On September 10th 2019 Google announced two new ways that they will use to identify the nature of links.
This will identify links that are paid for. From the perspective of the betting industry Affiliate sites will be the main category that this will apply to.
However, links from sports/athlete sites should also contain this attribute.
This applies to links from user-generated content. So, now links in comments and forums should be tagged “ugc.” It may have further implications on social media platforms and even YouTube.
Oh and don’t worry from an operator perspective the webmasters on the respective sites will take care of the tags. Most of them will currently be “nofollow” anyway.
Why Are They Doing This
In summary, brand ranking signals.
We believe that sponsored links from high authority sites are likely to be viewed as a brand ranking signal. For example, many bookies sponsor sports teams. Now, these sponsorship links can be flagged correctly by Google.
Depending on how you look at it, sponsoring a sports league/team and getting a “follow” link now may not work. Google will be aware that it is a sponsored link and therefore should be tagged correctly.
Although Google says there is no need to take action by changing nofollow links. It does say that rel=”sponsored” should replace rel=”nofollow” when it is convenient.
So, from an affiliate’s perspective, Google may reward sites that indicate sponsored links. It also makes the outbound link profile of an affiliate site look more natural than just using the traditional “nofollow” attribute.
A Resurgence in Link Building?
Some people I have talked to believe that this could encourage a renaissance in link building. By tagging links as “sponsored” you are being upfront with Google and they won’t penalise. However, Google is too smart for this.
There probably will be a resurgence in dodgy link farms messaging marketing managers on Linked In but Rankbrain will be able to identify this activity. Therefore, it won’t have any positive impact on rankings and most likely cause a negative result.
The effects of this change will become apparent to businesses that regularly monitor backlinks.
The questions are –
a) Will first-mover sites that change their attribute on outbound links from “nofollow” to “sponsored” see an uplift in their rankings?
b) If sites see a change in inbound link attributes will they also see a change in ranking?