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Google Introduces New Attributes for Links


15 years ago, Google introduced the nofollow attribute as a means of combating link spam in comments. Today, Google has introduced new attributes for links. What for?

Since its introduction, Google has recommended using the nofollow attribute to “label” sponsored and advertising links. Since then, the worldwide network has changed significantly and requires new rules for link correction.

Today, Google introduced two new link attributes to enable webmasters to tell search the nature of the link.

sponsored - the sponsored attribute is recommended to indicate links for which the webmaster received a reward. This is usually sponsored or advertising publications.
ugc - a user attribute is recommended to indicate links that appear in user-generated content (User Generated Content); for example, comments, forum topics.
nofollow - continue to use this attribute when you need to link to the page, but you don’t need to transfer the link weight.

Google did not consider links with nofollow in the ranking. Now the search is moving to a new model of link valuation. All of the listed attributes are used by the algorithms as signals indicating whether the link should be considered or not.

Why can't Google just ignore such links?
All links contain important information that helps improve search quality. For example, the link text describes the content on the page that the link calls.

If the algorithm takes into account all the links, this will help to better identify link schemes that violate the search rules. The introduction of a new model of link accounting will allow the search not to lose important information, while webmasters will be able to indicate to the search engine that some links should not be taken into account in the ranking.

Do webmasters need to edit all the links with nofollow that are already on the site?
No. If you use the nofollow attribute to indicate sponsored links or not to transfer the link weight of the cited page, then nothing needs to be changed. Accounting for this attribute does not change.

Can I apply multiple attributes to a single link?
Yes, you can apply multiple attributes to a single link. For example, you may have such an attribute ugc sponsored, which indicates that the link is sponsored and is in the user content.

You can also use nofollow paired with new attributes. For example, nofollow ugc will indicate that this is a custom link and that it does not transfer weight.

If I used the nofollow attribute to indicate sponsored and advertising links, do I need to change anything?
No, you can continue to use the nofollow attribute to label such links in order to avoid suspicion of participation in link schemes. You do not need to change any existing markup.

If the site has a setting that applies the nofollow attribute to links of a certain type, then you can also not change anything. Although Google recommends that you use the correct attributes in the future for new links.

Are sponsorsed and advertised links required?
Yes, if you want to avoid penalties for link exchanges, then use the sponsor or nofollow attributes. It is preferable to use a sponsor attribute, but you can use nofollow, the system equally takes into account links with these attributes.

What happens if I put the wrong attribute?
There is no invalid attribute, except in the case of sponsored links. If you mistakenly mark a custom or non-advertising, natural link as a sponsored link, the search engine will only see a signal, as a result, nothing will happen. At most, a natural link may not convey the link weight to the cited site.

For promotional links, Google strongly recommends using the sponsored attribute.

Why is it necessary to apply attributes to links?
Attributes allow us to more accurately analyze the global network and get more data.

Will the new model provoke a wave of link spam in the comments and user content?
Many sites open to user-generated content have already encountered link spam anyway. New attributes are just an auxiliary tool.

Switching to a new model does not mean that Google will begin to take these links differently. The algorithm will continue to consider these links as before. They do not affect the ranking.

When will the new attributes and changes take effect?
New attributes are already working and can be used by webmasters to tell the search more data about the nature of links. These signals will then be used to improve ranking algorithms. It will be possible to use nofollow as a ban for indexing until March 1, 2020 (information from Google’s comments on Twitter).

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