Google introduces new rel attributes, ucg and sponsored

Google announced today that it introduces two new rel-attributes for links. For years, the rel="nofollow" attribute on links has been used to indicate that a link should not be followed by Google. The main use was to avoid link-scheme penalties from Google. 

Today, Google announced that this attribute will only be considered a hint, instead of a clear directive. Additionally, two new attributes have been introduced:

  • rel="ugc", for user generated content, in other words content you don't have much control over, like comments and forum posts.
  • rel="sponsored", for sponsored content (i.e., they're paying you to place that link)

Both types can also be combined. rel="nofollow ugc" is also a valid attribute.

What to do?

If you're using no-follow links for sponsored, you don't need to change anything. Google said that you can still use nofollow as you did before. They do recommend to change it to sponsored eventually.

Why use nofollow or sponsored?

Links from one website to the other are considered a vote on that second website. It's a way for Google to identify which websites are important and should be ranked on top of the results.

If you have ads or sponsored links on your site, Google doesn't want to consider those links as a 'vote' on that site. By adding a nofollow attribute to it, you indicate to search engines: yes, I'm linking to it, but don't see this as a vote for that website. The newly added sponsored attribute will serve the same purpose.

If you want to make changes, you have plenty of time. Google will consider nofollow a hint as of March 1, 2020.