What is rel=”ugc”, rel=”sponsored”, rel=”nofollow”?

Link attribute rel=”ugc” short for user generated content and rel=”sponsored” an attribute for paid and any form of promotional content has been introduced by google. rel=”no-follow” however was a directive for google not to crawl a link for ranking purpose, but no more as it is now a hint.

rel ugc
rel ugc, nofollow attribute

If you look at preceding events, you will see that the update is necessary. It bacame increasingly difficult for google to know why a link was nofollowed and whether the link could form useful resource for users if it was not a nofollow link.

Hence, google introduced rel=”sponsored” and rel=”ugc” to add more context to the rel=”nofollow” and rel=”dofollow” that was already in use.

I know that all these might sound a bit confusing if you are not familiar with how backlinking works, but don’t worry, I’ll explain what all these link rels do to a hyperlink and why you should have any one of them when creating a link.

Brief background on link rel

Before now, google required publishers to use the rel=”nofollow” on links that are not directly related to what the web page is about or as a means of informing google that a link might be spam. So lets say this post for instance talks about linking, and I decided to drop a friend’s flier image for a forthcoming online course, or an affiliates website address (maybe, to help the site generate clicks), it was google’s policy guideline to make it a nofollow. Or maybe at the end of the post, I solicit for comments (which I often do), and you drop one with a link, it was standard practice to rel=”nofollow” (not necessarily with commenter’s knowledge). This was mandatory to help google pick only relevant links on a web page.

Over time, many publishers stopped “dofollowing” all links on their website, plus google was unsure which links were nofollowed because they were paid affiliate links, or the link redirects to a resource whose content was not a helpful link. hence, losing valuable resources.

In short, google was confused. So, two other rel attributes of user generated content, rel=”ugc” and rel=”sponsored” are added to rel=nofollow and rel=dofollow, to provide clarity for google as to where a link leads to. This way, google bot will not treat all nofollows as though they are mere text characters. Moreover, nofollow is no longer a directive for google to close her eyes to a nofollow but it is a hint for google to decide whether to dofollow or to nofollow.

What does all this rel attributes mean?

  • rel ugc: user generated content (ugc) is a Hint to google Bots that a link is not dropped by the publisher of the content, rather, that the link is dropped by maybe, a commenter or it is a forum generated link and any other page user that is not necessarily an author.
    usage: Use rel=”ugc” on visitor comments or forum posts.
    rel ugc is coded like this: <a href="https://sitename.com" rel="ugc">Anchor text</a>
  • rel sponsored: Many websites accept advertising links from affiliates. These links were often given the generic rel=”nofollow” attribute, living crawlers (google) confused why it is nofollowed. Whether the link is nofollowed because it could be a possible spam, or it is a link to an advertisment, or any of the many Or scenarios. So, google introduced the rel=”sponsored” attribute to hint google that a link is sponsored.
    Usage: Use the rel=”sponsored” on paid advertisement links and sponsored posts.
    This will look like this <a href="https://sitename.com" rel="sponsored">Anchor text</a>
  • rel nofollow: The rel=”nofollow” is not a new bot directive. However, the nofollow tag has been slightly altered. The rel=”nofollow” now simply gives google a HINT (as google puts it) to the status of a hyperlink. Google is left with the option of deciding whether to crawl the link and pass authority to it or not.
    Usage: rel nofollow is good for links that come from an uncertain url, or a can-be-spam domain you link to. Further, if you don’t want google to pass rank authority, this is the rel attribute to use. However, google will now decide whether to pass rank juice or not, to the page containing the link.
    This category of link will look like this when coded <a href="https://sitename.com" rel="nofollow">Anchor text</a>
  • dofollow: just like the nofollow, do follow has been in existence since 2005. dofollow however is the only directive that google has not changed its context. rel=”dofollow” remains a directive for google to crawl a link on a web page and pass ranking authority to it.
    Google advice adding a “pr” “10” to the rel=”dofollow” if you want it to receive expedient treatment.
    Usage: rel=”dofollow” should be added to authority links that you want google to crawl.
    This will look like this <a href="https://sitename.com" rel="dofollow">Anchor text</a>

Summarizing the link rel attributes

  • rel=”ugc” user generated content has no rank authority.
  • rel=”sponsored” is an advertisement link that will not be crawled for ranking purpose.
  • rel=”nofollow” is a hint to google not to pass authority or decide whether to do so.
  • rel=”do follow” prompts google to crawl and pass rank authority.

What exactly changed?

With this update, the major change is in how google look at links on web pages. Prior to the change, no follow was a directive to google not to follow a link. In short, no follow links were not links but text in the eyes of google. Now, nofollow, sponsored and ugc are merely hint as Google may still fiind them as helpful resources to other users, therefore pass ranking authority them.

Again, the two additional link rel instructions of rel=sponsored and rel=ugc that are introduced is a change.

Terms used in this article

  • Link attribute – a sort of link’s jacket that provides more directive to bots.
  • crawl – a bot movement on web pages to scrape/collect information for presenting to users. often termed spider(ing). Hence the spider in the image above.
  • crawler/bot – this is a program that occassionally crawls a page.
  • link/hyperlink – is a coded text that jumps to another website resource when clicked.
  • paid/sponsored link – is a link resource that is put on a web page for promotional purposes.
  • rank authority – Is a link criteria that signals to bots that it is a quality link that will be helpful to other users.
  • pr – short for priority. Priority ranges from 0 – 10, with 10 being the most preferencial ranking.

Related articles: Very useful SEO tools that are underated and how sitemap help indexing


Link rel was dicey in the nofollow-only days, but with the addition of rel=”ugc” and rel=”sponsored” there is better context for rel tag. Google now expect paid content to have rel=”sponsored”. links from comments should have rel=”ugc”.

What do you think about all the link rel attributes? Express your opinion in the comments box.

9 Responses to “What is rel=”ugc”, rel=”sponsored”, rel=”nofollow”?

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  • Umm, there’s no such thing as rel=”dofollow”.

  • Hi
    Is rel = dofollow still used and not to the detriment of the site?
    Google has introduced new relays ugc you can write examples about what sites to use

    • deanalyst
      1 year ago

      Where a hyperlink is not marked with either of rel=nofollow, ugc or sponsored, it is seen by crawlers as a link to “follow”. And yes follow links are very much a thing up to this day

  • ChloeSom
    1 year ago

    Crawling permits them to take note of what search phrases your content material targets, what your images depict, and much more.

  • so is ‘sponsored’ treated as a follow or nofollow?

    • Basically it is treated as what it is “sponsored” content. Sponsoring content is not bad. Perhaps google will see it as a content owner trying to reach a broader audience by sponsoring

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