Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Nearly 15 years ago, the
attribute was introduced
as a means to help fight comment spam. It also quickly became one of Google's
for flagging advertising-related or sponsored links. The web has evolved since nofollow was
introduced in 2005 and it's time for nofollow to evolve as well.
Today, we're announcing two new link attributes that provide webmasters with additional ways
to identify to Google Search the nature of particular links. These, along with
rel="sponsored": Use the sponsored attribute to identify links on your site that were created as part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.
rel="ugc": UGC stands for User Generated Content, and the
ugcattribute value is recommended for links within user generated content, such as comments and forum posts.
rel="nofollow": 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.
When nofollow was introduced, Google would not count any link marked this way as a signal to use
within our search algorithms.
This has now changed. All the link attributes—
nofollow—are treated as
hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. We'll use these hints—along with
other signals—as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.
Why not completely ignore such links, as had been the case with
nofollow? Links contain valuable
information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content
they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural
linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while
still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn't be given the weight of a first-party
We know these new attributes will generate questions, so here's an FAQ that we hope covers most of those.
Do I need to change my existing nofollows?
No. 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
nofollow links that you already have.
Can I use more than one
rel value on a link?
Yes, you can use more than one
rel value on a link. For example,
rel="ugc sponsored" is a
perfectly valid attribute which hints that the link came from user-generated content and is
sponsored. It's also valid to use
nofollow with the new attributes—such as
you wish to be backwards-compatible with services that don't support the new attributes.
If I use
nofollow for ads or sponsored links, do I need to change those?
No. You can keep using
nofollow as a method
for flagging such links to avoid possible link scheme penalties. You don't need to change any
existing markup. If you have systems that append this to new links, they can continue to do so.
However, we recommend switching over to
rel="sponsored" if or when it is convenient.
Do I still need to flag ad or sponsored links?
Yes. If you want to avoid a possible link
scheme action, use
rel="nofollow" to flag these links. We prefer the use
sponsored, but either is fine and will be treated the same, for this purpose.
What happens if I use the wrong attribute on a link?
There's no wrong attribute except in the case of sponsored links. If you flag a UGC link or a
non-ad link as
sponsored, we'll see that hint but the impact—if any at all—would be
at most that we might not count the link as a credit for another page. In this regard, it's no
different than the status quo of many UGC and non-ad links already marked as
It is an issue going the opposite way. Any link that is clearly an ad or sponsored should use
nofollow, as described above. Using
is preferred, but
nofollow is acceptable.
Why should I bother using any of these new attributes?
Using the new attributes allows us to better process links for analysis of the web. That can include your own content, if people who link to you make use of these attributes.
Won't changing to a "hint" approach encourage link spam in comments and UGC content?
Many sites that allow third-parties to contribute to content already deter link spam in a variety
of ways, including moderation tools that can be integrated into many blogging platforms and human
review. The link attributes of
nofollow will continue to be a further deterrent. In
most cases, the move to a hint model won't change the nature of how we treat such links. We'll
generally treat them as we did with
nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes.
We will still continue to carefully assess how to use links within Search, just as we always have
and as we've had to do for situations where no attributions were provided.
When do these attributes and changes go into effect?
All the link attributes,
nofollow, now work today as hints for us to
incorporate for ranking purposes. For crawling and indexing purposes,
nofollow will become a hint
as of March 1, 2020. Those depending on nofollow solely to block a page from being indexed (which
was never recommended) should use one of the much more robust mechanisms listed on our
how to block URLs from Google help page.