The Importance of Links for SEO

Everyone who works in SEO and related fields will tell you time and again that links are one of the most important things for increasing your website’s ranking and improving your standing in search engine results. There are two main types of link: internal and external; as you would expect, internal links navigate within your own site whilst external links navigate to different places on the web. You want other websites to link to you to potentially increase both your traffic and site ranking. Below is a closer look at both types of link and how they can benefit your website and therefore your business.

External Links

An external link is exactly what it sounds like, a link which points to an external domain. Leading SEO professionals still believe that external links are one of the most important factors in ranking your website. External links create different ranking power to internal ones as search engines consider them as third-party votes, even if you have yourself placed your link in an external domain.

External Links Best Practice

Attaining high rankings is tightly tied to the number of external links to your domain.

PageRank works by counting each external link as a third-party vote and therefore a sign of a site’s popularity. Of course PageRank is much more complex than that in reality but this is in the most basic instance. There are many other metrics which rate the value of external links further including:

  • The trustworthiness of the linking domain – high quality directories (like the WAHMweb directory!) for example are a good way of promoting your business’ webpage.
  • The popularity of the linking page – often determined by their own external links and PageRank.
  • The relevancy between the content on the external page and the target page – for example, links placed within nonsensical blog comments that simply make no sense in context are ‘worth’ very little.
  • The anchor text used for the link.

The Importance of External Links

There are two main reasons that external links are extremely important:

Relevancy

Links provide relevancy and authority clues which are highly valued by search engines. The anchor text used in links is manually written by users and therefore usually closely reflects the content of the page it is linking to such as ‘best freelancer blogs’ which although in shorthand, still gives a clear relevant clue to the link.

The target and source pages cited in a link also give search engines highly valuable relevancy metrics. Properly placed links will point to related, relevant content and this helps search engines build up hubs of knowledge online that they can use for validation purposes if necessary in the future.

Popularity

Website traffic is an extremely difficult metric to grasp. Search engines find it messy and hard to measure accurately whilst external links are more stable and much easier to measure. The problem with traffic numbers is that they’re deeply buried in private server logs whilst external links are publicly accessible, visible and easy to store. They’re one of the most reliable and simple metrics for measuring the popularity of any web page.

Internal Linking

click-hereInternal links are important because they are completely free and can add a great deal to your domain. The best thing about them is that you have complete control over everything from the anchor text to the placement on the page to the volume you choose to use.

It’s vital to link to pages using relevant anchor text as mentioned above, e.g to link to a page on Red Widgets, you should hyperlink the words “Red Widgets” or even “buy our Red Widgets” rather than simply “click here”. This tells search engines that the page you’re linking to is about Red Widgets (rather than the page being about the meaningless ‘click here’) and more importantly helps direct the user. Longer links offer accessibility advantages too.

Different Types of Internal Links

You should mix up the types of internal links you use on your webpage and include the following:

Navigation Links

You should always ensure that if you choose to use JavaScript or image-based navigation links you provide a html alternative as this helps the search engines spider your site efficiently.

Footer Navigation

While it used to be recommended to write your footer navigation link in a list and use your most competitive keywords for the anchor text of each link, some believe that Google now ignores or devalues footer links.

Inline Text Links

Inline text links are probably the most important links around. This is due to the fact that you can control every aspect of them, including the text surrounding them. This means you can increase their worth to search engines by ensuring their relevancy to your content is defined clearly.

Sitemapping

If you provide a sitemap you’re offering the search engine a valuable content page which can be easily scanned and collates all the other pages within your website. As well as being useful for the search engines it’s also a positive feature for your clients or readers too.

All businesses should have a website and therefore all businesses need to have a firm grasp of SEO and how it can positively impact upon your business. The importance of links both internal and external cannot be underestimated and they can significantly shift your site’s position in the search rankings.