Google began to count nofollow links as ‘hints’
On Sunday, Mar. 1, Google has started treating the nofollow link attribute as a hint, rather than a directive, for crawling and indexing purposes. So, should we change the whole linking strategy?
The nofollow attribute was created in 2005 to prohibit click-throughs by search engine bots. This attribute is important for adding links to non-trust resources, or affiliate and advertising hyperlinks.
Last year, Google announced new link attributes for sponsored and user-generated content (UGC).
rel=”sponsored” for paid links – created as a result of advertising, sponsorship and other paid agreement.
rel=”ugc” for links inside UGC content such as comments and forum posts.
rel=”nofollow” for a case when you want to add a link but without passing along ranking credit to it.
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Why the New Approach?
From the moment Google introduced links as help to webmasters, it has been used for a variety of reasons. A lot of websites began to mark as nofollow every external link. And sure, for Google who uses links for their ranking algorithms, this is a problem.
Google’s Gary Illyes and Danny Sullivan have said that the new attributes will help Google understand the web better and allow site owners to mark their links if they want to.
The main point is the new approach is completely voluntary.
Five Basic Facts about New Attributes
- You can mark ads and sponsored links in order to avoid possible link scheme penalties.
- No need to change existing links.
- There can be more than one attribute one link. For example, rel=“ugc sponsored” would be okay for a paid link within user generated content.
- If you use the wrong attribute on a link, there would be nothing wrong, except for sponsored links (see the next point).
- If a link is classified as sponsored when it’s not, then the impact will be reduced. Google says: “… we’ll see that hint but the impact — if any at all — would be at most that we might not count the link as a credit for another page. In this regard, it’s no different than the status quo of many UGC and non-ad links already marked as nofollow.”
Do We Need a New Link Strategy
The three link attributes – sponsored, ugc and nofollow – now work as of March, 1. Sponsored and ugc attributes are treated as ranking “hints.” Nofollow will work the same as always up until March 2020, at which time it is treated as a hint.
However, applying new types of a link is voluntary. If you want to provide Google with that information (and have links classified for your own reference), feel free to do so. Whether you do or don’t won’t impact your site.
While posting sponsored content or host forums or comments on your site, it’s your decision to implement the new attributes or not. If you choose not to do that, there’s no harm.
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