Nofollow, Sponsored and UGC Links: The Difference in Link Attributes

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Link Attributes

For several internet users, all the links that appear on the webpages might appear just identical to them. However, the case is the total contrary.

Well, some of them rather do appear the same, but what makes them different is the link attribute built into their HTML code. Through the link attribute, Google will be instructed on how a certain link will be treated and handled.

A link attribute — also called a rel attribute, is responsible to institute a relationship between a linked resource and the webpage it appears on. By default, the rel attribute has no value, until a particular element that follows the rel attribute is added along.

As a standard, if a link is missing its attributes, it will be classified as a do-follow link.

Link Attributes and SEO

For an SEO checklist, the link building tops the list.

At the very beginning of its emergence, SEO was very easily exploited by several marketers for their advantage as it didn’t come with many sets of rules.

Purchasing links from the webmasters, spamming comments on third-party sites, and adding content with links allowing user-generated content was the practice of abusing SEO for the longest time in the past.

The practice that was followed by the links was going after quantity over quality. As a result, the internet witnessed a massive explosion of bad links.

To eradicate the issue, Google stepped in and introduced the facility to add the nofollow attribute to links, in 2005. This method allowed the internet to segregate these untrusted links from the rest, which were no longer counted as votes.

With the absence of the nofollow attribute, paid links would have been categorized as an organic vote. As a result of these attributes, the sponsored links are now marked as no-follow links. Subsequently, being a non-natural endorsement, the link value will not be transferred to the page. 

So after around 14 years, Google decided to introduce two more link attributes in the list.

The sponsored and UGC (user-generated content) were the two link attributes that shook the SEO world at large and many companies were forced to rethink their SEO strategies.

Nofollow Link Attribute

When you add a link to your page, you are assuring Google that you trust the link.

A link is a kind of like a vote of confidence in a webpage. If you link to a page on your site, you are telling Google you trust this link, which helps that link’s search engine rankings. 

However, if you want to link a page without it counting as a vote, then you will take help from the nofollow link attributes. Nofollow links will allow you to use a link without giving Google the message that the link is to be followed. This way the link will not gain any value.

The use of nofollow attribute on a link tells Google that the mentioned link is not to be categorized in PageRank. As a result, the link will not influence any rankings of the mentioned URL.

In short, you are instructing Google that doesn’t associate your page with the link shared. As for now, Google has decided to completely ignore these nofollow links for indexing and crawling dedications.

By March 2020, Google announced that nofollow links will be treated as ‘hints’. Google will choose to either crawl them or not. Before this announcement, the nofollow attributes were valued the same regardless of any differentiation. 

Sponsored Link Attribute

As the name implies, sponsored links are used to advertise links associated with someone else who has paid for them to be posted on a third party website.

From a sponsored review of a product to a simple ad on Google Adwords — sponsored links were also counted as organic links, until 2019.

Nofollow and sponsored attributes are different terms as a sponsored attribute tells Google that the link is paid for, rather than labelling it untrustworthy. 

UGC Link Attribute 

The links used in user-generated content or forum-type posts are known as UGC links — like in the blog comments, QA sites, blogging platforms, and forums.  

You are certainly familiar with UGC links if your site allows the users to create links or content on it. If this is the case then the UGC link attribute may be the most used attribute on your page. 

Combining Link Attributes

The nofollow, sponsored and UGC link attributes are all different, but they may be used more than one at a time.

Attributes can be used in new combinations to be used with each other.

As a rule by Google, all the paid links should contain either sponsored or nofollow attributes. If you choose to mark them simply as UGC, you will be subject to the penalty in Google’s SERPs. 

The introduction and segregation of nofollow, sponsored and UGC links changed the SEO landscape for good. 

To carry out an exceptional SEO strategy for your business, you need to know what each link attribute stands for and how to bring it to use accurately. 

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