What Google says about nofollow, sponsored, and UGC links in 2020: Does it affect your SEO rankings?

30-second abstract:

While nofollow hyperlinks solely dominated the online for 14 years, Google not too long ago introduced two new additions: sponsored and UGC hyperlinks.  
Shortly afterward, Google made additional amendments to all three hyperlinks. 
This article breaks down the place issues presently stand.  
Joseph Dyson discusses whether or not the brand new hyperlink attributes affect rankings and concludes with strategies on how companies can enhance on-line visibility.  

Whether you’re an search engine optimization beginner or a seasoned professional, we’re certain you’re acquainted with the cardinal rule of the sport: evolution.  

Stagnancy isn’t a standard sight within the digital advertising world 

Google is continually releasing new updates because it strikes towards extra seamless and correct crawling, indexing, and rating.  

On September 10th 2019, Google set the bar increased than earlier than by including two new attributes alongside the preexisting “nofollow” attribute, which had been in place for over 14 years.  

Before we get to the brand new additions, let’s break down the unique nofollow attribute as a fast refresher.  

What’s a nofollow hyperlink? 

A nofollow hyperlink is a hyperlink with a rel=“nofollow” tag.  

What does this imply? To put it as merely as potential, the nofollow tag alerts serps to disregard a hyperlink. The vacation spot URL doesn’t get a lift in search engine rankings, as nofollow hyperlinks don’t move PageRank (an algorithm that helps Google rank internet pages on SERPs).  

When it involves hyperlink constructing, receiving a nofollow backlink generally is a bummer, as your rankings are left in a state of limbo. While internet customers are redirected to your web site, the area that gives you the hyperlink concurrently informs Google to not ship any “hyperlink juice” your method.  

However, nofollow hyperlinks nonetheless have hidden perks. They drive visitors (regardless of leaving rankings untouched), enhance model consciousness, and assist leads uncover and familiarize themselves with your online business.  

But wait, why are nofollow hyperlinks used within the first place?  

Google initially introduced the idea of nofollow hyperlinks in 2005 to struggle remark spam. They had been rapidly embraced by the search engine optimization world and are incessantly used to keep away from breaking search engine optimization guidelines set by Google.  

Links that added worth to content material however couldn’t be vouched for had been categorized as nofollow hyperlinks. In addition, paid hyperlinks additionally included the nofollow hyperlink attribute. This announcement performed an enormous function in stopping companies from shopping for hyperlink juice.  

But what modified?  

While nofollow hyperlinks had been extraordinarily efficient to this point, they had been an oversimplified resolution to a posh drawback. Instead of taking subjective intent for together with hyperlinks under consideration, they provided a cleanly demarcated black and white state of affairs that proved to be a nuisance for a lot of companies.  

The solely two choices had been nofollow hyperlinks or dofollow hyperlinks, the latter being the default for all hyperlinks. 

The introduction of sponsored and UGC hyperlinks

In 2019, Google introduced two main additions to straightforward nofollow hyperlinks: sponsored hyperlinks and UGC hyperlinks. 

Marketers heaved a serious sigh of reduction within the announcement’s wake, as they might now use the 2 new attributes to assist Google higher perceive the hyperlink’s intent and use.  

But that wasn’t all. In March 2020, Google made additional amendments to its earlier announcement.  

Here’s the place issues presently stand: 

Sponsored hyperlinks

According to Google’s newest replace, the sponsored attribute (rel=“sponsored”) is particularly used for hyperlinks which are promotional in nature.  

Prior to their creation, paid hyperlinks had been categorized as nofollow hyperlinks, which proved to be extraordinarily deceptive. The new sponsored attribute helps Google determine promoting hyperlinks individually.  

The profit? Enhanced categorization and fewer confusion. Link receivers and suppliers can simply decipher sponsored hyperlinks from “untrustworthy” nofollow hyperlinks. 

UGC hyperlinks

The UGC (user-generated content material) attribute was created to assist Google decide which hyperlinks are, because the acronym signifies, generated by customers.  

This was a lifesaver (we’re not exaggerating) for site owners who had been struggling to point that particular hyperlinks weren't endorsed.  

The UGC attribute is used to hyperlink to sections of internet sites the place customers generate their very own content material, e.g. remark sections, boards posts, and so forth. 

Nofollow hyperlinks

Google’s newest announcement took the load off nofollow hyperlinks—fairly actually.  

Previously, the nofollow tag was used for each paid and user-generated hyperlinks. However, the brand new classes (“sponsored hyperlinks” and “UGC hyperlinks”) made issues a lot less complicated by putting paid and user-generated content material in numerous classes.  

The nofollow tag is now solely used for non-trusted hyperlinks.  

While nofollow hyperlinks weren't used for crawling and indexing earlier than, Google’s 2020 replace indicated that they'd be used as a “trace” for crawling and indexing. While folks rapidly started to contemplate this a win for rating functions, the image wasn’t as rosy because it was made out to be.  

Currently, every of the three hyperlinks (nollow, sponsored, and UGC) is used as a mere trace, not a direct rating issue. While they might be crawled, they won't considerably affect rankings. 

Which hyperlink attribute must you use?

While including extra choices ought to ideally make issues less complicated, it could possibly backfire in the event you’re unsure about correct attribution.  

Here’s how site owners ought to use the brand new attributes: 

1. rel=“sponsored”

Use the sponsored attribute strictly for paid or sponsored hyperlinks. While affiliate hyperlinks are additionally thought of sponsored hyperlinks, Google hasn’t instantly made that clear but. 

