SEO 101: Making the most of my ‘rel’ tags.

Learn what HTML rel tags are

Alright, so you’ve heard something about ‘rel’ tags and aren’t sure what it all means. Rather than getting into the details behind what they are, we’re going to focus right in on the ones we think are the most important. In a nutshell, ‘rel’ tags convey some authority or meaning from one site that is linking to another. They are a tool that site administrators can use to help control the way search engines perceive your website’s content and external links. Because the payoff can lead to significant swings (up if done correctly, and down if done poorly), it is important to use best practices when implementing them. Below are the tags that we find most helpful:

rel=”canonical”

The canonical tag goes within the <head> code on your website and looks like this:

Canonical URLs help search engines identify the primary source of authority for a given piece of content. Not sure what that means? Well, consider the different things that you could type into the search bar in order to reach our website:

  • www.yoursiteworks.com
  • yoursiteworks.com
  • https://yoursiteworks.com
  • https://www.yoursiteworks.com

Entering any of these into your browser would take you to the same page, however a search engine may see these all as different pages with identical content. As we know, duplicate content and plagiarism is a big no-no in the eyes of Google and the other SERPs. Luckily, the easy way to avoid this is by adding a Canonical tag to your website. Setting these up properly is handled by most content management systems these days, but in case you need to do it manually, here is a great guide.

rel=”prev” and rel=”next”

Like the canonical tag, these tags go within the <head> code of your website and are also designed to minimize any risk of the search engines viewing related pages of content as duplicative. These are especially helpful on blogs where there is a main category page that shows partial or full article text, and then a link to the article itself which displays the content again. Using a rel=”next” and rel=”prev” in these cases respectfully can help minimize this.

rel=”nofollow” and rel=”noopener”

These two are another set of favorites when it comes to SEO. Take a look at the link in the previous section. Right click on it and hit ‘inspect element’ – then examine the code that makes up the <a /> tag. It should look something like the below:

Notice the rel=”nofollow noopener” tag in this one. This means that both were added into a single rel tag, but you can also add nofollow and noopener by themselves. Both tags are used to tell search engines how to read a link to an external website. In the case of nofollow, the code is telling the search engines that they should not pass any of the domain authority or link value to the site that is being linked to.

The rel=”noopener” tag tells the browser that in cases where a link to an external site opens in a new window, that the new website is not allowed to redirect the original opening window. Basically, some clever people figured out that they could redirect people OFF of your site if you open their site using a link where this tag is not present. The technical details are more than we’ll cover in this article, but check this one out if you’re interested in learning more. The english is a little broken, but the information is on point.

Other rel tags

There have been other rel tags in the past that have been deemed important or even crucial. For example, the rel=”author” and rel=”publisher” tags were once touted by Google as a way to identify authoritative sources of content and help online authors build their reputation and credibility. Both of these were later degraded and are no longer even supported. You may still hear these mentioned or see references to them in articles or message boards from the time that they were important. Remember that SEO is an evolving practice that can be hard to stay ahead of, so always check the dates on articles and topics that you’re researching to make sure that the information you consume is still relevant.

Now What?

This information is all well and good, but how do I know if I have a problem and more importantly, how do I fix it? Well, that would need several more articles to even scratch the surface. If you’re using WordPress, the easiest thing to do is to install an SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO. A tool like this can help with a lot more than just rel tags and can be an invaluable resource for site administrators. Most major website providers offer a similar service, so spend some time doing research on your own if you’re not using WordPress.

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