If you publish sponsored or affiliate links, chances are you’re familiar with rel="nofollow". It’s the tag you add to the links to your posts to tell Google that you’re getting paid for putting that link on your blog.

Or at least…it was.

Google recently introduced more specific values you can add to your rel attribute so they know exactly what kind of link it is.

Here’s what we’re going to cover here:

How does the rel attribute work?

Fancy a refresher? Let’s do it.

While adding a link on a blog is typically as easy as highlighting the text you want to link, clicking a button, and pasting the link, that action actually surrounds the linked text in code like this:

<a href="https://www.wptasty.com/">This is a link to WP Tasty</a>

The <a> tag defines a link, and you can customize that <a> tag with different styles or attributes. One of which is rel.

rel stands for relationship, and when you add the rel tag to your links, you’re telling Google, “Hey, there’s some sort of relationship between my blog and this resource I’m linking to.”

But you can’t just type rel and expect Google to understand that; you need to assign a value to your rel attribute like this:

<a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.wptasty.com/">This is a nofollow link to WP Tasty</a>

For a really long time, rel="nofollow" was the way you’d tell Google you had a paid link on your page. But, as they always say, “times, they are a-changin’” and there are now a few different ways you can define your paid links.

An important thing to note: Not all links need rel values. But there are certain circumstances where it makes sense to include a rel attribute…

Different values for the rel attribute

According to Google, there are three main values for the rel attribute:

As you can probably guess, you should use the sponsored value when the link is an ad or sponsored link.

Another way to think about it: if you’re getting paid for the link on your site in any capacity – whether it be a sponsored link, an affiliate link, or some other paid link – you’d need to add the rel="sponsored" attribute to your link.

So let’s say I’m a WP Tasty Affiliate. I can talk about WP Tasty on my site, but I’ll need to appropriately add a rel value to that link. It might look like this:

<a rel="sponsored" href="https://www.wptasty.com/">WP Tasty</a> is THE place I go to get all my favorite WordPress plugins!

So simple!

According to Google, you can still use rel="nofollow" for paid links like this, but they do say sponsored is “preferred.” This is a big one because you can actually get penalized for not marking these links as paid links.

Outbound Link rel="ugc" 💬

This one is a little less straightforward, but you probably won’t need to worry about it too much. UGC stands for User-Generated Content, and you’d use rel="ugc" on links in the comments section of your site or if your site has a forum.

Here’s an example from Pinch of Yum:

Whenever someone leaves a comment on Pinch of Yum, and many other blogs, they can leave a link back to their own site. This 'ugc' value is just telling Google, “This link is in a comment, and it shouldn’t contribute to the commenter’s PageRank or be crawled and indexed.”

Your theme should apply this tag automatically, and if you’re not sure, you can reach out to your theme developer.

Again, we have a little disclaimer here: Google says that you can actually remove the rel="ugc" attribute from trustworthy contributors to reward and recognize them and to pass a little “link juice” onto that person. But we don’t think it makes sense to worry about this, especially in terms of comments.

Outbound Link rel="nofollow" 🙈

The OG rel value!

Now, Google’s recommendations for rel=“nofollow” are as follows (lol):

“Use the nofollow value when other values don’t apply, and you’d rather Google not associate your site with, or crawl the linked page from, your site.”

Let’s think of an example…

Say you’re writing about a brand that you like, but you’re not getting paid for the links back to their site. You can link to that brand and include rel="nofollow" so that your mention shouldn’t contribute to their website’s PageRank.

One last note before we wrap up this section: You can combine these values. For example, rel="nofollow sponsored" is valid. You might want combine these values for backwards compatibility, as the new sponsored and ugc values may not be accepted on all search engines just yet.

The March 1, 2020 Update

Google just announced yet another change to this rel fun!

According to Moz, Google now treats these rel values as “hints,” meaning that they can choose to use the sponsored, ugc, or rel value as a “hint” and actually use it for PageRank, crawling, and/or indexing in some cases.

In most cases, however, Google will continue to ignore these links.

How do I add rel attributes and values to my links on WordPress?

Back in the good ol’ days, there was a simple box you could check to add rel="nofollow" to your paid links and call it a day.

Now that the rel attribute is a bit more customizable, there are a few more step you need to take.

If you’re using Tasty Links to manage your affiliate links, we make it super simple. When you make a new link, you’ll see the options to add rel=”nofollow” and rel=”sponsored.” Just select the options that work best for your product link.

Manually in the Gutenberg editor

In the new block post editor in WordPress, you can add a rel tag by:

  1. Adding a link using the link button
  2. Clicking on the More Options button for the block your link is in
  3. Clicking “Edit as HTML”
  4. Adding your rel attribute and value
  5. Optional: Switch back to the visual block by clicking the More Options button again and clicking “Edit visually”

Using Yoast options in the Gutenberg editor

If you use Yoast on you site, you’ll notice options for adding "nofollow" and "sponsored" attributes when adding new links to your posts. Just toggle those on and you’re good to go. Too easy!

Manually in the Classic Editor

Still using the Classic Editor? No worries!

  1. Add the link using the link button
  2. Switch to the Text tab
  3. Find your link
  4. Add your rel attribute and values
  5. Optional: Switch back to the visual editor by clicking the Visual tab

More Question About Outbound Links

What happens if my old links are all marked just rel="nofollow"?

It’s fine! In fact, Moz says, “Google offers no incentive for changing, or punishment for not changing.”

Translation: You can make it easy on yourself and keep those links exactly how they are. These new rel values should just be used moving forward.

I see rel="noopener noreferrer" (or some other rel value) in my <a> tag. What’s up with that?

Great question. The rel attribute can actually have a lot of different values, "noopener noreferrer" is an example.

These values add extra privacy protection and information to your links, but the nitty gritty of it all is for another blog post. 😉

You probably won’t need to mess with these other values (in fact, WordPress may automatically add them for you!), but if there’s a specific rel value you want to learn more about, let us know in the comments.

And that’s a wrap on outbound links! Hopefully you have everything you need to get your links tuned up, but if you have any lingering questions just hit us up in the comments. We’re always happy to help!

Interested in Tasty Links? 💰

If you’ve been tossing around the idea of giving Tasty Links a try, the ease of updating outbound links might just make you pull the trigger! We’re always looking for new ways to improve Tasty Links, and you can be confident that we’ll keep supporting you on your blogging journey.

Take a look at all Tasty Links has to offer here: https://www.wptasty.com/tasty-links

Also, don’t forget about our 15-day money-back guarantee! Trying Tasty Links is risk-free, and we think you’ll really like it!