It’s been a busy year for SEO and Google has turned up the heat with some brand new rules in terms of link building best practice. No longer is it as simple as links belonging to the two traditional binary dofollow or nofollow categories. There are now 2 new extra backlink types that will have an impact on SEOs. Before we get into that let’s explain how dofollow and nofollow backlinks work as the background is important in understanding the new system.
What is a dofollow backlink?
A dofollow backlink passes the authority from a referring website to its linked website. Google’s crawlers (user agents) count these links and their anchor texts. As a result dofollow backlinks will directly contribute to backlink profiles as they send a valid signal to search engines (having passed the crawlers’ tests) to describe the linked website.
What is a nofollow backlink?
Nofollow backlink does not pass the authority because the tag rel=”nofollow” in the HTML code of the website tells crawlers not to follow these backlinks. Google does not transfer the authority or anchor text across nofollow links.
What is the new system?
Google has unveiled two new link attributes, to overhaul its link building guidelines, leaving 3 ways (instead of simply nofollow) to flag up sponsored or advertised links. The traditional ‘dofollow’ remains valid for organic backlinks.
The new methods Google has unveiled for flagging up sponsored and non-organic backlinks are as follows:
SEOs should use this for links that are associated with advertising, have been paid for or sponsored.
The ‘ugc’ stands for user generated content. This tag is used for backlinks in forum posts and associated comments.
This is still valid for backlinks you don’t want to take credit for. In addition you can combine ‘sponsored’ and ‘nofollow’ for paid links - Rel=”nofollow sponsored”.
The overhaul is designed to assist Google in better determining whether to crawl links or not. In other words, which should be included in searches, thus contributing to your position in the search rankings or not. This is crucial in their fight to help the whole system to reward organic backlinks as opposed to whoever can throw as much money at sponsored backlinks as possible.
How does this affect approaches to SEO?
Any changes to what is already a significantly different SEO landscape than, say, ten years ago, will be greeted with scepticism by SEOs, but at the root of Google’s objectives lies user satisfaction, which in the long term will only be a good thing for web managers and the companies they work for. You see, the algorithms used by Google and other search engines to rank search results is not immune to error. It is because of this that SEOs and webmasters are urged and indeed incentivised to label their backlinks efficiently and accurately. This will serve to speed up the crawling process and help increase the accuracy of algorithms. In the long term this will level the playing field, encouraging the forging of organic backlinks. You may, with time see a degree of appreciation from Google’s end for UGC backlinks. It remains to be seen just how, but industry insiders have predicted a softening of Google’s stance on this particular kind of backlink.
In the short term, however, legitimate, organic backlinks are the way forward for SEOs. Google’s link building guidelines will mean that for now, the proliferation of ‘sponsored’ and ‘ugc’ backlinks will end. Existing sites will be patched up, with such links being correctly labelled and efforts will be made, especially via guest posting to gain organic, high quality backlinks.