The LINK Tag, REL attribute and SEO

link-tag-seo

Keep in mind that the REL attribute can be applied to an A tag too. This means that you can specify relationships between the interlinked documents not only in the head section of your web pages, but anywhere inside your documents.

The opposite of the REL attribute is the REV attribute and you can find a good explanation of both in here. For more values of the REL attribute here’s a comprehensive list. Keep in mind that the list of supported values for REL attribute is different for HTML 4 and HTML 5.

Why do you need to pay attention this attribute?

First, some search engines will use the LINK tag to discover other documents. To identify new documents they will try to crawl the URL provided in the HREF value of this tag. The relationship between the interlinked documents is specified in the REL attribute and the type of relationship can have very important consequences on how search engines crawl your website (think about the canonical value of the REL attribute or nofollow).

Second, some browsers may display navigational icons when they identify an RSS feed associated with the current document, which is great for usability and improving behavioral metrics such as page views or time on site:

screenshot of opera toolbar which displays navigational clue taken from the REL attribute

Some REL attributes can be used by browsers to improve user experience

Third, you can use this attribute to provide search engine additional information about the interlinked documents. For example you can specify the author of the linked document, which can help bots identify the original source of a content, even if it gets copied and republished over and over again. Google is now supporting the author value of the REL attribute and use it to determine the relevancy of one’s page to a user’s query. Here‘s the official document describing how you can use the author and me.

Should you worry about all values for this attribute?

No. There are tens of allowed values for rel, but in terms of SEO, I think you should pay attention to the following values:

canonical – the most important attribute, tells search engines which page should be indexed when there are duplicate or very similar versions of the same page across the same site (or even different websites). This attribute deserve an article on its own, but until I’ll write one please read the official guideline from Google. It’s important to know that canonical is passing PR just as with any other ordinary A links.

 

3 versions of the same page: 1 for html, 1 for print, 1 for rss feed

Duplicate or similar content such as print, feed or pdf page can be addressed with rel=”canonical”

 

nofollow – this is the “no Page Rank juice” attribute and you should basically use it on all external links for which you don’t want to pass PR.

alternate AND hreflang – the alternate value becomes important when combined with HREFLANG, to unify content under multilingual templates. “If you translate only the template of your pages, such as the side navigation and footer, while keeping the bulk of your content in a single language (as often happens on pages featuring user-generated content), using REL=”alternate” HREFLANG=”x” along with REL=”canonical” or 301 redirects is a good technique to help Google serve the correct language URL to searchers” – excerpt from Google Webmaster Central. You should also read this article, which is also related to multiple languages on the same site.

same website in 2 images, one for English navigation the other with French translated menus

Multilanguage menus with main menu in the same language

author or meauthor and me can be used to define relationships between a web document and its author(s). This can be used by search engines to determine the original author for duplicate content. The official document describing how you can use the author and me, can be found here. Briefly put, if you link to your profiles on any social network from other web documents, use the REL=”me” attribute to tell search engines that the linked page belongs to you and is your social profile.

tag – this value introduces us to the micro formats. By adding REL=”tag” to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink is an author-designated “tag” (or keyword/subject) for the current page.

bookmark - The HTML4 spec describes a bookmark as “a link to a key entry point within an extended document”. By convention, this entry point also captures the notion of a “permalink”.

previous and next – these are used to suggest a series of documents related to each other (it can be an article split in multiple parts, multi-page categories on an ecommerce website, search result pages) and are used by Google to understand relationships between pages.

license – you can use this value for copyright attribution on your own images. Here’s how:

There are an impressive number of REL values for social networks (The XHTML Friends Network) but those are not (yet) so widely used or possibly not influencing  rankings at this time. Some of them might be used by Google to establish relationships between social network accounts and even show up in the search results:

facebook rich snippets showing your network of friends based on rel attributes

Such snippets could become more and more frequent

Bonus 1: did you know that you can actually alter the appearance of the links that contain the REL attribute, such as adding a specific icon for each value of the attribute? Here‘s a tutorial on how to do it.

