How to Label Your Affiliate Links for SEO: DoFollow, Nofollow, Sponsored, UGC
If you’ve been blogging for a minute, you have probably heard that you need to label your affiliate links with the rel=”nofollow tag. If not, don’t worry, we’ll explain everything you need to know in this article!
Essentially, the “nofollow” label was how bloggers used to tell Google that our links were leading to an affiliate product or a sponsored product. There is more to the story, but that’s the gist.
It all changed in 2020, and this article is going to get you up to speed.
We’re going to talk about dofollow, nofollow, sponsored, and UGC link tags today. And we’re going to explain how to label your links for SEO. Labeling your links properly will help you to stay on Google’s good side and improve your SEO, so this is super-duper important.
Let’s get to it!
HOW TO LABEL YOUR AFFILIATE LINKS FOR SEO
Let’s have a quick search engine lesson before we dig into labeling our links.
I’ll start by saying: I’m not the world’s biggest SEO pro. Just a plain ol’ blogger that has learned A LOT through years of research!
Search engines crawl through all pages of the internet (including your blog) using web crawlers. They are sometimes called spiders or bots.
As these spiders/bots “crawl” through our web pages, they are looking for clues about our content and direction on where to go next. The way we label our links will tell these crawlers what to do when they come across them on our blog.
This article is going to explain what each of these links tell web crawlers: dofollow, nofollow, sponsored, and ugc.
Let’s start with the easy one first.
DOFOLLOW links are the default for all the links we place online.
The DOFOLLOW link tells Google that this is a quality link that you want your website to be associated with. It tells Google that you are NOT being compensated in any way for sharing this link – you are simply sharing the link on your webpage because it’s a reliable and relevant site.
It’s essentially sending a signal that tells Google (or any search engine), ‘give this site some credit because they are awesome, and I’m not being paid to say that’.
When web crawlers come across a DOFOLLOW link on our blog, we are telling them that they should FOLLOW this link and pass on a little positive “link juice” or “SEO fairy dust” (or whatever you want to call it) to that other site.
In other words, the DOFOLLOW link is a good thing and all bloggers want more of them! The more quality DOFOLLOW links you have, the better off you are in the eyes of Google.
However, DOFOLLOW links can only be used for linking to websites that we have no monetary or compensated relationship with. If we are financially benefiting (or could potentially benefit) from linking to that site, we cannot use a DOFOLLOW link.
This is where nofollow, sponsored, and ugc links come into play! Let’s talk about how to label these links properly to stay on Google’s good side and boost our SEO.
Hanging in there with me??!!
Before the year 2020, NOFOLLOW links were the standard for links that didn’t fit the DOFOLLOW link standard.
In other words, if I placed an affiliate link or a sponsored link on my website, I had to modify the link so that it was recognized by Google as a NOFOLLOW link. I had to do this because I had a compensated relationship with the site/product I was linking to.
To label a link as NOFOLLOW, I just had to attach this attribute to the link: rel=“nofollow” …
I promise, it’s not as scary as it sounds, and I’m going to walk you through the process of modifying links (it’s super quick and easy to do).
The NOFOLLOW link was actually introduced in 2005 to cut down on comment spam.
Safe to say, the online world has evolved A LOT since 2005. And in 2020, Google implemented a new system for labeling our links.
As of March 2020, NOFOLLOW links are the catch-all label for links that you do not want Google crawling or associating with your site. This means, when web crawlers come across a link with the NOFOLLOW tag attached to it, they (more than likely) won’t follow that link or give any credit/link juice to that other site.
As bloggers, Google no longer recommends using the NOFOLLOW label for our affiliate or sponsored links!
That brings us to our next option for labeling our links…
According to the 2020 updates, Google wants us to use a new tag to define our paid links, such as our affiliate links and our sponsored links.
This is a simple tag that we attach to our links to tell Google that we are advertising for this company or promoting this product that we are linking to.
And yes, if it’s an affiliate link or a sponsored link, you ARE advertising for that company or promoting their product.
The new tag/attribute that we’re attaching to our paid links looks like this:
When we label our affiliate links this way, it does NOT impact us or that other company negatively in any way. It simply tells Google that the link is a sponsored link. Google may or may not choose to crawl that other site and see what it’s all about..
We’ll walk through the setup process in just a moment, but let’s cover that last link attribute really quickly first: UGC.
UGC stands for user-generated content. All user-generated content links, such as comments and public post forum links should be marked with the UGC attribute.
Since this doesn’t typically apply to our blog posts for affiliate or sponsored links, we aren’t going to spend any time on this one, but you can find more info about which links should be marked as UGC here.
