“Sponsored” and “UGC” — What Do The New Google Attributes Hide

Recently, Google announced two new link attributes “sponsored” and “ugs” in addition to rel=”nofollow” and rel=”dofollow”. We asked our Promodo SEO specialists what their thoughts are on the latest updates.

The rel=”sponsored” attribute should be used for paid and ad links, the “ugc” value is recommended to use for user-generated content, such as comments or forum posts. Being the moot updates for most SEO specialists, these shall work as hints for Google and not impact your ranking and indexing. Leastwise, until the coming spring.

Back in 2005, launching the nofollow attribute, Google tried to fight comment spam and optimise page rank structure. Among others, the leading search engine promised to penalise web properties which inserted “unnatural” ad links without nofollow. The prohibition led to the transformation of the whole SEO system. Almost all respectful websites like Forbes and Wikipedia began to mark all third-party links as nofollow. Then, less trusted blogs closed guest links (even useful) from indexing. Along with that, a lot of platforms around the world were created to make money on this prohibition. They allowed publishing links under a specific price, to help websites improve the authority artificially.

Now, Google has reviewed the approach and from March 1, 2020, the search engine will stop ignoring nofollow links and begin treating the new nofollow, ugc and sponsored attributes as “hints” which may be used for crawling, indexing or ranking. This is where the hottest discussions arise.

how sponsored attributes affect SEO

Where to use the re=“sponsored” attribute?

The sponsored attribute is recommended to use for those links on your website, which were provided as a part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements. 

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What’s Wrong With “Sponsored” Links? 

SEO specialists comment that the sponsored value can negatively impact the ranking of a website which link was flagged as “sponsored”. Thus, this solution may become a tool for “killing” competitors. 

Last but not least issue is that the attribute may help crawlers identify websites-lawbreakers. Since using a lot of sponsored attributes, a website avows that it buys or sells links, which is officially forbidden

“The sponsored attribute currently causes many ambiguities, — says Oleksiy Shatrov, a PHP developer and SEO specialist at Promodo, — It will be unlikely used on websites which sell links, since being caught, they will immediately receive tons of negative reviews from webmasters and lose revenue. Perhaps, the only real use of the sponsored attribute (in case of proven effectiveness) is to add it to links from posts, bio or comments in order to reduce the value of links that link builders put in manual or automatic modes.

Although a link builder may refuse to place a link on the resource manually, the automatic mode can demonstrate a negative effect, since sponsored attributes can be used to lower the competitor’s position.

On the other side of the coin, this may turn out that using a really useful link on a well-moderated website may harm the acceptor website, which should not be supposed to be”.

Where to use the re=“ugc” attribute?

This attribute is recommended to use for links within user-generated content, however, if UGC content was provided by a trusted contributor, you may use “dofollow” value.

The UGC attribute seems to be a positive update

SEO experts have fewer questions for this attribute. They consider this value should be used widely in case of positive results after testing.

Serhii Bely, an SEO specialist at Promodo, comments, that if the UGC attribute will work in the same way as rel = “nofollow”, then it will be systematically included in a linking strategy, in certain percentage correlation. Perhaps, links in comments marked with “ugc” will provide more weight than rel = “nofollow”, but less than links without attributes. To uncover the effect, the ugc attribute should be tested on a large scale.

However, experts recommend to hold off on immediate implementation. If “ugc” demonstrates a positive effect, there probably will be an abuse of the attribute (the same as with rating stars and portraits of users from Google+ on websites.) The best tactic, for now, is to keep calm and wait.

Let’s Sum Up

We cannot be sure about how the new link attributes will impact your website ranking indexing from March 2020 and later. But currently, SEO specialists at Promodo agree with Google that you shouldn’t update old attributes. 

We would recommend using the ugc value for links in comments or forum posts, and keep using the nofollow attribute for ad third-party links if you do not consider contributors to be trusted enough. 

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“Sponsored” and “UGC” — What Do The New Google Attributes Hide

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