Bonus 2: in case you want to specify a canonical version for documents which really don’t generate an html code (i.e. pdf documents), Google is now supporting REL=”canonical” in HTTP Headers.

Pitstop Media offers ROI focused SEO services. If you need a SEO company to help you rank #1 please contact us for a free, no obligation quote. We’ve helped companies rank first on Google in short periods of time, for highly competitive terms.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.5/10 (13 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)
The LINK Tag, REL attribute and SEO, 7.5 out of 10 based on 13 ratings

About

Traian is Founder and Director of Search Marketing at Pitstop Media Inc. He has more than 11 years experience in helping small and medium businesses generate and convert organic traffic from search engines. Connect with Traian on Google+

 

17 Responses to “The LINK Tag, REL attribute and SEO”

  1. gvlonline said:

    Jul 21, 11 at 2:32 am

    Hi, great Post!

    Could you do me favour and explain how and when to use “alternate AND media” in the rel-attribute? Which function has this value?

    PS:
    I’m wondering if I can use rel=”alternate” media=”handheld” or rel=”alternate” media=”screen” to specify the relation between domainA and a subdomain for mobile devices with exactly the same content on it. (to avoid duplicate content!)

    Many thanks in advance!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  2. TraiaN said:

    Jul 21, 11 at 9:38 am

    you should use alternate AND media withing the tag in the head, to specify specify how a document is to be presented on different media: on the screen, on paper, with a speech synthesizer, with a braille device, etc.
    To avoid duplicate content you shouldn’t use the rel attribute. If the content is duplicate or near duplicate you should use a combination of robots meta tag (noindex, nofollow, noarchive) along with rel=”canonical” to the version you want indexed and ranked. If you want both versions (handheld and screen) to be indexed, you need to create 2 separate versions of those pages. I hope it helps!

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  3. META Tags and SEO – The Complete HTML Guide for SEO said:

    Jul 22, 11 at 12:33 pm

    [...] LINK Tag, REL attribute and SEO – The Complete HTML Guide for Search Engine Optimization [...]

  4. DG said:

    Mar 26, 12 at 9:30 am

    Hello there, nice article anyway~

    But I have one simple question, which is the best place for rel attribute for SEO (if the rel attribute’s place have an effects for SEO)? For example:

    1. (rel first then href)
    or
    2.
    (href first then rel)

    Thanks in advance! :)

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  5. TraiaN said:

    Mar 27, 12 at 9:27 am

    GD, usually the tag comes first then the attribute. But the order won’t have any effect on SEO.

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  6. Karen Maskall said:

    Sep 16, 12 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Traian
    Thanks for the post. I think I am just about getting my head around the value of the rel= attribute.

    So would it be correct if I add rel=”colleague” to the outgoing links for my featured authors? (these featured authors writing specifically to help us make a difference yet still increasing their own brand value so I am regarding them as a working colleague). I have the outbound links to their sites in my sidebar (dofollow but NOT paid links)so does this mean that the rel attribute would mean search engines go quickly to all these links with same attribute?

    Thanks
    Karen

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  7. Traian Neacsu said:

    Sep 17, 12 at 12:53 pm

    Hi Karen and thanks for commenting. You ask a very tricky question.

    Indeed, you can consider the author a colleague, but I think that’s not what the rel=”colleague” is for. It seems more likely the author is a contributor.

    I believe that rel=”colleague” should link to a person’s profile (social profile, about me), not to a blog home page or article. Ideally, that profile should be either on the same site where the two of you work, or on a page that lists persons within the same organization.

    If you want to give credit to the author (help him build some brand) and at the same time create authority for your site, there might be a workaround using rel=”author” and rel=”publisher”, though I think it is not supposed to have them both on the same page.

    Check this article too. I hope it will help.

