By Rae Hadley

Good links, at their most basic, are methods of creating a bridge between one piece of information and another. In today’s fast-paced, technologically diverse and ever-evolving world, understanding the way links are structured, to provide the most efficient and effective way of disseminating information is essential.

A website’s ‘raison d’être’ is to share it’s information to the relevant audience, ensuring that they return by making pertinent connections and networks which that audience will appreciate and benefit from.

There are numerous ways to consider how and why links are created between websites; however, for the purposes of this article, only the three main ones will be discussed.

Relevant Links

A relevant link is exactly what it sounds like. It is a connection that is provided by one web page, which transports the user to another web page, the latter having an undeniable ‘relevance’ to the page on which the user started. 

The importance of these links; in the intricate, interconnected, high-speed world wide web of today; cannot be stressed enough. Gone are the days when websites can boost their SEO rankings with lots of irrelevant links to sites with dubious credibility.  Authenticity, relevance and authority are crucial and ensure that the user experience is as productive and meaningful as possible. After all, if the user does not have their needs met, why would they return to any given site? Equally, if the role a site plays is not adding value to a user’s knowledge or experience, why would a search engine ‘recommend’ it?

Anchor text is a part of the puzzle which pulls together elements of linguistic relevance as well as subject relevance and is essential to increasing your organic traffic. It is part of the way the SEO or Google bots–imagine tiny, nosy creatures scurrying around cyberspace, looking into every link and pathway, to see where they lead and then reporting back–understand the connection on offer. Good–relevant, credible, active–links should be attached to concise, targeted, relevant keywords so that Google knows it can recommend your site for searches performed for those keywords.

Deep Links

Deep linking takes the user to other pages internal to any given site, with a focus on choosing pages which have a high level of relevance, goes beyond linking to the generic homepage.  If the home page is the only one to receive links, then that page may well achieve a good SEO ranking, but it will be in isolation to the rest of the site – the site itself will not receive a good ranking because all of the focus is in one place.

It is much more beneficial to spread deep, and relevant, links across a variety of pages so as the SEO ranking increases it occurs more uniformly across the whole of the site itself, and both page and site ranks increase. Checking the most frequently used entry point for users enables you to understand the flow of traffic. However, if entry to a site is consistently through the home page this, it has been shown to correlate to ‘bounce rate’. If people always reach the home page rather than a relevant ‘deep’ page, there’s a good chance that they will just leave. 

Well created, informative pages with a large amount of web traffic, a high level of page ‘stickiness’, and long duration-rates on webpages are the desirable ones to have deep or backlinks to. Visitors to these pages will likely be confident of the credibility of any pages linked from their initial choice, directly through that association.

Backlinks

A backlink is a HTTP: link which will run from site A into site B. Site A is ‘backlinking’ to site B.  Simple isn’t it? The hard part is getting other sites to link to site B, and that is where the need to create quality content, which is head and shoulders above the competitors and desirable to have an affiliation to, that other websites will be beating a path to the web door to parle. Backlinking to quality content is beneficial to both sites.

Gone are the days of measuring — often stuffed — links by quantity.  The focus has, thankfully, shifted to quality links. It is a fine balance, and the Google algorithm does not always get this right, but receiving a highly rated backlink from a reputable web page is worth more in terms of ranking than multiple backlinks from sources who are not producing the best content.

Regularly checking the link health of a site to ensure optimised performance is essential and the importance of creating relevant, good quality content has never been more evident or more mutually beneficial. 

In for the duration?

According to Wordstream “building links is one of the most important tactics used in search engine optimisation (SEO) because links are a signal to Google that your site is a quality resource worthy of citation and sites with the highest number of reputable links tend to earn the higher rankings.”

The focus of any website or web page needs to be on providing a high level of quality and meaningful content to whoever finds or is directed there.  When this is done, there is no doubt that the earned SEO ranking will increase in much the same way that a snowball does. 

Unfortunately, people’s drive for immediate success can lead them to consider other options–black hat SEO being one–but this is not a solid long term strategy because of the danger of Google’s SEO penalties.

So before stuffing a webpage, requesting link-for-link or buying second-rate accreditations from third-rate sites ask yourself “is this a fad or am I in for the long haul on this project?”. If it is the latter, then risking penalties is just not worth it.

Utilising the aforementioned methods of linking is all about earning the rankings and building a reputation and authority based on the hard work put into the initial content creation. These two aspects working side by side will undoubtedly provide greater user satisfaction and make the site a desirable one to affiliate to which, ultimately, will ensure enduring success over time.

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