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Nofollow, UGC or Sponsored? The Link Attribute Explained

stevenvvessum profile image Steven van Vessum ・2 min read

Although the whole nofollow attribute game changed significantly in the world of SEO, it still remains an important factor to consider when creating links, both within your website and from other sites to yours.

This also applies to the new attribute values: sponsored and UGC.

The nofollow link attribute value—also known as the link builders’ most tolerated enemy—was first introduced in 2005 to tackle spammy links within comments and message boards that were aimed to game Google's system.

Since its implementation, Google required all unnaturally created links to be marked with the nofollow link attribute so that it could understand the true origin of the link.

Apart from indicating the link’s origin, it also signals search engines that they should neither follow the link to the target page nor pass any authority.

However, this world’s biggest search engine’s adamant approach towards unnatural links has changed significantly. In September 2019, Google announced that they wouldn’t consider the rel="nofollow" link attribute as an undeniable directive, and would start treating it as a mere hint instead.

They implemented this change in March 2020 and as part of their new policy, they introduced two new attribute values: rel="sponsored" for paid and sponsored links (such as affiliate backlinks) and rel="ugc" for user-generated links coming from comments, forums or message boards.

The new attribute values can be combined with other values, such as the nofollow itself.

When to use nofollow link attribute

However, despite the current changes, the core principles of using the nofollow attribute value remain and it pays off to remind ourselves why and when we should keep on using it.

In general, we should use the nofollow link attribute when a link hasn’t occurred naturally or isn’t being earned via genuine interest. It should be implemented in these examples:

Cases where you need to link, but don’t want to be associated * with the link target

  • Widgets
  • Certification badges
  • Press releases

In addition, the new “sponsored” link attribute value should indicate any sponsored or paid links, while “UGC” should mark user-generated content links in forums, message boards, and comments. Bear in mind that links without nofollow should be the result of genuine interest only.

Piqued your interest? We've explained other uses for these link attributes in Nofollow link and rel=nofollow explained.

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Steven van Vessum

@stevenvvessum

I've been in SEO since 2006, and I bake amazing 🥞

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