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  8. Karen Maskall said:

    Sep 20, 12 at 6:21 am

    I am with you now Traian

    In summary then if the rel= is for anything that might be “personal” like colleague,author,partner,friend,… it should go to a personal profile, which might be on same site OR a profile on a social network like a Google+ or LinkedIn profile or even his/her about me page.

    So an external link to their “website home page” should only be something like rel=”god I love what these guys do” (…only joking… .. ) external links on my site are dofollow so they are already saying that I value the site so I guess there is no need for a rel= attribute…

    that was interesting the way google is recognising the rel =”author” attribute though. I must look at that in more depth because I am NOT always the author on my own site.

    If you think about it.. I have guest bloggers and I link to the posts via my own social network accounts…. which in real terms is sort of building my own brand and not their’s which is a real shame really I think. (However in saying that this is the discussion of building your brand as a guest blogger which is NOT what your post here is about, so thats for another day :-)…)

    I was recently investigating this ( and did try to understand it) I am not sure if you have heard about it or know whether there is any value for us with respects to seo and the rel= attribute http://gmpg.org/xfn/ (please remove link out if you dont want this bit in my comment btw)

    I’ll go over to read the post you recommended for me now
    Cheers
    Karen

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  9. Traian Neacsu said:

    Sep 20, 12 at 12:54 pm

    This is what I started doing lately: when I guest post, I add a link to my Google+ profile in the author byline
    Traian is the Director of SEO and co-founder ….”

    Notice the “?rel=author”at the end of the Google+ profile URL. This tells who is the author of the article on that page and ideally there’s shouldn’t be any other rel=author on the same page.

    Then you can go on your G+ profile, in the Contributor To section and add that URL in there. I hope this will work fine.

    Another option is to allow author profiles on your blog and add the rel=”author” to the profile name.

    If you do this search you will notice that my photo shows on a different site to which I have contributed to.

    All the best!

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  10. Karen Maskall said:

    Sep 20, 12 at 1:12 pm

    ok I get it now Traian

    I’ll work on those author profiles and get the rel=”author” added for them and their g+ profile link sorted. Plus I’ll show them this post and our comments, so they can get what we were talking about (hopefully)… better still I will try to write a blog post linking back to this post ( trust me it isn’t easy lol)

    Then I can encourage them to link all their author profiles wherever they are guest authoring my site or others. This just makes so much sense now. I was really NOT wanting to build my brand on the back of others so now I will be v happy to be helping them too. win win all round…

    Thanks ever so much… ur a star..

    ps… v knowledgeable seo consultant too :-)

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  11. Traian Neacsu said:

    Sep 20, 12 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks Karen. I recently run into authorship issues on this website too, so I know the process is not straightforward. I hope you’ll manage to sort it our on your site, easily.

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  12. hoi dap said:

    Dec 21, 12 at 11:48 am

    Thanks for post! I’ll try it for my site :) Good job!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  13. What is A TAG REL? | buyingdomainnames said:

    Jan 05, 13 at 5:01 pm

    [...] http://www.pitstopmedia.com/sem/link-tag-rel-attribute-seo [...]

  14. Cristian said:

    Feb 18, 13 at 3:24 pm

    Very interesting i didn’t know about the bookmark and tag attributes. I want to understand better how search engines crawl and assign variables/values to the linked pages.

    Thanks for sharing!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  15. Lucia Beltran said:

    Mar 30, 13 at 1:30 am

    Great post. Your comments about REL=”alternate” HREFLANG=”x” along with REL=”canonical” or 301 redirects is gold, but i don’t fully get it 100%. Page partially translated that you don’t want to rank should be rel=canonical to the main one. 301 for bots? Could you make some practical example or another post within the subject digging deeper?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  16. apps for mobile said:

    Apr 08, 13 at 2:23 am

    Hi Traian how about the rel specialty?

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  17. Traian Neacsu said:

    Apr 08, 13 at 10:31 am

    never heard of it :)

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)