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Google Search will use nofollow, sponsored, and ugc link attributes as "hints"

Google has announced two new link attributes, "sponsored" and "ugc". Those, in addition to "nofollow",  will provide hints about what links Google will consider or exclude from search.

In 2005, Google introduced the rel="nofollow" link attribute as a way for bloggers to "prevent comment spam". Adding that attribute meant that "those links won't get any credit" when Google ranked websites in the Google Search results.

Google has also long recommended that sponsored or advertising links be given the "nofollow" attribute so they not be considered part of a "Link Scheme". And "nofollow" is used by bloggers and webmasters to link to sites they don't necessarily want to endorse.

There are now two new link attributes webmasters can use:

rel="sponsored" can be used to identify advertising or compensated links.

rel="ugc" can be used to identify links in User Generated Content, such as comments and forum posts.

rel="nofollow" can continue to be used to identify links that you don't want to endorse.

The way Google treats such links has also changed. It's no longer the case nofollowed links will be ignored. Instead Google will treat the attributes as hints about which links to consider or exclude from the Search results.

Why this change? Google explains:
Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.
While "nofollow", "sponsored" and "ugc" are now working as hints for ranking purposes, "nofollow" will not start being used as a hint for crawling and indexing until March 1, 2020.  

What does this change mean for bloggers?

According the the FAQ, here's what this change means in practical terms for bloggers and webmasters:
  • You do not need to change existing "nofollow" to "sponsored" or "ugc"
  • You can continue to use "nofollow" to mark sponsored or advertising links, but "sponsored" is preferred. (And you should be marking such links one way or another)
  • You can use more than one rel value on a link, like rel="nofollow ugc" or rel="ugc sponsored" if more than one attribute fits
  • If you are using "nofollow" to prevent a publicly accessible webpage from being indexed by Google, you should use robots.txt or meta tags instead.
If you have a Blogger blog, you can currently select the option to add rel="nofollow" when you add or edit a link. 
 You can change "nofollow" to "sponsored" by switching the post editor from Compose mode to HTML mode and manually editing the link.
<a href="" rel="nofollow">Google explains</a>
If this were a link Google was compensating me to add, I could change the "nofollow" to "sponsored". (But no, I don't get compensation from Google for linking to them.)

Blogger, WordPress and many other blogging platforms automatically add "nofollow" to links in the comments section. 

There has not been any indication whether "ugc" will eventually automatically be added to comment links, but from Google's FAQ it sounds like it should be fine to continue to use "nofollow" instead.

Update: Googlers Danny SullivanGary Illyes and John Mueller have been answering questions on Twitter. Barry Schwartz has an overview of what they wrote at Search Engine Roundtable, but this is the key message: you don't need to change how you have been using nofollow, as long as you have been following Google's Webmaster guidelines.
More information and FAQs: