Google’s Link Attribute Changes

Understanding how Google works and how websites are ranked (and why they are ranked that way) is not as simple as it may appear.

A lot goes on behind the scenes — meaning how a website is coded or uses search engine optimization tactics is very important. Thus, when Google announced that it was making changes to link structures, developers and marketers began to wonder.

As you may know, the ‘no-follow’ attribute was introduced in 2005 as a mechanism to help fight spam. As blogs became increasingly popular, so did comment spam and guest posting, which means that spammers would leave links back to their page in the comments’ section. More so, people started to pay for guest posts, that in reality only were intended to have a link but contained poor quality content.

These actions caused two main problems:

  1. Spammy web pages began to rank well in Google, pushing high-quality sites out of the search results.
  2. Because the tactic proved to be very efficient, blog comment spam and guest posting quickly spun out of control.

As a solution, Google introduced the ‘no-follow’ link, which you should use when linking to a website you have a financial relationship with (paid links). Google began suggested that ‘no-follow’ link attribute (i.e., rel= “nofollow”) properties should be understood as a ‘hint’ and not as a directive for ranking purposes — a real revolution in the SEO world.

This month, Google also introduced two additional link attributes: ‘sponsored’ (i.e., rel= “sponsored”) and ‘user-generated content’ (i.e., rel= “ugc”).

Although nothing is yet definitive, these actions posed an essential question: how will these new changes affect a site’s ranking? The answer is not that simple! One thing is the official information released by Google, and another thing is the truth in the algorithm.

Nonetheless, by implementing them, you contribute to better the process of how links are analyzed on the web. Additionally, there are many other things to consider, including advertorials.

Consequently, it is highly advisable that you familiarize yourself with the new attributes and know when and how to use them. Below a simple guide:

• Sponsored
Use the ‘sponsored’ attribute to identify links on your site that are created as part of advertisements, sponsorships, or other compensation agreements.

• User-generated Content (UGC)
The UGC attribute value is, as explained in the name, recommended for links within user-generated content (e.g., comments, forum posts.)

• No-follow
Use the ‘no-follow’ attribute for cases where you want to link to a site or page but do not necessarily want to imply any type of endorsement.

Nonetheless, remember the nuances Google looks at between ‘no-follow,’ ‘sponsored,’ and ‘UGC’ attributes will not affect your webpage as the new attributes are voluntary to implement. Therefore, if you create sponsored content, host forums, or encourage comments on your site, consider implementing the unique attributes whenever you can modify your code. If you cannot do it or do not want to, that is also okay.

If you want to know more, there is plenty of information readily available on the web. Plus, Google has released an official statement explaining everything you need to know (and do).

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