Google Updates NoFollow Link Attribute

by Jess Girardi
September 23, 2019
affiliate SEO

Historically, Google respected the NoFollow link. However, they recently announced changes to how they would treat this link attribute.


  • NoFollow is a link type most publishers* use to determine the amount of authority their website has. It is used to ensure that paid content does not receive any organic benefit, and instead, exists solely as a content piece on the site.
  • Recently, Google released two new link types: “Sponsored” and “UGC” (User Generated Content) to help them understand how publishers across the web utilize links. It will become best practice for publishers to use these link types (especially “Sponsored”) to help delineate between paid and organic content.

* Publishers can include magazines, affiliate publishers, influencers, and anywhere that can publish external content.


  • Google now doesn’t take NoFollow as a directive. It will follow a link if the crawler thinks it’s relevant, which allows authority to flow more freely.
  • Paid links now MUST use Sponsored to avoid Google penalties, which will impact the way publishers classify content on their site.
  • Some publishers may choose not to adopt this, and as a result, they will lose authority and be less valuable to the affiliate channel.


  • Publishers: This new format isn’t required until 2020, but we recommend implementing it before then to get ahead of the curve and modify your internal processes.
  • Affiliate Teams: Affiliate teams should track publisher performance and keep a pulse on the suite of publishers utilizing the new format.
  • SEO Teams: No more link-sculpting! The change could also mean an increase in link spam, and sites to sell NoFollow links, creating a new market of “almost-followed” links. However, this change paves the way for quality links receiving the authority they deserve, and it creates a more equitable web for all sites to thrive – especially those that are most valuable to users.

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