2. rel=“ugc” 

Use the UGC attribute for all user-generated content material.  

three. rel=“nofollow” 

Use the nofollow attribute if you wish to hyperlink to a particular web page however don’t need to be related to it for any cause (unreliability, incredibility, untrustworthiness, unfamiliarity). 

The nofollow tag will point out that you simply don’t endorse a specific hyperlink and wouldn't like to supply them rating credit score.  

How must you enhance your rankings? 

While utilizing these tags is an effective way to assiduously categorize your content material, it’s not an enormous win in your rankings… or your hyperlink constructing companions.  

Granted, it's possible you'll discover a slight enhance. However, it’ll be negligible at greatest.  

Google’s public search liaison, Danny Sullivan, encapsulated this completely: 

While the newest replace got here a lot later in 2020, it was already being actively mentioned in 2019. Sullivan was fast to dismiss claims that rankings would undergo the roof as soon as the brand new “trace” mannequin was launched.  

While all these nofollow hyperlinks you’ve collected through the years will nonetheless show you how to generate visitors, you’ll in the end have to show to different methods to note a substantial enhance in rankings 

Here are some efficient methods you may climb SERPs: 

Maximize outcomes from hyperlink constructing

Link constructing is definitely essentially the most fast-acting and sustainable technique to enhance rankings. In brief, hyperlink constructing includes receiving dofollow backlinks from web sites with excessive area authority (a rating that determines an internet site’s rating on SERPs).  

As you construct high quality backlinks, Google will understand your web site as an authoritative and reliable supply. In reality, Google makes use of the standard and amount of backlinks to rank web sites on SERPs. The enhance in rankings will show you how to enhance conversions and enhance model identification 

It’s necessary to notice that your backlinks ought to come from an internet site with good to excessive area authority. The increased, the higher; nonetheless, 50–60 is an effective start line for small companies.  

In addition, be sure you obtain dofollow backlinks versus nofollow backlinks. As mentioned earlier than, the latter will show you how to generate visitors. However, your rankings will stay in a state of limbo for essentially the most half (seek advice from Danny Sullivan’s tweet if the blind optimism kicks in!).  

Recommended hyperlink constructing methods

If you’re new to the realm of hyperlink constructing, we advocate utilizing these methods: 

Leverage the damaged hyperlink constructing methodology 
Build sturdy connections with non-competing companies to supply and obtain hyperlinks 
Incorporate extra inside hyperlinks in your content material  
Try your hand at visitor running a blog 
List your web site in dependable directories 
Convert nofollow backlinks into dofollow backlinks by contacting the respective enterprise  

Create a mobile-friendly web site 

Google not too long ago introduced mobile-first indexing, which implies that Googlebot might be utilizing the cell model of a web page for rating functions first. While this will come as a shock to some folks, we’re certain most of you're nodding your head “matter-of-factly”.  

The massive majority of Americans (a whopping 96%) personal a cellphone. If you’ve created a shocking and interactive desktop-friendly web site however haven’t been prioritizing mobile-friendliness, it's possible you'll be inadvertently damaging your rankings.  

Take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to find out your web site’s accessibility for cell phone customers.  

If you don’t like what you see, your prospects in all probability gained’t both.  

Climb SERPs by creating an attention-grabbing and seamless mobile-friendly web site that helps you generate high quality visitors and develop your online business.  

When mixed with hyperlink constructing, mobile-friendliness can go a great distance in serving to your online business change into extra seen on serps and break into the Google three-pack 

Create, replace, and optimize your content material 

While you will have checked off all of the containers, leaving the content material part untouched can take a toll on your online business.  

Opting for internet design and improvement isn’t sufficient. If you don’t create, replace, and optimize your content material, you’ll fall behind and get engulfed by your competitors.  

Create value-added and interesting content material to verify your web site actively circulates SERPs.  

And that’s not all

We counsel updating outdated content material on a month-to-month foundation in gentle of latest updates and bulletins by Google. As we highlighted earlier than, Google is continually upping its recreation. Keep up with rating components and algorithm amendments to make sure you’re protecting all the bases.  

And, in fact, don’t overlook to optimize your content material.

Get in contact with key phrase specialists to grasp key phrase analysis and incorporation. Use the correct mix of short-tail, long-tail, geo-targeting, and LSI key phrases to assist your online business change into a frequent sight on the primary web page of Google for industry-specific and native searches.  

According to analysis, over 5 million weblog posts are revealed every day.  

How do you make your content material stand out? While key phrases assist, they’re not the be-all and end-all of optimization. In addition, use title tags, meta description tags, header tags, custom-made URLs, and canonical tags to grasp the artwork of on-page search engine optimization. We don’t have to say a lot; your rankings might be all of the proof you want! 


As the search engine optimization world turns into more and more aggressive every day, claiming your spot merely isn’t sufficient. You have to go the additional mile to protect it.  

Whether you’re creating optimized content material or leveraging hyperlink constructing, guarantee consistency to retain on-line visibility and SERP rankings.  

Keep at it and also you’ll handle to not solely obtain but additionally preserve your goal KPIs over time.

Joseph Dyson is a Senior Account Manager at Search Berg with in depth expertise in lead era and digital advertising. He affords hyperlink constructing companies and incessantly contributes to the Search Berg weblog with advertising ideas and insights.

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