Google announced in an official blog post that it changes the way it treats nofollow links. Until now, nofollow links were not considered by Google’s ranking algorithm. Google has introduced new link attributes and nofollow links are going to be seen as ‘hints’.
There are two new link attributes
When Google introduced the nofollow attribute about 15 years ago, it was introduced as a means to fight comment spam. The nofollow attribute was also used to flag sponsored links. As the web has evolved since 2005, Google has introduced two new link attributes for sponsored content and user-generated content.
1. The new rel=”sponsored” attribute
The new rel=”sponsored” should be used to identify links on your site that were created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements:
<a href=”https://www.example.com” rel=”sponsored”>This is a paid link</a>
2. The new rel=”ugc” attribute
UGC stands for ‘User Generated Content’. The ugc attribute value is recommended for links within user generated content, such as comments and forum posts:
<a href=”https://www.example.com” rel=”ugc”>This link was created by a user</a>
3. The changed rel=”nofollow” attribute
Use this attribute for cases where you want to link to a page but don’t want to imply any type of endorsement, including passing along ranking credit to another page:
<a href=”https://www.example.com” rel=”nofollow”>We do not endorse this site</a>
These links are ‘hints’
Previously, Google would not count any nofollow link as a signal to use within the search algorithms. This has now changed.
Google treats all link attributes (sponsored, UGC and nofollow) as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. Google does not ignore these links completely as links contain valuable information that can help Google improve search. For example, the words within links describe the content they point at.
You don’t have to change anything (but you can)
Although it is not necessary to change your existing nofollow links, you might want to use the new link attributes for future links:
- If you use nofollow now as a way to block sponsored links, or to signify that you don’t vouch for a page you link to, that will continue to be supported.
- There’s absolutely no need to change any nofollow links that you already have.
- You can use more than one attribute, for example, rel=”ugc sponsored” or rel=”nofollow ugc”.
- If you want to avoid a possible link scheme action, use rel=”sponsored” or rel=”nofollow” to flag these links.
According to Google, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how Google treats such links. It will treat them as it did with nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes.
All the link attributes, sponsored, ugc and nofollow, now work today as hints for Google to incorporate for ranking purposes. For crawling and indexing purposes, nofollow will become a hint as of March 1, 2020.
Bing also treats the nofollow attribute as a hint
Bing’s Fabrice Canel said on Twitter that Bing has always treated the nofollow attribute as a ‘hint’:
Historically at @bing, we always treated the nofollow link attribute as a ‘hint’, making our own decision on trusting or not trusting. Please continue using this ‘hint’ and other link functions as sponsored and ugc as appropriate.— Fabrice Canel (@facan) September 10, 2019
Nofollow in meta robots.txt is also a hint
Google’s Gary Illyes said on Twitter that robots meta nofollow is just nofollow applied on all links of the page. Meta robots nofollow is a hint now, like rel-nofollow. There’s no meta robots ugc and sponsored, it won’t do anything if you add that to the meta robots tag.
How to find nofollow links that point to your website
The link attributes ‘sponsored’ and ‘ugc’ are new so there aren’t links that use them yet. To find link that use the nofollow attribute to link to your website, just use the Link Profiler tool in SEOprofiler:
You can create your free SEOprofiler account here: