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Nofollow, UGC, and Sponsored Attributes


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With Ahrefs data for the top 110k sites. Patrick Stox presenting at SMX West 2020.

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Nofollow, UGC, and Sponsored Attributes

  2. 2. @patrickstox • Product Advisor, Technical SEO, & Brand Ambassador at • I wrote for Search Engine Land, now Ahrefs blog • I speak at some conferences like SMX, Pubcon, UnGagged, TechSEO Boost • Organizer for the Raleigh SEO Meetup (most successful in US), the Beer & SEO Meetup, the Raleigh SEO Conference, and Findability Conference • Judge: 2017/18/19 US Search Awards, 2017/18/19 UK Search Awards, 2018/19 Interactive Marketing Awards • Founder Technical SEO Slack Group (message me for invite) • Moderator /r/TechSEO on Reddit Who is Patrick Stox?
  3. 3. @patrickstox A Brief History of Nofollow With The Plot of Some Book/Movie
  4. 4. @patrickstox In The Beginning
  5. 5. @patrickstox Spam
  6. 6. @patrickstox Google Landed In The Fight
  7. 7. @patrickstox Everyone wanted Google’s PageRank PageRank
  8. 8. @patrickstox The Quest: Add Nofollow Attributes
  9. 9. @patrickstox comment-spam.html They Needed Help To Fight The Spam
  10. 10. @patrickstox spam.html Originally to combat comment spam <a rel="nofollow“ href=“”>don’t trust</a> Story 408: Nofollow
  11. 11. @patrickstox Brad Fitzpatrick - LiveJournal Dave Winer - Scripting News Anil Dash - Six Apart Steve Jenson - Blogger Matt Mullenweg - WordPress Stewart Butterfield - Flickr Anthony Batt - Buzznet David Czarnecki - blojsom Rael Dornfest - Blosxom Mike Torres - MSN Spaces Platforms Helped Them
  12. 12. @patrickstox Ross Rader - Blogware John Panzer - AOL Journals Kevin Marks - of Technorati also added a draft formal spec for nofollow. Reini Urban - PhpWiki David Gorman - ModBlog Arnab Nandi - Drupal James Tauber - Leonardo Jeremie Bouillon - points out a GPL plugin for Textpattern Simon Brown - Pebble Ilkka Huotari - Netdoc Shaun Inman - ShortStat Eaden McKee - bBlog Yariv Habot - backBlog John Lyons - enetation Steven Roussey - Network54 Will Yardley - Dreambook Samuel Klingen Daams - Travellerspoint Even More Platforms Helped Them
  13. 13. @patrickstox SEOs The Journey Was Fraught With Peril
  14. 14. @patrickstox Bought And Exchanged Links
  15. 15. @patrickstox Spammed Article Sites, Directories, Press Releases, Forum Links and Forum Profile Links
  16. 16. @patrickstox PageRank Sculpting
  17. 17. @patrickstox Widgets And Templates
  18. 18. @patrickstox Web 2.0 Links And Tiered Linkbuilding
  19. 19. @patrickstox Google Fought Back: Penguin Spam
  20. 20. @patrickstox on-building-high-quality.html More guidance on building high-quality sites (EAT) Story 408: Recommended Reading
  21. 21. @patrickstox Some Wizard Guy Sort Of Helped Everyone
  22. 22. @patrickstox
  23. 23. @patrickstox You Either Die A Hero, Or You Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become The Villain
  24. 24. @patrickstox Businesses Shut Down, SEOs Feared Google
  25. 25. @patrickstox Links sellers, spam, and fear of penalties pushed many sites to nofollow all links. Many Sites Over-Reacted: Sitewide Nofollow
  26. 26. @patrickstox I’m not going to name names, but this happened in many niches and many countries. There were lots of weird Penguin recovery strategies too. In Some Cases Nofollowing Outbound Links Became A Recommended Strategy
  27. 27. @patrickstox Others Continued In Different Ways
  28. 28. @patrickstox Redirecting Expired Domains Or Building On Them
  29. 29. @patrickstox It was popular especially among affiliates to route through a path that was blocked from crawling or use JavaScript. Hidden Links
  30. 30. @patrickstox PBNs (Private Blog Networks)
  31. 31. @patrickstox Guest Posting
  32. 32. @patrickstox Google Now Penalizing Subdomains Leasing, Not Just Subfolder Leasing leasing-28203.html Subdomain Leasing
  33. 33. @patrickstox Some Still Cling To The Old Ways
  34. 34. @patrickstox Penguin no longer penalizes, it just ignores bad links They were already ignoring signals from many links like affiliate links which they recommended people nofollow Softer, Gentler Google
