How Has Google’s Approach to Nofollow Links Evolved, Particularly With the Introduction of New Attributes Like Ugc and Sponsored?


Google’s approach to nofollow links has evolved significantly over time. Initially introduced to combat spam and to better rank websites, the nofollow attribute has seen progressive advancements with the introduction of additional attributes like ugc (user-generated content) and sponsored to provide more context and transparency regarding the nature of links. This evolution reflects Google’s efforts to understand hyperlink intent better and to optimize web crawling and indexing processes.

Origin and Evolution of Nofollow

Introduction of Nofollow (2005)

The rel="nofollow" attribute was introduced in 2005 as a way for webmasters to instruct search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the ranking of the link's target in search engine index. This was primarily aimed at reducing spam in blog comments and gaining more accurate search engine results.

Reference: Preventing Comment Spam, 2005

First Major Update (2019)

In September 2019, Google announced that nofollow would become a hint for ranking purposes rather than a strict directive. This marked a significant shift as it meant that Google might consider nofollow links for crawling and indexing purposes if they saw fit.

Reference: Evolving "nofollow" – new ways to identify the nature of links, 2019

New Attributes: UGC and Sponsored

Introduction of rel="ugc" and rel="sponsored" (2019)

In the same 2019 update, Google introduced two new link attributes:

  • rel="ugc": Signifying links within user-generated content, such as comments and forum posts.
  • rel="sponsored": Indicating paid or sponsored links, like advertisements or links paid for as part of a sponsorship.

These attributes provide more granular information about the nature of a link, helping Google understand the context more accurately.

Reference: Evolving "nofollow" – new ways to identify the nature of links, 2019

Impact and Implementation

For SEOs and webmasters, it’s crucial to implement these attributes correctly to ensure that search engines accurately interpret the intent and context of links. Proper usage can prevent unintended penalties or misconceptions about a site's external linking practices.


Here are examples of how to use these attributes:

  • Nofollow: <a href="" rel="nofollow">Example</a>
  • UGC: <a href="" rel="ugc">Example</a>
  • Sponsored: <a href="" rel="sponsored">Example</a>


Google’s evolution of the nofollow link attribute, with the addition of ugc and sponsored, reflects a broader strategy to interpret hyperlink intent more accurately. These changes enable Google to improve web crawling efficiency and search result relevance, while also allowing webmasters to provide clearer signals regarding the nature of their links.