Link attributes and their importance for SEO – an overview

Veröffentlicht: 14. January 2022

Link attributes are properties of a link that indicate its trustworthiness to Google. This is why they are particularly interesting from an SEO perspective, as Google uses them to count a backlink or not and assigns the PageRank accordingly. Sounds confusing? Then read this article and understand why nofollow links are sometimes described as “useless”, while dofollow links are sometimes sold for several hundred euros.

Basically, we should clarify the following before we talk about backlinks and their attributes. Links help search engines to understand websites and their authority. When Google’s crawlers visit websites, they use the links they find on these websites to discover other pages. In other words, Google finds pages by following links to other pages, just like you do when you search content on the internet.

What are links and how do they work?

Links help search engines to understand the content and meaning of the page to which they link. Links not only help the crawlers to find pages, but also provide Google with valuable information about each website. Google looks at things like the anchor text of the link, the content around the link, the link attributes and the position of the link to determine the content and importance of the target URL.

Links also play an important role as a signal in Google’s search algorithms. Google’s first algorithm PageRank, for example, counts the number and quality of links to a page to determine how important it is – the more links a page has from other popular pages, the better it performs in searches.

Even though Google uses hundreds of other signals today, PageRank is still an important part of the ranking process. You can find out what role links play in search engine optimization in our article “What influences the Google ranking?

A nofollow link is used in the HTML anchor tag to tell the search engine to ignore the link when it comes to passing authority through it. This is what it looks like in HTML code:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>Google</a>

Now when the search engine crawler crawls my site, indexes my content and determines the backlinks to determine the authority of the sources, it ignores the nofollow links.

In contrast to this are the dofollow links. As you might imagine, these backlinks tell the search engines that they should “follow” the respective link, i.e. take it into account.

By default, every link is given ranking authority (=is a dofollow link) unless the rel attribute is added and the quality of the link is determined otherwise.

What significance do dofollow links have for my ranking?

When the ability to manipulate rankings through backlinks was discovered, a multi-billion dollar industry sprang up overnight to help its clients rise in Google search results. These are so-called dofollow links, because they are considered a recommendation by Google and receive a better PageRank. A dofollow link is therefore very valuable, especially if the page from which the link originates has many high-quality dofollow links in its own link profile.

SEO companies automated and built link farms to manipulate the search engines. Of course, Google noticed this and has been taking action against it ever since.

Google improved its algorithms to monitor the rank of websites that accumulate backlinks from relevant, reputable domains. However, the algorithms often have major problems because they are only programmed and not intelligent themselves.

So, no, adding links anywhere won’t help you, but collecting backlinks of very relevant and high quality websites will help you. Link spamming harms your ranking, as Google intelligence can also recognize manipulation and penalize you for it.

If you want to find out more about how you can use backlinks for your SEO strategy, take a look here: Offpage SEO Basics.

Rel=”sponsored” is a new type of link name that Google has introduced. Sponsored links are the same as paid links. You can learn more about Google’s stance on paid links in the Webmaster Guidelines on Link Programs, but essentially, Google doesn’t want you buying or selling the kind of links that could help your search engine rankings. These should be earned.

When should I use rel=”sponsored”?

  • For links that are advertising
  • For links that are placed as a form of sponsorship
  • In any other situation where someone has paid for the link on your site (through the exchange of money, goods or services)

With rel=”sponsored” you can classify your links even more precisely. Instead of just saying, “Hey Google, don’t follow this link and don’t associate it with my site” (as a nofollow would do), the term “sponsored” means, “Hey Google, don’t use this link for ranking because it was paid for.”

If you have previously classified your paid links as nofollow, you don’t need to convert them to sponsored (although that would be more accurate). You just need to make sure you have one of each so as not to jeopardize the link strength of your site.

Rel=”ugc” is the second new type of link name that Google has introduced. UGC is an acronym for “user generated content”.

When should I use rel=”ugc”?

  • For links in blog or article comments
  • For links in forum posts
  • For all other types of links that your users are allowed to create on your website

If you want to reward certain contributors, e.g. users who have written many high-quality comments or posts on your site, you can remove the rel=”ugc” (or rel=”nofollow”) tag from their links. Such decisions are entirely at the discretion of the website operator. You can find more information on dealing with comment spam in this article from Google.

Do backlinks in blog/forum comments work?

When PageRank was first discussed and blogs came onto the scene, everything was commented on and spammed with links. Comment spam was born (and is still a problem today). It wasn’t long before content management systems introduced nofollow links for author profiles and comments. As a result, many forum operators have deactivated their comment section.

The added value of forum and comment links is somewhat controversial these days. The rule of thumb here is the same as for all other backlinks: Quality > Quantity!

I firmly believe that you have to earn links instead of asking for them. However, it is of course possible to buy the coveted dofollow links. You can use well-known marketplaces for this or simply write to the website operator personally and ask for a link (outreach).

The best option is of course a friendly request with the offer to write a guest post that is valuable for the site’s community, which then contains a dofollow link. This means that the meaningfulness of the link is not completely lost and site operators will be more willing to provide a link.

As a website operator, you should always keep an eye on your outgoing links. If you allow comments or forum posts on your site, you should check whether the links they contain are always marked as Nofollow or Ugc. At the same time, you should make sure that your site itself receives enough dofollow links to conquer the best search positions in your niche.

Hannes Kaltofen

Hannes Kaltofen

Gründer & Geschäftsführer

Seit über 7 Jahren in den SERPs unterwegs. Dank SEO konnte Ich das Affiliate Marketing, Blogging und Agenturgeschäft kennelernen und helfe Unternehmen tagtäglich bei ihrer Sichtbarkeit.

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