Links. Internal, External and Outbound

Links. Internal, External and Outbound

Josh Garner July 21, 2010 2

Links. Internal, External and Outbound

The Internet is built on links. The search engines find websites via links from other site and visitors find appropriate pages via navigation links.

All in all, this is what drives the ever-growing landscape. Because links are so important, we are going to talk today about various link types and how they are handled.

Before we get into the different links, let’s define something real quick: anchor text.

Anchor text is the part of a link that a person would see simply by viewing the site. You should know what a link looks like in HTML, but just in case, here it is:

<a href=”http://seo-factor.com”>SEO Factor is the coolest.</a>

The part that says “SEO Factor is the coolest.” is not only true, it’s also the anchor text. So, the link would simply show that piece, but direct a clicker to the page declared in the ‘href’ portion. Simple, yeah?

This is important because the anchor text is considered when a search engine views a link. Let’s say there is a link to your website that says “Orlando Hotel” on another site. Google would see this, go to your page and associate the anchor text. This is one of the many ways we associate our websites with a search term.

OK, let’s talk link types.

Internal Links

Internal links are those that are on your website, that point to other pages on the same site. The navigation of your site would be a good example of this, but the SEO implications call for more attention. We need to not only consider the anchor text that we use to point to the pages of our site, but also where they are in relation to our content.

Internal links that point to a page of your site nested within relevant content will help to establish a page’s relevance to a certain search term. So, not only do we need the right anchor text, we need to discuss the link within our content.

The homepage of a site often touches on many aspects of the products, services or information that are also detailed in their own pages; like a ‘products’ page. Since we are talking about our products on the homepage, why not link to the right page with the right anchor text?

Consider:

  • Internal links should have relevant search terms in the anchor text, pointing to relevant pages
  • They should be placed (not forced) in the content of our site’s pages, not just the navigation

Bonus: Internal linking is of the utmost importance when conducting on-page optimization. Not only does proper internal linking increase usability, it also has a big impact on rankings. But it’s important to do it right. For a slightly more advanced look at the subject, Ken Lyons over at WordStream wrote a great post with some internal linking tips that are simply fantastic.

External Links

Also known as inbound links. These are links that point to your website from another website. This is the meat of SEO today (and for the last few years). Getting links pointing to your site from other websites with a lot of links pointing to them, with a keyword for the anchor text is what we SEOs spend countless hours chasing.

I wrapped up a lot in that last statement, so let’s take a general look at the parts of external links that matter in relation to optimization.

You want links pointing to your site from relevant websites. A website about cars will do little for your hotel website (unless it’s something so grand as Edmunds.com or some such; different topic all together though).

You want links pointing to your site from sites that have a lot of links themselves. This means, a brand new website won’t help too much (note that we shouldn’t turn these down though). The more links pointing to your website, the higher it’s importance as according to a search engine. So it goes that a link from such an important site would really help our site.

When a website links to your site, we want to convince them to use a desired keyword or search term as the anchor text. Remember that this will help a search engine associate your site with that term. This is sometimes the tricky part, but that’s what we want.

Consider:

  • Links from important sites are good.
  • Links from relevant sites are good.
  • Links with desired anchor text from other sites are good.

Outbound Links

Outbound links are links on your website that point to other websites. You might be thinking “why would I want to give out my links to other sites, giving them credit?” At start I would say “you’re right. By linking to others, you are giving some of your link juice to them.” But there’s a bit more to it. There are also ways we can manage the juice we give to other sites.

Linking to other websites may be a great way to provide your potential patrons with area information to help them decide on your hotel, or perhaps linking to information on the SBA.org site would help to justify the need for your B2B services you provide (we do that one a lot). So, we don’t want to throw out the idea of linking to others all together.

There is a thought that linking to very relevant website, especially noted authoritative sites as deemed so by Google will in fact help the legitimacy of your website, and thus your rankings. I’m not so certain on that, but the logic of being associated with the right circles is there.

We do, however want to ensure we aren’t linking to completely irrelevant websites. Not only does this give them some of your link juice, but it reflects poorly on the professionalism of your site, in both the eyes of a search engine and a visitor.

We also don’t want to link out to other sites excessively. Having links to the nearest 100 local businesses will look very suspicious, and the amount of juice given away is far too great.

We want to be careful with the anchor text we use in order to link to other websites. We don’t want to use one of our desired search terms to link to someone else, associating their site with said search term.

I feel, that if you are linking to a website that would benefit your visitors, then they should get a little benefit from it in regard to search engines.

However, if you want to keep all your link juice to yourself, you can use the nofollow attribute. This is a part of the link that will tell Google not to follow the link (it is not clear that they won’t follow it anyway) and that you don’t want to give them any of your link juice (this part is true). This would keep all the juice to yourself. You can see a nofollow link written like this:

<a href=”http://seo-factor.com” rel=”nofollow>SEO Factor is the best.</a>

Please note that the nofollow attribute is widely known about. Excessive use of the nofollow could ostracize you, and prevent others from linking to you. Be careful.

Consider:

  • Linking to other sites will give some of your link credit or “juice.”
  • Linking to other sites should only be done so in a way that would benefit your visitors.
  • Excessive outbound links will have a negative impact on your site in several ways.
  • Don’t use one of your search terms as the anchor to an outbound link.
  • We can use the nofollow attribute to keep the juice on our site, but that isn’t playing nice.

On a slightly related note, people still fall into reciprocal linking schemes by which they link to other sites if they agree to link to you. I strongly advise against it. In moderation, a few reciprocal links aren’t bad, and may help. But that should be a distant last on your list of “things to do to increase links to your site.”