Introducing the Nofollow, Sponsored, & UGC Links and How do they Impact SEO?

Introducing the Nofollow, Sponsored, & UGC Links

We must have heard about an announcement made by Google on 10th September 2019 in which Google has announced two more attributes which are denoted as siblings of ‘NoFollow” attributes which are “Sponsored” & “UGC”. Of course, we will read about these terms in detail as well.

How do our regular Links look like?

<a href="">Link text>

the mentioned Url is treated as a regular link that is crawled and can affect the ranking. It is not giving any information to google whether it is DoFollow or NoFollow so it is up to Google How to treat.

Now the question raises if NoFollow link was working fine, how these two attributes raised? What was the reason behind that? Does it Impact SEO or not? So let's get into it.

A brief about NoFollow Link:-

As we know, the NoFollow link was introduced in 2005 which means to link another site within one site. We all know about this “Nofollow” link and we do follow in our routine SEO as well. Say, for example, if we are integrating Facebook and other social icons on our website, we would prefer to provide them the “NoFollow” attributes to decrease the number of outbound links.

How “NoFollow” attribute works:-

<a href="" rel="nofollow">Link text>

The purpose of the “NoFollow” attribute in SEO is to inform the Google that link should not parse page rank and should not affect the page rank of that particular URL. The purpose of Nofollow links is to reduce spam. As we are aware, the use of the NoFollow attribute allowed webmasters to prevent page rank parsing through links they didn't endorse internally or externally. The simple means is just to direct the page from one page to another page without creating any Spam.

NoFollow Links were encouraged by Webmaster to prevent Google from crawling, indexing and analyzing the link which is not associated with one’s site. This is an ideal option for marking up unapproved links that you don't want Google to be crawled.

Now, In September 2019, Google announced 2 siblings of Nofollow attribute i.e. “Sponsored” & “UGC”. Yes, they do exist today; SEO theory and some of us are still unaware of these terms. It won't affect the SEO entirely, However, it will work as “Hint” to Google to crawl that particular link or to Avoid. Before going forward, we should study bout these attributes:-

Nofollow Sponsored Ugc links
Sponsored Link Attribute

As its names suggest, it seems like an advertising term. So people who want to endorse someone, running a part of advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements, can use these attributes. This and NoFollow, both have no editorial endorsement as per the webmaster’s perspectives, but Google can decipher advertising from “untrustworthiness” from this “Sponsored” attribute.

<a href="" rel="sponsored">Link text>

This is preferred by the Google as it is used to markup all paid links, sponsored Links or affiliate link even (although no potential information has been received by the Google yet)

UGC Attribute

The term resembles user-generated content attributes which will allow the webmaster to differentiate the specific hyperlinks on the website. This will give the hint to google that it is not a part of advertising and It is self User-generated Content in the form of Comments, Forum posting, etc. Of Course, this attribute aims to prevent the spamming as well.

<a href="" rel="ugc">Link text>

Again this link is used to markup the user-generated content which is relevant for the destination URL in form Comment and forum posting. The Google guidelines do, however, make exceptions for the omission of the UGC attribute in the markup of links submitted by trusted contributors.

If NoFollow Link was working fine, then what was need of “Sponsored” & “UGC”?

Why can't we just stick to NoFollow? Yes, Nofollow links were working fine since its inducement, yet these two links will give a better definition & clear picture to Google about natural and unnatural backlinks. Apart from that, These attributes will assist Google to check the relevancy of an anchor text about Destination Content. So it will also protect the interest of site owners against untrusted links.

How do the Nofollow, Sponsored, & UGC Updates Affect Webmasters?

As we know, NoFollow attributes save the interest of Site owners through which they could mislead Google with advertising and Untrusted links as well. Due to which google was losing the potential information such as which link is informative, which is spammy or promotional, which is created by webmaster & Users etc.

So Can these attributes be used with the NoFollow Attribute?

Yes, we can, For example, if we are using some paid links or sponsored links, we could use the attribute:-

<a href="" rel=“nofollow sponsored">Link text>

If we want to highlight the relevant link which is user generated, we can use:-

<a href="" rel=“nofollow ugc">Link text>

If we are already using the NoFollow attributes for Sponsored or relevant links, we do not need to change them as Google recommends to use the future link with these new attributes whenever it is convenient.

Note: It is to be noted that Google won't punish or offer any incentive to correct the URLs, however, we can use these attributes in the Future to inform Google with the relevant attributes to make the destination site more trustworthy.

When Will the Nofollow, Sponsored, & UGC Links Be Implemented?

Google has started working on these attributes so changing the existing Links will be treated as Hints by Google so no need to change the existing URLs. We may start working for new links and attributes after March 2020 onwards. To get the completed information and give the right information to Google.


This new update has raised too many questions in users to mind so here is some of the doubts a user may have:-

Do I need to rethink my existing nofollow attributes?

Not actually. NoFollow attribute work as blocking a paid or sponsored link on your site. Existing links will continue to function as earlier, so no action is required.

Can we use the Combo of attributes?

YES. For the paid & sponsored links, We can use the NoFollow & Sponsored Attribute. For the UGC link, we can use the NoFollow & UGC attribute. And the links which partially paid and partially user-generated can use the Sponsored & UGC attribute altogether.

<a href="" rel="sponsored ugc">Link text>

But these attributes may not work with all the new services so using NoFollow attribute with Sponsored and UGC tag can be the safest & recommend option.

Do I have to completely stop using nofollow for sponsored links and UGC links?

Not actually, use the NoFollow attributes to cover the Sponsored and UGC attribute as you were doing earlier. but to cover the markup of links, it is always recommended to use the relevant attributes with the combination of NoFollow with Sponsored & UGC.

Do I still have to highlight ads and sponsored links?

yes, if the contents are completely paid and sponsored and advertising, so better to use the recommended attribute only to avoid punishments. Avoid action by flagging paid/sponsored links with either the ‘nofollow’ or the ‘sponsored’ attribute.

Won’t the knowledge that links are seen as “hints” lead to an increase in link spam from user-generated content?

As such no correct information has been received as the data can be retrieved only after working on this attribute only.

Stay Tuned!!

Sachin Gupta

Author Sachin Gupta - Digital Marketing Consultant


Read More: About Sachin Gupta

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