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How to Use Google’s New Nofollow, USG, and Sponsored Link Attributes

By Snap Agency December 19, 2019

People utilize body language, nonverbal communication, and other hints to help accurately interpret what someone is saying. Similarly, search engines rely on specific attributes to help them understand the nature of links. Just like correct comprehension of a sentence or a well-placed comma can drastically change one’s understanding of a larger picture, link attributes help provide hints about which links to include—or exclude—when considering ranking signals. 

Knowledgeable use of link attributes can make a significant difference in helping to differentiate your high-quality content from sponsored links or ads. On the flip side, misusing link attributes can get you into trouble. To make sure you have a clear understanding of new and existing link attributes, and how they can work to your advantage, let’s take a closer look.

Google’s Nofollow Link Attribute

The nofollow link attribute (represented by the HTML value rel=”nofollow”) has been a significant player in the SEO industry for almost 15 years. Created in cooperation between Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, the catch-all nofollow attribute has been helping to reduce spam since its debut in 2005. Preventing bogus linked comments (called comment spam), the nofollow link attribute prevents hyperlinks from getting credit when websites are ranked for search results. This attribute primarily monitors public forums like blog comments, trackbacks (automatic notifications), and referrer lists, and was quickly adopted by many software and web developers.

New Link Attributes Joining the Team

The success of Google’s nofollow link attribute has sparked the creation of two new link attributes to help take some of the pressure off nofollow. The first new attribute, UGC, will monitor user-generated content (value is rel=”ugc”). The other will mark sponsored ads or paid links (value is rel=”sponsored”). If you choose to utilize these new link attributes, understanding their effects is vital, and will only become more important upon their full integration starting in March 2020.

The nofollow link attribute will also see its first changes since 2005 in March. Google’s new link attributes, set to hit the market at the same time, will be read by search engines as hints—instead of being ignored— to help enable better website crawling. The thought behind this shift is that crawling bots will be able to determine link authority better and minimize spam link tactics from outside sources. These hints should help site owners show which of their links carry the most weight and should be ranked as such.


The sponsored link attribute should be used to mark all paid links, and can also be used in combination with the nofollow attribute. Marking sponsored links with the “ugc” attribute can now result in penalties. Although Google has yet to specify whether this designation includes affiliate links, many marketers presume it does. 


Blog comments and forum posts should now be linked using the new UGC link attribute to mark it as user-generated content and avoid penalties. However, Google has shared that if a trusted contributor creates the user-generated content, it’s not necessary to add the distinguisher. 

Why You Should Care About the New Attributes

While it’s not a necessity to start using Google’s new link attributes, and so far it seems like companies won’t be penalized for not using them, they do enable you to track the various types of links on your website accurately. Since Google also uses these indicator links to more easily crawl a given website, optimizing them might help your site to rank higher, especially against other sites not using the link attributes to their advantage.

In addition, the new link attributes and changes to the nofollow attribute also open up a new avenue of opportunities for SEO advancements. Website designers and SEO specialists now have the choice of how to specify their links—beyond the existing nofollow attribute. While this development doesn’t offer any definite advantages for site owners (so far), it has the potential to severely impact the end user. When SEO specialists use the nofollow link attribute, the results, namely changes in rankings, can significantly affect consumers—and site owners. Capitalizing on these attributes and using them to boost site rankings can greatly improve your search visibility, website traffic, and overall website conversions

Make the Most of Link Attributes With Snap

Although the lasting results of the new nofollow, UGC, and sponsored link attributes won’t be revealed for some time, their appearance means that it’ll take more work to maintain stellar search rankings. Whether you’re a link attribute connoisseur or are just beginning to adjust your site to account for new link attributes, having an expert in your corner helps ensure that every effort yields results. Contact Snap today to learn more about how evolving attributes are changing the SEO landscape, and how we can help you optimize your site.