Google’s New Link Attributes: What Are They And How Do They Work
Google has dominated the digital sphere so much that “googling” has become synonymous with searching for something online. The company continues to develop its algorithm, and everyone in the tech world looks forward to the updates because the changes will affect all websites’ search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
Last September, Google announced that it had made changes on how their search engine algorithm deciphers and responds to the rel=”nofollow” attribute. This piece of code was first rolled out way back in 2005 to combat web spam by boosting how search engines determine spam links.
Before the “nofollow” algorithm update, all links posted on a website were considered “dofollow”. This became a problem when sites that accepted guest posting reported considerable losses in their search engine rank due to spammy links in their published guest posts and comments sections.
The rel=”nofollow” attribute solved this issue and has been used by all site administrators until now. Read this guide to dofollow links and its nofollow counterpart to get a more comprehensive idea of their significance in SEO.
New Rel Attributes
With the continuous evolution of the web and its users, Google has decided to roll out an update on the rel=”nofollow” attribute. It now serves as a hint on how search engines should identify links with this tag moving forward, rather than ignoring the hyperlinks altogether. The company also added two new codes with specific functions for the benefit of webmasters, businesses, and search engine crawlers.
Here are the new attributes along with the latest function of nofollow:
- Rel=”sponsored” – You can use this tag to inform search engines that a particular link was created as a result of paid sponsorships, advertisements, and other compensation agreements.
- Rel=”ugc” – A lot of websites today continue to accept guest posts. Now, you can tag user-generated content (UGC), like articles, comments, and forum posts, from external sources using this attribute value.
- Rel=”nofollow” – The nofollow tag initially led search engines to ignore the direction of the link. With this update, you may use this attribute to pass along ranking credit to another page without implying any sort of sponsorship or paid endorsements.
As mentioned above, these attribute values work with other signals as hints for Google to analyze the links in their indexes accurately, especially those that have unnatural patterns. These specific codes give site administrators more control over the classification of their hyperlinks, and help determine which ones should be given more weight.
Google has always been refining its platform to improve search. With this update, they continue to deliver instantaneous and relevant results to users.
Things You Should Know
An update on Google’s algorithm always has a significant impact on your website’s SEO, no matter how minor it seems. You may have a lot of questions about the new attribute values, so here are some things you should know about the update:
- Links Are Still Valuable For SEO
Google has always used links as a ranking factor. Its search engine crawlers keep track of incoming and outgoing hyperlinks in your website to evaluate your content and its relevance to particular queries.
In Google’s early days, people could just dump links onto a page and benefit from the ranking credit that it gives. However, this practice failed to provide value to human users.
Plus, its primary objective is to manipulate search bots, and Google doesn’t really like that, so they developed the Panda and subsequent Penguin updates. These changes penalized sites with low-quality content and link spam.
Nowadays, the search engine has become more sophisticated, but you should still have a link building strategy in place if you want to gain the top spots in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for your brand’s target keywords.
Link building is the process of acquiring backlinks or incoming links from external sources. Hyperlinks are used by search engines to crawl through billions of web pages on the World Wide Web, as well as a website’s relevance.
If a site links to your domain, you can be sure that Google’s crawlers will be directed to your website, which, then, increases the chance of indexation or being added to the search engine’s database and boosting searchability. On the side of human users, they can discover your webpage from their favorite blog and get the solutions to their queries, all while promoting your brand.
A backlink is also deemed as a vote of confidence in your content. You’ll be viewed as an authority in your field if you have plenty of backlinks from reputable sources. That’s why it’s crucial that you have a link building strategy.
Here are some link building tips to gain more backlinks:
- Solicit Backlinks – If you haven’t established relationships with other bloggers and site administrators, you can quickly start your link building strategy by asking for in-content backlinks from your family, friends, bosses, and workmates who have websites. Just make sure that their domain is in the same niche as your brand.
- Expand Your Network – Next, you should join communities in your industry to discover potential backlink sources. Read through the posts and contribute relevant information to the group. Active participation can help you gain more contacts and keep you on top of the latest developments in your niche.
- Find Reliable Listings – Another way to get backlinks is by joining online directories. You need to make sure, however, that the website provides valuable information to consumers about your industry, rather than merely being a listing place.
- Create Testimonials – You can also approach your suppliers and ask for backlinks in exchange for testimonials. Most businesses publish customer feedback on their websites as part of their marketing strategy. Often, they include a link to their clients’ sites, so it’s a win-win situation for both of you.
- Do Guest Posting – Similar to testimonials, you can acquire backlinks through guest posting as well. This practice may be the most widely used tactic for link building. It entails connecting with a potential backlink source and asking them to publish an article you wrote that includes a link to your web page. You must remember that a guest post shouldn’t focus on your brand, but on a relevant topic in your industry. It should be well-written and professional-looking, so make sure to keep it free from grammatical errors and typos.
