Changes to “Nofollow” Tag

The Nofollow attribute was introduced almost 15 years ago to prevent comment spam. Also, Google started using it to flag sponsored links or advertising-related links. There has been an evolution to the web since the introduction of Nofollow in 2005. Hence, there must be an evolution to Nofollow as well.

Now, webmasters can use two new link attributes to identify the nature of particular links in Google search. Below is a summary of these new link attributes:

  • Rel=”UGC”: UGC is an acronym for user-generated content. The UGC attribute value is suggested for links in comments, forum posts, and other user-generated content.
  • Rel=”sponsored”: signify links on your site that are part of any compensation agreement with the sponsored attribute. Sponsorships and advertisements are examples of compensation agreements.
  • Re=”nofollow”: use the Nofollow attribute for linking to a page without implying any form of endorsement such as passing credit to another page.

Nofollow tag in code (source: moz)

Links with valuable information

Initially, any link marked as Nofollow wasn’t revealed in Google’s search algorithm. Now, all three link attributes are hints for Google to exclude or include within search. One way to better understand how to analyze and use links appropriately within our systems is to use these hints and other signals. For links to help us improve search, the content pointing at the link must contain valuable information. You can have a better understanding of all unnatural linking patterns by looking at all the links you encounter within the content. You can maintain this vital information once you shift to the hint model. More importantly, you can indicate the links that shouldn’t receive a first-party endorsement.
Here’s a FAQ that covers most of the questions about these new attributes:

  1. Is it compulsory for me to change my current Nofollows?
    No. The current Nofollow attribute remains one way to indicate that you don’t vouch for a link or use for blocking sponsored links.
  2. Can a link have at least two Rel values?
    Yes. Example, rel=”UGC sponsored” is a valid attribute. It indicates that the link is not only from user-generated content; it is also a sponsored link. Similarly, rel=”Nofollow UGC” is a perfectly valid attribute. It also supports services not compatible with the new attributes.
  3. Do I need to change my current Nofollow ads or sponsored links?
    No. Avoid possible link scheme penalties by continuing to use Nofollow to flag such links. Though you can keep using this method for systems that append to this new links, we recommend that you switch to rel=” sponsored” as quickly as possible.
  4. Is flagging of ads or sponsored links still necessary?
    Yes. Use rel=”Nofollow” or rel=”sponsored” to flag such links. However, we recommend that you stick with “sponsored.”
  5. Is there any consequence for using the wrong attribute for a link?
    Apart from sponsored links, there are no wrong attributes. If you mark a non-ad link or UGC link as a sponsored link, Google won’t credit the linked page. Thus, it receives the same status as any UGC and Nofollow links. As described above, use “Nofollow” or “sponsored” for any sponsored or ad link. Though “Nofollow” is acceptable, using “sponsored” is preferable.