Related Reads: The Best High-Paying Affiliate Programs for Bloggers
IMPORTANT NOTES BEFORE MOVING FORWARD
Alrighty, now we have a better understanding of how Google / search engines read and interact with our affiliate links.
The most important thing to remember?
DOFOLLOW links are unpaid links that we share on our website because they lead to high-quality, relevant, and reliable content. We cannot offer or receive payment in exchange for a DOFOLLOW link (Google can penalize you for this).
Paid links should always be marked as SPONSORED from 2020 moving forward. It does not appear that Google will expect us to change any old links that are marked as NOFOLLOW, thankfully! Here is an article from Google that confirms this.
HOW TO LABEL YOUR AFFILIATE LINKS FOR SEO
Here is an easy step-by-step guide to help you properly label your sponsored links and affiliate links. This will keep Google happy and assist in optimizing your content (because yes, part of optimization includes tagging your links properly).
STEP ONE: Write your blog post and link to your affiliate product as usual.
STEP TWO: Drop your cursor at the end of your affiliate link. This is simply to make it EASIER to find your affiliate link once you switch to the HTML text editor.
STEP THREE: Click the text tab in the top right corner of your blog post editor.
Once you’re in your HTML text editor and you see your cursor right there at the end of your affiliate link, you’ll be ready to add the sponsored label to your link.
BEFORE updating your link, the entire affiliate link will look something like this:
Here is a screenshot of one of my Amazon affiliate links in the HTML text editor before being updated:
STEP FOUR: Find your cursor (should be close to the affiliate link if you followed step two).
Drop your cursor at the end of the affiliate link, AFTER the quotation marks but BEFORE the angle bracket, also known as a ‘greater than’ symbol.
STEP FIVE: Make a space after the quotation mark, and then type: rel=“sponsored”
Fun fact: the “rel” in this attribute stands for “relationship” because we’re marking the relationship between our blog and the resource we’re linking to.
So, in simple terms, this attribute is telling the Google web crawlers, ‘my relationship with the link is sponsored and I have the potential to earn compensation from anyone that clicks on this link.’
The final link with the sponsored label will look like this:
<a href=”youraffiliatelinkhere” rel=sponsored”>
If you want this affiliate link to open up in a new tab, you’ll need to add just a bit more info to the link (this is optional but highly recommended).
HOW TO LABEL YOUR AFFILIATE LINK SO IT OPENS IN A NEW TAB
If you’re still inside your HTML editor and looking at your affiliate link, you can easily change this link so that it opens in a new window.
AFTER the quotation where your affiliate link ends and BEFORE the rel, just type this text:
When you do this, it will add some extra text to the rel (relationship) section of your link, and that’s okay! It’s going to add the words noopener and noreferrer inside your quotations next to sponsored.
Now, the full link will look like this:
<a href=”YourAffiliateLinkHere” target=”_blank” rel=”sponsored noopener noreferrer”>
All this ugly code/confusing junk is essentially telling the Google web crawlers this:
Here’s a link. Open this link in a new window. The link is sponsored. Don’t let the new window that opens have access to my current window. Don’t let any referral info from this window leak onto the new window when it opens. Thanks!
END OF STORY.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT MY LINK IS ACTUALLY LABELED PROPERLY?
To check and make sure that all of your affiliate links have the sponsored tag attached to them, just add this FREE extension to your Chrome browser.
With this extension activated, all of your affiliate links that are PROPERLY tagged will have a dotted box around them, like this:
HOW TO LABEL YOUR LINKS FOR SEO
Although proper link labels don’t always/necessarily add “link juice” to your blog, they definitely do a lot of good. Especially the DOFOLLOW links, but the others are good too!
These labels help Google understand and index your content. properly They help Google crawl your site. They make the user experience better for your readers. And some of them add extra security to your WordPress site (like the noopener noreferrer tag).
Labeling your links is also essential for staying on Google’s good side and avoiding being penalized. So, if your blog matters to you, you’ll definitely want to label your links properly.
SHOULD YOU USE A PLUGIN TO LABEL YOUR LINKS?
This is not recommended.
I used to use a plugin for my nofollow links back in the day. Until that plugin broke and I lost all of the nofollow tags for my entire website!
You technically CAN use a plugin to do this, but there is a risk of that plugin failing… and if it fails, your sponsored tags usually fail with it.
It’s much better to do this manually! And once you know how to do it, it only takes a few seconds of your time.
Now that you know how to label those affiliate links properly, make sure you add this task to your blog post checklist before hitting publish.
And remember: all paid links, affiliate links, and sponsored links must be marked with the sponsored tag.
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