Also known as “backlinks”, “inbound links” or “incoming links” have, for a long time, been the cornerstone of ranking algorithms for search engines.
Backlinks usually refers to one website adding a hyperlink to their page which targets another website e.g.
send-links.com >>> receive-links.com
The importance of natural backlinks or inbound links for the SEO performance of a website cannot be understated, historically backlinks have been counted as “votes” which Google and other search engines have interpreted as signals to help order websites within the index.
Early on in the development of the web, using inbound links to help rank websites was a much simpler job for search engines than it is today.
Sites that gained the most links generally earned higher rankings. However, as the web developed and as SEOs began understanding and exploiting links to get their websites to the top of search engine results pages search engines had to make changes so they could more easily determine which links were genuine and should be counted and discount those that should not.
Backlinks form a crucial part of search engine ranking algorithms with additional data from each specific link, website page, linking root domain and the type of link all interpreted as “signals” by Google.
2020 Link Attribute Changes
Linking was a binary process until 2020. Links to other sites either contained a “nofollow” attribute e.g. rel=”nofollow” or did not have this attribute and were considered as followed.
Links which included rel=”nofollow” were not counted in the ranking algorithms of search engines but links without the attribute, known to some in the SEO industry as follow links or dofollow links were.
This all changed in 2019, when Google announced one of the biggest changes ever to link and link attributes.
Rather than a binary approach to the measurement of the link graph, Google is shaking things up by adding two more attributes for webmasters, editors and site owners to consider using. Each with their own specific meanings;
- rel=”nofollow” – used since 2005 – has until recently been the only way to prevent Google from following links out of your site. From March 2020, can be followed in some instances where Google deems it is suitable.
- rel=”ugc” – NEW – used to identify links that are added by users as part of comments on message boards or at the foot of editorial content. Can be followed depending upon Google’s interpretation.
- rel=”sponsored” – NEW – used to denote affiliate links, links that are used for paid placements or sponsored adverts.
The above changes, introduced by Google in September 2019, now mean that there are more ways for sites to manage their outbound linking and crucially, means that Google can count any links, from March 2020, towards ranking signals, depending upon their interpretation of the links.
With the changes above, Google is taking back the power of the link graph and determining for itself, through machine learning and algorithmic processes what naturally occurring SEO links look like and identifying unnatural linking patterns as spam.
Relevance, intent & followed links vs nofollowed
Google looks at the overall numbers of links that both website pages and website domains gain, but can also assess things like;
- anchor text (highlighted text content which encases links)
- relevance (both at page and site level of origin link to link destination)
- followed links (are officially the only ones which directly count towards rankings)
- nofollowed links (supposedly do not directly impact rankings but can contribute to the performance of your site in other ways)
- quality (closely tied to relevance but loosely, links from higher “authority” websites are more valuable.
Link building today is both more complex and simpler than ever. With three types of link attribute to understand, you can be forgiven for thinking that link building is complicated.
In reality, Google’s current stance on backlinks means that you need not worry so much about the type of links that you acquire provided they are naturally occurring and you have not paid for them.
|Link Type||Has SEO Value (Pre 2020)||Has SEO Value (Now – 2021 & Beyond)|
|rel=”ugc”||N/A – did not exist||Sometimes – at discretion of search engine|
|rel=”sponsored”||N/A – did not exist||Unlikely to – represents a monetised link (but delivers traffic)|
|rel=”nofollow”||No SEO value||Potentially valuable – at discretion of search engine|
|//no link attribute//||Valuable for SEO ranking||Still delivers SEO value – at discretion of search engine|
How Search/Natural can help you
We have many years of experience and knowledge of how to generate backlinks for websites.
We can help you to;
- assess competitors for their current backlink profile
- identify where your site will benefit from links the most
- create and implement a strategy to generate links in one hit or as an ongoing basis
We utilise tried and tested methods like newsjacking and strategic outreach campaigns to build good quality, relevant links to the most important pages on your site.
Contact us to discuss your link building efforts and get an insight into how we can help build quality links for you.