Home Digital Marketing Blog • What Really Are Nofollow, Sponsored, And UGC Links, And When To Use Them?

What Really Are Nofollow, Sponsored, And UGC Links, And When To Use Them?


Links play an important part in search engine optimization or SEO. Without backlinks, the search engines might not discover your website. When your website links to another site, Google and the other search engines will consider it a “vote” for the site you are linking to. When a website has many “votes” from other quality sites, the particular site becomes an authoritative and trusted website. Authoritative sites rank higher in search results and become more trustworthy and authoritative in the process. That’s why one cannot underestimate the value of backlinks. This article provides information on what really are no-follow, sponsored, and UGC links, and when you should use these links.

What Is A Nofollow Link?

In the earliest days of search engine optimization, many marketers realized that they could easily get hundreds of backlinks to their websites by leaving spam comments on other websites/blogs and placing their links on any site that allowed user-generated content. This became a problem for Google and the other search engines because they had to rank spammy and untrusted sites higher in their search results just because these sites had more links. In 2005, Google introduced a method to mark a link as “untrusted” by way of a “no-follow” link. A no-follow link simply says “don’t follow this link.” When you add a no-follow attribute to a link that you don’t trust, the search engines don’t count them as “votes” anymore. On the other hand, Google’s policy is clear in the sense that any link that is paid for should be using a no-follow attribute. That way the no-follow link tells the search engines that it should not affect the ranking calculations. Nofollow links are usually hyperlinked with the rel=“nofollow” tag. For example, if your site is https://www.example123.com, a plain link on your site may look like – <a href=”https://www.example123.com”>example link</a>. Most of the time, you will use these links to point readers to interesting and related content on yours or someone else’ site.

If you want to indicate to the search engines that you don’t trust the site that you are linking to or that is a paid link, you should include the no-follow tag which should look like this – <a href=”https://www.example123.com” rel=”nofollow”>example link</a>. Even though only external links are no-follow most of the time, it may make sense to mark an internal link with a no-follow attribute such as internal links that point to your login or registration pages. Surely, you don’t want the search engines to waste their resources by crawling those pages.

What Are Sponsored And UGC Links?

A sponsored link is a paid advertisement in the form of a hypertext link that shows up on search results pages. Google announced two new types of link attributes in 2019. In fact, it’s now possible to mark a link as sponsored or UGC (user-generated content) similar to a no-follow link. The sponsored attribute will be used to identify links that are the result of paid placements such as advertorials, sponsored placements, paid links, and similar links. On the other hand, the UGC attribute will be used to identify links that are created by users such as an author link in a comment form. Such a link doesn’t have to be trusted or endorsed by the page’s author.

Both these types of link attributes work similar to the no-follow link attribute. They simply tell Google and the other search engines not to count these links as “votes” for the particular website. This will help Google and the other search engines to understand more about the links in question. This will improve the process of how Google and the other search engines count “votes,” evaluate pages and rank relevant websites on top of the search results pages. In July 2020, Bing also updated its algorithm to support sponsored and UGC link attributes. For example, a sponsored link on a website will look like – <a href=”https://www.example123.com” rel=”sponsored”>example link</a> and a UGC link would look like – <a href=”https://www.example123.com” rel=”ugc”>example link/a>.

While these link attributes describe different types of links, you can also combine all these attributes in one link. Here is an example where the no-follow and sponsored attributes exist in one link – <a href=”https://www.example123.com” rel=”nofollow sponsored”>example link</a>. This can be useful at times because all the search engines may not support the new sponsored and UGC link attributes as yet. Hence, you should use the no-follow attribute along with the sponsored and UGC attributes until such time that all search engines recognize all these attributes.

When To Use These Link Attributes?

An advertisement or any other link you get paid for should use the sponsored attribute. A link is an endorsement of a particular web page. When you get paid to link to a web page, your motivation becomes different. In fact, you may have not linked to the particular site of they didn’t compensate you for it. That’s where the sponsored attribute comes in handy. You can differentiate a paid link from a natural link by using this attribute. The UGC attribute can be used whenever users of the site are able to create content or links on your site. A good example is the comments section of a web page or blog. WordPress will automatically add a UGC attribute to its comments section.

The aforementioned article provides information on what really are no-follow, sponsored, and UGC links, and when you should use these links.