Do you need to use nofollow, sponsored or ugc links in your website or blog posts? Why do you need them? How do you create them? These questions are answered here: Learn to use these Google hints.
You may have heard of nofollow links and wondered whether you should be using them on your website or blog. You might not even know what they are. You may be using some nofollow links already, but not everyone does and it depends on several factors and sometimes you need them and sometimes you don’t.
To further complicate matters, the use of nofollow has changed and there are alternatives like sponsored and ugc. What are these and when and how should they be used? Do you need to change all your old links?
WordPress does not give any advice on the subject and almost no features to help you use them. This is odd considering that there are very good reasons for using them and possibly penalties if you don’t.
What a normal link looks like
We all know what a link is and does, it is text on a web page, usually highlighted in some way, that takes you to another web page on the same website or a completely different one. You cannot tell a normal web link, sometimes called dofollow, from a nofollow link. They look identical. However, the HTML code that makes up the page is different.
If you were to look at the HTML code of a normal web link, it would look like this:
What a nofollow link looks like
A nofollow link on a web page looks identical to a normal one, but there is a difference in the HTML code and it looks like this:
<a rel=”nofollow” href=”https://www.yahoo.com”>Yahoo!</a>
Notice the addition of rel=”nofollow” to the code. It can come before the href=”” link or after it and it doesn’t make much difference, but WordPress likes it before.
Nofollow in the HTML code above can be replaced with sponsored or ugc and it may be necessary depending on why and what you are linking to.
Links boost search rankings
Google scans web posts for links and when a big, important, authoritative website links to another website, it passes on some of its authority, sometimes called link juice. The link is an indicator to Google that the site linked to is a good one. This raises its position in search results, so it appears nearer to the first page of search results and nearer to the top of the first page if it is already on it.
Backlinks, links from other websites to your own, are therefore valuable and help you rise to the first page of search results. It is not the only factor that affects your search position and there are said to be around 200, but it is one of the most important ones.
The more backlinks you have, the higher your website or web page will appear in search results, which is great, but this also tempts some people to try and cheat to rank higher.
When to use nofollow, sponsored, ugc
Someone could pay you to post an article on your website in order to get a backlink. They could provide you with free goods or services, so you write about them and provide a backlink. They could provide free holidays or travel, days out, meals, and so on, in return for you including a backlink in a web article.
These backlinks are not natural ones and if you receive any form of compensation for a link in an article, you should make it a sponsored link. In other words, rel=”sponsored” should appear in the HTML link code.
Affiliate links fall into this category too and one way or another, you receive money, goods or services from them. Affiliate links must be sponsored.
We don’t want websites appearing on page one of Google search results simply because they paid people to insert backlinks in articles. We want search results to show authority websites and articles. Using sponsored helps Google understand a link.
User generated content (ugc), like comments on web posts and forum posts should have rel=”ugc” in the HTML of the link. People often try to create backlinks to their sites to boost search ranking and setting them to ugc lets Google know.
Anything else you don’t want to pass authority or link juice to, should use rel=”nofollow”. For many years, nofollow was used for everything – sponsored content, affiliate links, comments below web posts, and so on. It is not necessary to go back and change all the links you created, but from now on, use sponsored, ugc or nofollow.
Natural web links to articles and sites that are relevant to the content people are reading should be normal links. You don’t need to do anything and a normal link is the default anyway.
Does Google follow nofollow links?
Nofollow sounds like it is an instruction not to follow a link to another website. Maybe it used to be and maybe Google did not follow nofollow links in the past, but now the situation has changed.
Nofollow, sponsored and ugc are hints that give Google an indication of the type of content being linked to and they enable the search engine better understand the links it finds.
If Google wants to follow a nofollow link, it can and it will.
Nofollow used to tell Google not to pass any authority or ranking boost to the linked website and this used to be true, but is less true now. Experiments have shown that there is a definite, but small benefit to nofollow links. They are nowhere near as good as as normal links, but some authority passed to the linked site.
Let’s see how to insert nofollow, sponsored and ugc into links in articles in WordPress. I don’t want to repeat nofollow, sponsored or ugc all the time. I will just say nofollow, but remember to use sponsored or ugc if more appropriate.
1 Create nofollow links with WordPress block editor
For this guide I will use the Gutenberg block editor in the latest version of WordPress. Although some people still use the classic post editor, sooner or later it will be discontinued and you will have to use the block editor, so you may as well get used to it.
Let’s assume you are writing an article in the post editor and you want to create a link to a website and make it nofollow. Select the text and then click the Link button in the toolbar.
A little box opens under the selected text and you can then enter the URL of the website you want to link to. Click the Apply button to finish.
This has created a normal link that will be followed and authority and link juice will be passed on to the website. If you received any compensation in return for the link like money, gifts, freebies and so on, it must be made nofollow. Click the link to select it and then click the three dots icon to see more options.
As we saw earlier, normal and nofollow links look the same, but the HTML code is different. Click the three dots and select Edit as HTML from the menu that appears.
The WordPress post editor shows the HTML code for this block (the paragraph of text). Look for the <a href=”…. that defines the link and insert rel=”nofollow” like this:
This is all one line by the way. Be very careful when editing HTML code because a simple typing slip can cause problems with text, links or images failing to appear. Check it and then click the three dots button above the block and select Edit visually.
That’s it. The HTML code disappears and the text and link appears as normal in the editor. It looks the same as it did before, but it is now a nofollow link.
2 Use the WordPress code editor for nofollow
It is a multi-step process and a bit fiddly to change a normal link to a nofollow one, so here is an alternative method. This is best when there are many links in a post that need to be set to nofollow.
When editing a post in WordPress, click the three dots in the top right hand corner to show a menu and in the Editor section is Visual Editor and Code Editor. Posts are created in the Visual Editor, but you can switch to the Code Editor to see the HTML code that makes up the page.
Look for the links on the page, they begin <a href=”… and insert the rel=”nofollow” text. Posts can be long and complicated, and the links can be hard to spot, so press Ctrl+F (PC) or Cmd+F (Mac) to open the browser’s search box and enter ‘<a’ or ‘href’ into it to find the first link. Use the arrow buttons to jump to the next link and the next. You can copy the nofollow text and then simply paste it each time – jump to the next link, paste, jump to the next link, paste and so on.
When you have finished adding nofollow links, use the menu in the top right corner of the page to switch back to the visual editor. Don’t make mistakes editing code. They can mess up the page.
3 Make WordPress menus nofollow
WordPress does not provide any features for creating nofollow links in the post editor, which is where they are used most, but it does provide a simple way to make links nofollow in menus, where they are used the least. That is a bit upside down, although without this feature it would be impossible to nofollow menus.
In the WordPress sidebar, go to Appearance > Menus. Click Screen Options at the top of the page to display this list of options and tick the checkbox Link Relationship (XFN). Close Screen Options afterwards.
Create menus in the usual way by adding pages, categories, custom links and so on. The menu structure is shown and if you expand a menu item using the up/down arrow on the right, you will see a Link Relationship (XFN) box. Simply type nofollow into the box. Don’t forget to save the menu after making changes to it.
It is hard to think of cases where you would want to nofollow a menu, but it is easy to do if you ever need it.
Remember to use sponsored and ugc where appropriate.