Google: September 2019 SEO update impacting Link building!

Link building remains an important Off page SEO exercise and two things matter since 2005:

  1. Dofollow (regular links)
  2. Nofollow

While these are all required to balance up a backlink profile, Google has come up with two more link attributes:

  1. Sponsored
  2. UGC (User Generated Content)

One of the things you must never forget is that change is constant and Google will always introduce something new to turn the way you do your business.

There are several link building activities most of which are blackhat. But the search giant keeps working on ways to improve their search algorithms.

Read this: SEO for newbies: How to rank as a noob, even if you are idiot! no insult.

Nofollow Vs Sponsored Vs UGC and how it concerns you

The nofollow link type was introduced in 2005 to help Google fight against comment spam. Over the years, this has become the only way to flag advertising-related, sponsored or bought links.

Adding Sponsored and UGC will help Google appropriately analyze and use links within their systems. So here is how it goes:

1 – rel=”nofollow”: Use this in a link if you do not want search engine spiders or web crawler to transfer link juice to the linked page. Before now, this was recommended on links in sponsored posts.

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>link anchor here</a>


2 – rel=”ugc”: (ugc stands for User Generated Content, also referred to as user-created content (UCC)).  Briefly in out context, this is content on a website created by its users. Use this attribute for links within forums and comments.

<a href=”” rel=”ugc”>link anchor here</a>

Question for you: Do you think expert roundup post is UGC? Please drop a comment below

3 – rel=”sponsored”: Do you get paid for articles on your blog? While we were advised to use the nofollow attribute before now, this has been introduced to serve the purpose. Use it on links created for advertisements, sponsorships or other compensation agreements.

<a href=”” rel=”sponsored”>link anchor here</a>

SEO link building

Dangers of sponsored posts

I created a post in the past about the dangers of sponsored posts for both advertisers and publishers. But as this seems to be a quick way to make some bucks for established blogs, we keep getting mails like this:

sponsored post warning

As noted, one of the big reasons someone would pay you to have his article on your blog is to get that SEO vote. But Google is saying no to this ranking manipulative tactic.

If you are going in for a deal with an advertiser who denies the sponsored link attribute, it’s at your risk. Of course the advertiser stands a big risk as well.

Which link attribute for Guest posting?

Watch this: How to do SEO When You Do not Have Money to Invest?

Guest posting is a link building activity. However, the networking, referral traffic, branding and exposure advantages shouldn’t be underrated.

Following these recent changes, you should be thinking from the other side of your brain if your main link building tactic was guest posting.

Guest content is considered user-generated. That means the rel=”ugc” should be used on all guest submitted blog posts.

How Google treats links with ugc attribute in their algorithms is not quite clear at the moment.  However with time, this attribute may carry some credit.

Note that these three attributes are ranking Hints (meaning they likely won’t impact ranking), generating data for Google to improve their ranking system. I’m pretty sure Google has a long term goal. While I encourage you comply immediately, we should still expect more changes.

rell=”nofollow” will soon become a “Hint” for crawling and indexing

Before 1 of March 2020, the rel=”nofollow” attribute is stoppage to Google crawling and indexing linked pages. That means once used, Google spiders don’t have a choice. They are stopped.

But this is soon changing with the attribute becoming a crawling and indexing hint as from March 1, 2020. What this means is that Google may choose to ignore the directive and crawl the link.

Key points to note about the new link attributes

Here are some important points you should know about this Google update:

  1. You do not need to change your existing nofollow links on sponsored posts. If you have published paid content in the past with nofollow attribute, you are fine as this is still valid.
  2. If you want to avoid a possible link scheme action, it’s highly recommended using the sponsored hint on all links on paid posts.
  3. You can use more than one rel value in a link. For example, rel=”ugc sponsored” is a valid attribute indicating that the link came from a sponsored user-generated content.
  4. These three attributes are officially ranking “hints”. That means Google may choose to ignore them in some cases.

Building or earning links?

Link building is your deliberate effort to create content on other sites with the purpose of linking back to your site.

This includes activities such as guest posting, blog commenting, forum posting, sponsored posting etc. If webmasters strictly adhere to the new recommendations, link building may end up with you getting more nofollow, ugc and sponsored links.

Earning links is by far the best approach to get improved search ranking and natural traffic. But this happens to be quite difficult as your only effort would be to create and publish link worthy content. However, here are some tips to help:

  • Establish yourself as a leader in your niche
  • Create tough, linkable content
  • Network with others in your industry
  • Link out to others in your own blog posts
  • Etc

A link earned is 10 times worth a link built.

Google link attributes (nofollow,UGC and Sponsored): Infographic

SEO link building from Moz

23 thoughts on “Google: September 2019 SEO update impacting Link building!”

  1. Is there any plugin that let bloggers to add sponsored post link automatically without coding. This is because any time I add no follow link to my link, Google search console display some error message on the dashboard.

  2. Thanks for the update.
    I have said this many times before that Google always counts nofollow link and consider them as a ranking factor.

    You did good with your explanation.
    Thanks a lot!

  3. Great write-up Enstine!
    Really appreciate the way you have written and explained. Worth reading it.
    It really helped me a lot. You have such a great job.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Good work..!!

  4. This is really eye-opening. Especially in regards to the sponsored attribute on links. Also, it’s about time I updated my policies too. And also, those sponsored links too.

  5. Wonderful Article Enstine!! Thank you to spread this google updates SEO blog.

    Can I get more clarity about UGC attribute? And how I can use it in link building?

  6. Thanks for the info. Like the other commenter said, I had read about this on another blog but you really made it easier to understand. Thanks a lot! But if you had to guess what type of impact do you think Google’s change of nofollow links to hints will have?

  7. Enstine,

    Thanks for the heads-up! I must appreciate your efforts to broadcast it among other bloggers and marketers. As Clement said, there was low-priority for the nofollow links. You have nailed each link attribute with examples helping novice too.
    As far as Google scrutinizes its algorithms and updates, the webspace will be filled up with quality information.

  8. I really love the new Google update. Those people that are not ready to be patient for their website to developed to a stage of attracting natural backlinks will definitely be having a rethink and stop the normal link bait and desists from overdoing the paid linking process.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with your followers

  9. Hi Enstine,

    This article is thoroughly explained. I never knew about the new link attribute. It is indeed, a wake up call for every marketer. As far as Google is concerned, there will always be changes to their algorithm. However, the no-follow links has not been given priority in the past, because many consider it less valuable.
    You did good with your explanation. Thanks a lot!

    • Hey Moss,
      Thanks for reading and engaging bro.
      Nofollow has always been a ranking hint. That means Google would decide whether or not to improve an entry’s ranking from a new nofollow link based on some other factors.

      SEO is always changing. Let’s keep updated

      Hope you are doing good

  10. Hi Enstine,

    Thanks for more clarifications about new link building attribute

    So somehow it’s a targeted way for Google to screw blog which is overdoing the paid linking process.

  11. Hello Enstine,

    Thanks for the update. I have said this many times before that Google always counts nofollow link and consider them as a ranking factor. You have to create a balance of both nofollow and follow backlinks. These link attributes will definitely impact search market.


    • Hey bro,
      There has always been this nuance about the nofollow attribute but I think it’s clear now, being declared a ranking hint by Google.
      Thanks again for showing up bro.

      I hope you are having a great week

  12. Hi Enstine, thank you for this very informative post and to be able to see exactly what needs to be done with our link building efforts and such.

    I read Neil Patel’s piece on this topic but was confused! You made it quite clear, thank you!! It’s amazing how much keeps on changing with Google and links.

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