and indicative of both sponsored and user generated content.
By analysing all of the links they encounter, with this new added detail, Google believe that they can better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, they no longer lose important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.
This change further indicates the clamping down on manipulative link building tactics. As Google have always claimed, and what continues to be the case, “the best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community.”
From experience, we know that creating good content pays off – the more engaging, unique and useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.
If you’d like to speak to us about content marketing and link building, then get in touch today.

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