- Blog About Your Industry – You can also start a blog and write about various subjects in your niche. Most businesses dedicate a part of their official website for this purpose. They just append the word “blog” after the URL, such as “mybusiness.com/blog”. Nonetheless, you also have the option to build a separate domain. Remember, however, that you ought to publish posts regularly for your blog to gain authority.
- Research Competitors’ Backlinks – Look for tools online that allow you to scour through the backlink sources of your competitors. This way, you narrow down potential publishers. Contact them and ask if they can give you a backlink as well.
- You Don’t Need To Change Existing Markups
You must not worry about having to do a massive overhaul on your links now that the update has been rolled out. Google has announced on its Webmasters blog that the search engine will continue to support the nofollow attribute if you use it as a way to notify search bots that you don’t vouch for the page you’re linking to and for blocking sponsored links.
The company did make it clear that they encourage site administrators to flag paid links to avoid getting called out for a possible link scheme penalty. Google prefers using the sponsored rel attribute, but the nofollow tag works just as well for this purpose.
- It’s Possible To Use Two Or More Rel Value
You can even combine the values to make the signal more specific. For instance, if you publish guest posts in exchange for compensation, you can tag the links in a contributed article as rel=”ugc sponsored” to indicate that the user-generated content is paid.
Another way to combine the rel values is through rel=”nofollow ugc”, which signals to search engine crawlers that you don’t vouch for the linked web page. This attribute can also be used for making your links backward-compatible with other services that may not support the new codes yet.
- Implementation Is Voluntary
The new attributes were developed to help the search engine understand and navigate through the web better. You should also remember that while there may be SEO implications, you aren’t required to use the latest rel values. Implementation is completely voluntary.
However, compliance may help boost your rank, especially if your website is still young, and you don’t have a lot of outgoing links yet. You can do a backend overhaul with ease and build a solid foundation for future content.
- There Is No Wrong Attribute
For most links, you don’t need to worry about using an incorrect attribute. However, sponsored links are slightly emphasized in Google’s post about the update.
The company explained that when you accidentally mark a UGC or non-ad link as “sponsored”, their algorithm will recognize that hint. However, it won’t have a major impact on ranking–at most, the credit wouldn’t be counted for the other page.
This result doesn’t really have a significant difference from the current UGC that’s flagged as nofollow. In contrast, it’s imperative that you use the sponsored or nofollow attribute values for paid posts to highlight this factor to search engine crawlers.
- The New Attributes Supplement Current Anti-Spam Methods
Now that Google has used the hint model for these rel attributes, you may be asking whether it would bring back link spam in comments and UGC. The company addressed this concern as well, and emphasized that the new values actually help combat spam.
Their premise is that websites accepting third-party content contributions have moderation tools and measures in place to monitor unusual link activity in their platforms. According to them, the UGC and new nofollow function would be a further deterrent to negative SEO.
Moreover, they assured webmasters that the transition to a hint model doesn’t alter the treatment of this type of link. Generally, they won’t be considered for ranking purposes. Nonetheless, the search engine will continue to be careful with the evaluation of links, regardless of whether there’s attribution or not.
Here are a few things you can do to avoid negative SEO on your website:
Use Google Webmaster Email Alerts – Google provides a tool for site administrators that notify you when malware is attacking your website. You’ll also get an email alert if your pages aren’t in the search engine index, your domain is having issues with connecting to the server, or when you have a manual penalty from Google.
Monitor Your Backlinks – Some people may do negative SEO on your website by building low-quality backlinks, which is why you ought to know who is linking to your web pages. There are tools online that help you track bad backlinks so that you can contact the site administrator to have them removed or disavow them with Google.
Identify And Protect Your Best Backlinks – You may also become a victim of having your best backlinks removed. Spammers can contact those sources using your name and request for the link to be erased. In all your correspondence, you should use an email address from your domain to confirm that it’s you who’s talking with them.
Set Up Security Measures – Use two-step verification for your password when you log into your domain and ensure that you use a strong password that includes numbers and special characters. Additionally, always create backups of your files and install an antivirus to avoid malware infections.
Google rolled out an update on the nofollow rel attribute, as well as two new values. Now, the nofollow tag can pass along ranking credit to another page instead of being completely ignored by search engine crawlers.
There’s also the UGC attribute, which you can use for user-generated content, like comments and forum posts. The sponsored tag, on the other hand, is crucial in marking links that come from paid posts.
The impact of these changes in your ranking depends largely on other signals. Nonetheless, Google has always looked favorably upon those who comply with their guidelines, so it wouldn’t hurt to update your backend as well.