Links: the medium through which information is connected and shared across the internet. This single entity is the reason why the internet is often referred to as a “web” of content; everything is connected in one way or another by different degrees of links. They are also what fuels the popularity of Twitter, one of the fastest growing social networks in the world. Links make the constraint of just 140 characters a mere illusion; users can share articles, videos, and photographs that far exceed that limit through the use of links. Besides being the fabric that weaves together the very existence of the internet both metaphorically and graphically, links are also very important to SEO website design. In this blog, Vol. 4 of our How to Master the Art of SEO series, we’ll discuss how links can improve – and worsen- your web page development.
Anchor Text of Inbound Links
An inbound link is any link that can be viewed on another site that links back to your site. In the same way that descriptions can be written in the alt tags of images, anchor text can add valuable content to inbound links. The only difference is that anchor text is always visible to the user. This is an excellent place to use keywords to describe exactly what that link is connecting to: your website.
Origin of Inbound Links
These other sites that are linking back to yours need to be relevant and credible ones; basically ones that are well recognized by search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Think of value by association- if a reputable site links to yours then there’s a high chance that your site is reputable as well. Remember, however, that the level of credibility of a site that links to you far outweighs the number of credible links that you have. For example, having one link from CNN is more powerful than having 10 links from less widely known news sources.
Links from Similar Sites
This can overlap somewhat with the topic above. Having links from sites that are both similar to yours and credible is a double advantage. It means that your competition values you and you are popular in that particular web community. For example, if you own a website for a small news organization and CNN had a link to your website, this would do wonders for your search engine rankings.
Links from .edu & .gov Sites
.edu and .gov links are two of the most credible links on the internet. They are always more reputable than other domains such as .com, .biz, .net etc. This adds value to your SEO because they are not only credible, but very difficult to obtain.
Text Around Anchor Text
The content that comes directly before and after the anchor text of a link is crucial because it’s a good indicator of how relevant the link is to your page. If the surrounding text makes the anchor text of the link sound awkward it could be telling search engines that the link is artificial.
Age of Inbound Links
Unlike the content of your website, your inbound links are actually looked upon more favorably by search engines with age. This is because an influx of new links in a short period of time may indicate that they are artificial or that they have been bought.
This can definitely help your SEO website design, but just be careful with which directories you choose. Yahoo Directory & DMOZ (the open directory project) are excellent, but having tons of links from unknown directories can be seen as links spamming which would result a big SEO penalty from search engines.
Outgoing Links on Sites that Link to You
The less outgoing links there are from a site that links to you the better because this makes your link appear more important. Compare this to having your link buried in a overflow of outgoing links.
Several Outgoing Links
If you’re trying to improve your SEO, it’s best to avoid redirecting people off of your website. If you absolutely need to, be sure to use a blank target tag () so that the outgoing link opens in a separate window. Not doing so can cause users to be confused about how to return to your site. In general, try not to have more than 100 links per page.
While linking to similar sites is good, having an excessive amount of links -either inbound or outgoing- is never good because it suggests links spamming.
Outgoing Links to Suspicious Sites
Just as linking to similar sites is advantageous to your SEO linking to link farms or “bad neighbor” sites can do a great deal of damage to your search engine rankings. Make sure you periodically check the credibility of sites you link to.
This is when your site links to site A, site A links to site B and site B links back to your site. There are more complex versions of cross-linking, but in general it’s highly frowned upon by search engines because it’s seen as reciprocal link trading.
Single Pixel Links
Again, this goes back to the idea of designing for the user, not the search engines. People sometimes link a single pixel image which is invisible to their readers. Search engines see this as manipulative and will penalize website owners who do it.
Keep your eye out for the next blog where we’ll be discussing Vol. 5: Domains!