  35. 35. @patrickstox nofollow-new-ways-to-identify.html <a rel=“sponsored“ href=“”>I bought</a> <a rel=“ugc“ href=“”>It wasn’t me</a> New Attributes Sponsored And UGC
  36. 36. @patrickstox rel="sponsored“ Mark links that are advertisements or paid placements (commonly called paid links) as sponsored. Sponsored
  37. 37. @patrickstox Sponsored Applies To Affiliante Links Also
  38. 38. @patrickstox rel="ugc“ We recommend marking user-generated content (UGC) links, such as comments and forum posts, as ugc. UGC
  39. 39. @patrickstox Within A Day, Barry Already Used The New Attributes
  40. 40. @patrickstox Ahrefs Added Support In Less Than 2 Days
  41. 41. @patrickstox • Completely Ignored • Was not used for crawling • Did not pass signals Nofollow Before For Google
  42. 42. @patrickstox • PageRank • Anchor Text • ??? What Are Signals
  43. 43. @patrickstox Treated as hints for Ranking Same with Sponsored and UGC Nofollow Now
  44. 44. @patrickstox Is Nofollow Used For Ranking Yet?
  45. 45. @patrickstox Will Also be treated as a hint for crawling and indexing March 1, 2020 Nofollow Soon
  46. 46. @patrickstox Anchor text likely greater signal gain than PageRank The crawling and indexing part is even more important Likely used for better spam identification Range of values passed. Full, partial, none Signals Speculation
  47. 47. @patrickstox I need a rel=“meh” that passes partial signals. ***this is not a thing What About Something For Those Of Us That Can’t Decide
  48. 48. @patrickstox Google Missing 50% Of The Web
  49. 49. @patrickstox Google Missing 50% Of The Web
  50. 50. @patrickstox Google Missing 50% Of The Web
  51. 51. @patrickstox It had become a common practice to nofollow all external links. Wikipedia - 2007 News sites – Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, CNN, NFL Many sites in certain countries Why Did They Change Nofollow?
  52. 52. @patrickstox Why Did They Change Nofollow?
  53. 53. @patrickstox Kind Google: You Don’t Have To Change Anything
  54. 54. @patrickstox Kind Google: You Don’t Have To Change Anything
  55. 55. @patrickstox • 15.3% nofollow • 0.44% ugc • 0.1% sponsored Data For Top 110k Sites By Ahrefs Rank % Of Unique Domains Linking To Sites With Attribute
  56. 56. @patrickstox • 10.6% nofollow • 0.016% ugc • 0.008% sponsored Data For Top 110k Sites By Ahrefs Rank External Link Totals
  57. 57. @patrickstox • 38,841 / 110,000 nofollow • 3,367 / 110,000 ugc • 151 / 110,000 sponsored Data For Top 110k Sites By Ahrefs Rank Count Of Domains Using Attributes On Internal Links
  58. 58. @patrickstox • 3.6% nofollow • 0.0002% ugc • 0.0016% sponsored Data For Top 110k Sites By Ahrefs Rank Internal Link Totals
  59. 59. @patrickstox Share these #SMXInsights on your social channels! • Websites are adopting ugc and sponsored • Websites are likely overusing nofollow on external and internal links
  60. 60. @patrickstox Like Before, Partners Will Help Drive Adoption Bing
  61. 61. @patrickstox Ugc: • 5,653 WordPress • 7 Tiki Wiki • 2 Wix • 1 Drupal • 1 SharePoint Like Before, Partners Will Help Drive Adoption *Alpha CMS identifier, out of 7,130 sites: Sponsored: • 1,842 WordPress • 1 Wix • 1 Tiki Wiki
  62. 62. @patrickstox Added ugc in 5.3 WordPress
  63. 63. @patrickstox Without any incentives or penalties, adoption will likely be slow This Might Take A While
  64. 64. @patrickstox Or Not:
  65. 65. @patrickstox Google: Good SEOs, Here’s A Carrot
  66. 66. @patrickstox What Else Should You Know
  67. 67. @patrickstox rel="nofollow ugc“ – forum comments, blog comments rel="ugc sponsored“ – advertorials, paid guest posts You Can Use More Than One Attribute
  68. 68. @patrickstox According to the HTML spec, they should use a space to separate. Google will handle spaces, commas, and other punctuation. Rel Attributes Are Parsed With Flexible Standards
  69. 69. @patrickstox You can’t use these new attributes at a page level like you could with nofollow. They apply as attributes on specific links. <a rel=“nofollow” href=“”>attributes can be added here</a> Not Here: <meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow"/> Tip: Don’t Confuse Link Attribute & Meta Robots
  70. 70. @patrickstox Delete Password Protection Noindex (but not in robots.txt) Don’t Use Nofollow To Block Pages From Being Indexed
  71. 71. @patrickstox SEE YOU AT THE NEXT SMX!