Back in the day, when backlinks weren't such a spam vector, sites (usually small personal sites) used to be part of webrings; they'd dedicate part of their pages to promoting other sites in the same network of sites.

This stopped being a thing for a few reasons, a big one being that Google's approach to content changed in response to comment spam, purchased backlinks, and other black hat SEO techniques.

I still think webrings are a fun tool to help create a sense of community. I don't want to set them up in the name of building SEO juice, I want to use them in the old-school way, as a way to promote members of the webring in small template modules.

I want to set them up to avoid any SEO penalties, with rel=nofollow attributes, but my question is this: Since you could describe this as a bartered system for site promotion, should I use sponsored instead of nofollow?

2 Answers 2


If the links will be displayed in a way that makes it clear they are part of the webring then I wouldn't worry about adding a rel attribute. For example, if they will be under a header that says something like "visit our friends" or "other sites you might enjoy", and if you use the name of the sites as link anchors (as opposed to a high-CPC term like "car insurance").

If it was a pay for linking system, then most likely the economy of scale required for it to be worthwhile would make it clear to Google that it is a paid linking system. You would probably be using different linking patterns than a webring.

For example, it would most likely result in a network of sites that all use similar, high-CPC anchor texts and have low quality content. In that case you would probably need rel='sponsored' in order to avoid penalty.

I also don't think it is necessary to use nofollow. The human value of those links is a sense of community. Even if the topic areas are wildly different among these sites, interlinking adds value to the user because it shows them sites that you have vetted.

From a search engine's point of view, your webring's interlinking is not necessarily a signal of relevance but it is a signal of trusted authorship, which is an equally valid reason to link to something.

So it would make sense to let the crawlers through as a signal your confidence in the other sites.

Hope this helps. Anecdotally, I like the idea of webrings - its seems like an antidote to a homogenous, social media-dominated internet. Happy building.


Web rings fall under Google's webmaster guidelines about prohibited link schemes.

Excessive link exchanges ("Link to me and I'll link to you") or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.

You could argue that they not "exclusively for the sake of cross-linking", however web-rings often appear on lists of black-hat SEO practices (like this one,) and it is clear that Google does not view them favorably.

Rather than rel=sponsored, I would use rel=nofollow. "sponsored" is for paid links, "ugc" is for user generated content, and "nofollow" is for all other cases. Since the links aren't paid or user generated, they should be "nofollow". See Qualify Outbound Links for SEO | Google Search Central

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