Links are images or snippets of text that you click on to bring you to another location. How you structure your links matters to Google and the other search engines. Generally speaking, there are three types of links that your site should contain:
- Internal links – these are links from one page within your site to another. The objective here, as with all links, is to give your users the best experience possible. Linking to other sources adds value by providing additional information on a given subject. Say you’re a general contractor and you have a top level link that says Services with sub-links under the main tab that link to pages about the individual services you offer. The navigation might look something like this:
This type of navigation is pretty self-explanatory and pretty intuitive for users. But you want to make it even easier to find relevant information. The way to do that is to create a Services landing page that contains about 500 words and speaks in general terms about your services. This page should include textual links to the individual services pages. The landing page could look something like this:
Providing links to the individual service pages from your Services landing page provides your users with another path to those pages without having to move the mouse back up to the main Services tab. Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for you visitors to find what they’re looking for.
- External or Outbound Links – these are links that lead users out of your site. It’s generally a good practice to provide your visitors with links to outside resources. But there are some important things to be aware of here. Be sure you are linking to sites that have some relevance to your own. Always make sure the sites you link to provide your visitors with added value. It adds to your own trustworthiness and is regarded as good manners when you link to other high value sites in your industry. It also sends the right message to Google and the other search engines. Your reputation is on the line here so make sure that you are linking to authoritative sites that your visitors will benefit from. Google considers who you link to in its ranking algorithm. Linking to questionable or irrelevant sites will make you guilty by association.
- Back or Inbound Links – back links are links from other sites to your site. Like good habits, which are hard to form and easy to live with, good quality backlinks are hard to get but extremely valuable. So valuable are backlinks in Google’s algorithm that site owners have resorted to all kinds of trickery to get them. Like link farms mentioned elsewhere on this site, trickery just doesn’t work anymore and can get your site kicked out of Google’s index. Why are backlinks so important? Here’s the scoop. Google considers a link to your site to be a “vote” for your site. So if a link to your site is coming from a reputable, authoritative site that has a proven track record and is relevant to your business, Google thinks “ok, if reputable Site A thinks enough of your site to link to it, then your site must be high value.” All good. Your page rank goes up. But beware. All votes are not equal. If links to your site are coming from questionable sites that have themselves either been blacklisted or have low page rank, Google thinks “ok, if Site B, which has nothing to do with your site and has already been flagged for questionable content is linking to your site, then you are guilty of hanging out in bad neighborhoods.” Bad. Your page rank goes down.
More About Linking
Text on a web page that has been formatted as a link is called anchor text and it is given more SEO weight than normal unlinked text. It makes sense then to use keywords in your anchor text rather than generic meaningless words like see more or click here. Say you have a page on your vintage guitar website that’s all about Fender electric guitars. One paragraph mentions the legendary Fender Stratocaster favored by so many musicians. You’ve created a separate page devoted specifically to the Stratocaster (a smart thing to do) – its history, specs, available options, etc. In the paragraph that mentions the Stratocaster you want to link to the detail page. You can use anchor text that says learn more, see more, click here or some other generic term or you can create anchor text with keyword value like learn more about the Fender Stratocaster guitar. Now you’ve created anchor text with valuable keywords in it that tells both the user and Google exactly what they will find when they click the link. You’ve just created link equity – a good thing.