If you're using affiliate links or posting sponsored content, listen up! Google has specific rules for how to tag those links. You need tags like rel=”sponsored” and rel=”nofollow”.

Using the wrong rel attributes can hurt your site's search engine rankings. And that's the exact opposite of what you want!

So, let's break down what you need to know to keep your blog SEO-friendly and avoid any Google penalties.

What are rel link attributes?

While adding an outbound 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 change that <a> tag with different styles or attributes.

rel stands for relationship. And when you add the rel tag to your links, you tell Google there’s a relationship between your blog and what you're 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 to define your links.

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

  1. rel=”sponsored
  2. rel=”nofollow
  3. rel=”UGC

Plus, we've added a handy chart to help you understand how they're different!

A chart to help with understanding link tags: rel=sponsored vs. rel=nofollow vs. rel=UGC

An important thing to note: Not all links need the attribute rel. You don't need them for some internal links. But there are certain types of links where it makes sense to add an rel attribute.

What are rel=”sponsored” links?

The attribute rel sponsored means that the link is for an ad or sponsored link.

Basically, if you’re getting paid for the link on your site in any way, you need to add the rel="sponsored" attribute to your link. This means sponsored links, affiliate links, and any other paid link.

So let’s say I’m a WP Tasty Affiliate. I can talk about WP Tasty on my site, but I need to add a “rel attribute” (aka relationship attribute) 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!

Google says you can still use rel="nofollow" for paid links like this, but they do say sponsored is “preferred.”

This is a big one because there are penalties for not marking these links as paid.

rel="nofollow" links explained

Nofollow links are like putting a little “Do Not Follow” sign next to an external link on your website.

It's your way of telling Google, “Hey, I'm linking to this other website, but I don't want to vouch for them or pass on any of my own SEO power.”

Think of it as how you might treat nofollow links. You acknowledge them but don't give them full weight.

Let’s think of an example…

You’re writing about a brand 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 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 to combine these values for backward compatibility. The new sponsored and ugc values may not be accepted on all search engines just yet.

All about rel="ugc" links

UGC stands for User-Generated Content. You use rel="ugc" links in the blog comments section of your site or if your site has forum posts.

Here’s an example from Pinch of Yum:

how to use rel="ugc"

Whenever someone leaves a comment on Pinch of Yum, and many other blogs, they can leave a link to their own site. This ‘UGC' tag tells 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 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.

The March 1, 2020 Update

Google announced another change a few years ago to this rel fun!

Google now treats these rel values as hints. That means they can choose to use the sponsored, ugc, or rel value as a hint. And then, actually use it for PageRank, crawling, and/or indexing in some cases.

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

How to add attributes rel=”sponsored” and rel=”nofollow” to your links

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 has more options, there are a few more steps to take.

No matter what you're linking to (internal links, external links, Amazon affiliate links), Tasty Links simplifies it!

When you make a new link, you see the options to add rel=”nofollow” and rel=”sponsored.” Just choose the rel attributes that work best for your link.

How to toggle the options in Tasty Links for rel="sponsored" and rel="nofollow"

These settings for your link save. And then anytime you use your keyword, it auto links, and your saved rel attributes are set! It really is that simple.

We've even added our support articles and a video to show you the nitty gritty of each step.

  1. Get Tasty Links: Grab Tasty Links and download a copy from your WP Tasty account.
  2. Install and activate: Upload the plugin to your WordPress website.
  3. Verify your license key: Add your license key and you're good to go!
  4. Create your links: Create a new Tasty Link in your WordPress editor. Tasty Links gives you simple options to add “nofollow” or “sponsored” tags. Just check the boxes!
YouTube video

Manually in the WordPress

Okay, technically, you can add the “rel” tags by hand within WordPress.

But think twice before taking this route! If there is one typo, your link could go splat.

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

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

rel=”sponsored link” FAQs

1. Does rel=”sponsored” affect SEO?

Well, yes and no. Google won't punish you for using them.

Think of it as playing by the rules. These tags help Google understand that a link is paid for. Plus, you keep things fair and transparent.

So, sponsored links might not give your SEO as big a high five as regular links. But, NOT using them when you should could get you in trouble.

Google wants to see you're labeling things correctly!

2. What is the difference between nofollow and sponsored?

Both tags are like little signs you put on links, but they tell Google different stories.

Use “sponsored” for paid links and “nofollow” for links you don't want to vouch for fully.

3. Should affiliate links be rel=”sponsored”?

Yes! Google recommends using “rel=sponsored” for all affiliate links.

Why? Because you get something (usually money!) for those links. And Google wants that to be super clear.

This tag shows you're following best practices and helps you stay on Google's good side.

Using rel tags correctly isn't just about avoiding Google's wrath. It's about building a trustworthy website that keeps readers and search engines happy.

So, go check out those affiliate links and sponsored content.

Are they tagged the right way? Don't let this simple task slip through the cracks!

And don't forget, to save time and stay compliant, grab Tasty Links. It's risk-free with our 14-day money-back guarantee! See what Tasty Links can do for you.