Nofollow Links In SEO: Sponsored And UGC Attributes

nofollow links seo sponsored backlinks tag ugc attributes linkbuilding

Nofollow tags are widely used by publishers to mark links they don’t trust. By applying these tags, they send a signal to the search engine to not take a link into account while ranking their site. It serves multiple purposes and makes users’ experience a great one. 

The practice, endorsed and encouraged by Google, was introduced in 2005. It was a way through which publishers could address comment spam and shady links from user-generated content as linking to spam or low-quality sites could hurt their site. 

Nofollow meant that Google would completely ignore these links while crawling and indexing. However, along the way, websites starting exploiting the powers of these tags, making them unreliable. Thus, it was in September of last year when Google introduced some big changes to how publishers could mark nofollow links. Before we proceed further, let’s take a look at what these tags are and the problems they caused, to understand it better. 

The Exploitation Of Nofollow Tag 

Many webmasters, intrigued with the PageRank sculpting power, began controlling how Google navigated their website. The tag also began propping up in prominent places that were far from blog spam. For example, after guest writers of Forbes and other big companies were found to be selling links in their articles, all the links from those posts were tagged nofollow. Webmasters selling links in their articles is a ‘black hat’ practice, which Google can penalize. 

The fear of getting penalized then also led to websites adding nofollow tag to articles of value. Google ended up losing track of curated links from trusted Wikipedia writers. 

Subsequently, to improve search results, the nofollow attribute was treated as a hint. While previously, nofollow tag meant Google would completely ignore the links, today these links influence search engine ranking. 

Google’s New Updates: Old And New Tags 

There are three ways by which you can attribute a link: ‘nofollow,’ ‘ugc’ and ‘sponsored.’ They each hold a different meaning for the search engine. 

Old Tags 


This link basically means that you want Google to crawl this site and use it while ranking your site. 


The nofollow tag tells Google that you don’t want to associate your site with the linked page and that you don’t want it to crawl its contents. 

It was designed to stop comment spam. People used to add links in their comments on blog posts in hopes of increasing their ranking. While sometimes comments are useful, like for giving reviews. For example, readers could leave a review for Spectrum Service. However, other times it ends up being used by greedy rank lovers. 

New Tags 


Sponsored tag is used for links that are meant as advertisements and placed there as a form of sponsorship. They help classify your links better and signals to Google not to follow the link and use it for ranking as it has been paid for. 


Released in the September 2019 update, this tag is short for user-generated content and can be used for links in the comment section for blogs or articles or any other links really that your users introduce to your site. 

If you think the comments a user posts is high-quality and worthy of your site, you can reward them by removing the UGC tag from their link. 

How Does It Work Now? 

Here is how the nofollow links are being treated currently: 

- They are still not being used for crawling and indexing purposes 
- They are considered as hints for ranking purposes. This means Google might ignore the links or use it at its discretion. 

Starting March 1 though, all three attributes will be treated as hints, which means they won’t impact ranking necessarily. However, there’s a chance the search engine could follow the link and use the information received in its ranking process

You can use a combination of these attributes. For example, rel="nofollow ugc" is just as valid as rel="nofollow." This means that sites like Wikipedia that had previously remove the nofollow tag to avoid penalty can use a combination to circumvent it. This is great as it protects good content. 

As far as paid links are concerned, you can use nofollow tag and sponsored attribute separately or combined. However, using UGC tag on paid links could lead to the site getting penalized

So, What Does It Mean For Publishers? 

You’d be happy to learn that there is no punishment for not changing the tags. Google does not offer any incentive to change them. If you had tagged your paid links as nofollow, there’s no need to change that. However, you must make sure you use either a nofollow or a sponsored tag to avoid a link scheme action. 

Those publishers that use the tags to sculpt the way search engines navigate and index their site may seriously need to reconsider their strategy in the future. 

There are other problems to consider as well. Enterprise websites, which host tons of linked URLs, think that focus on these links takes Google away from their pages, deterring it from finding their content. So, they use nofollow to block these URLs and stop Google from crawling them. Given that around 51% of a site’s content is missed by the search engine, the websites rightfully place serious interest in the crawl and render budget. 

Since the changes imply nofollow will no longer be a crawl budget optimization solution starting March 2020, SEOs will have to get in talks with the development and infrastructure teams. 

abdul sami hameed seo

Abdul Sami Hameed is one of the profound writers and a Digital marketing expert with knowledge and expertise as website development, organic marketing, and community marketing. He also has a flair for creating tutorials about subjects related to his expertise and share his experiences with people. You can email him at 

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