An Introduction To SEO Links
22nd April 2021
A good SEO strategy is made up of architecture, content and links. Architecture is the technical foundation of your website and content is any text, videos, images and everything in between that informs, entertains and inspires your users. Meanwhile, links help users and bots to navigate your website and the web as a whole to arrive where you want them to. There are a few different types of links and they can benefit your SEO in different ways. In this article, we will look at internal and external links; follow and nofollow links; link building strategies; and best practices for anchor text.
Let’s first take a look at internal links. These are links on your website that take users to other pages on your site. Internal links may appear in the following places:
- Header and footer navigation menus
- Images, for example your company logo linking to your homepage in the header
- Breadcrumb trails that help users to navigate the site and understand its structure
- Blog posts linking to relevant service pages within the text
- Product pages linking to related products, blog posts, buying guides, delivery information pages and more
- Call to action buttons encouraging users to buy from you, contact you, or convert in other ways
…and many more.
You need to link well to each page on your website, particularly those more important pages such as product pages, contact pages and informational pages. By linking to a page, you are telling Google that the page is important and that it should therefore rank it highly.
For example, you may have a page that lists all of your services. You might link to this page in your header and footer, in blog posts to direct people to view more information, and in various other places around your site. If your website contains 30 pages, that’s at least 30 links to that page from the menu alone.
Conversely, consider a page you created as a PPC landing page for a short-term special offer you’re running. You haven’t added it to your menus and there are no blog posts linking back to it. If there are no links to the page on your website – or anywhere else on the web, for that matter – Google will deem it as less important than your other pages. In fact, if there is no link to the page anywhere on your website, Google may struggle to find and index the page at all, so both of these things are bad news for that page’s SEO.
By providing links to your website pages within the website itself, you’re helping Google’s bots to crawl your site and find all the pages, and you’re also telling Google how important they are, by attributing “link juice” to them. Internal links aren’t just good for SEO, but they can also help with usability and CRO. For example, if you’re writing a blog post about a new product, it’s a good idea to link to the product within that post so that people can find the product easily and make a purchase.
Onto external links – these are links to your website that come from external sites. Some examples of sites that might link back to yours are:
- Social media platforms
- Clients or suppliers
- Articles, blogs, news sites and other media
Again, the more places linking to your web page, the more important Google may think your page is. But not all external links are created equal.
Let’s look at two examples. The first is a popular news site – think BBC News or The Guardian. Your company or field appeared in a news article and in that article they included a link to your website. The news site linking to you has a great reputation, it’s not spammy, and it has a good Domain Authority (DA) score. DA is a score used by the SEO tool Moz to explain the authority of a website, and the higher the score is, the better. DA is made up of a site’s link profile and while it doesn’t impact a site’s Google rankings, it is informed by the site’s ranking, reputation and status. In this example, the news site has a DA of 90 (out of 100), which is excellent, and a link from them is worth a lot to your site.
Now, let’s look at a second example. A small directory lists your company profile and links to your site. The directory has a high spam score in Moz, it’s not a well-known directory with a good reputation, and its DA is only 25. You can see that a link from this website is not worth as much as the first link we looked at. Add to this, let’s say your website has a DA of 30. This means that the directory’s DA is lower than yours, so a link from them isn’t actually very useful to you. During your link building strategy, you should be looking to gain links from websites that have a higher DA than yours, so that their “link juice” boosts your DA. We’ll look at link building in more detail a little later.
The takeaway here is that external links can be very valuable if they come from good sources, and it can help your SEO to have many links from websites with high DA scores.
Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink – for example, here is the Moz guide to anchor text. You should choose the anchor text you use carefully, for both SEO and accessibility purposes. Anchor text should be relevant to the page it's linking to, and provide enough description for the user to know where the link will take them. Search engine bots will use your anchor text to determine how your page is viewed by others and what the page is about. Therefore, it's a good idea to use the keywords you'd like that page to rank for within your anchor text (without overly keyword stuffing).
Another tip is to avoid using generic anchor text such as "click here" or "read more". This text doesn't tell search engines or the user what the page is about and it's also not helpful for visually impaired people using screen readers.
As discussed in the section on external links, having other websites link to yours could greatly help your SEO – depending of course, on the quality of that website. The link building strategy you employ will depend on your business and its customers, but here is a summary of a few you could consider:
- Find websites where your name has been mentioned without a link.
- How to: You used to be able to use the "Opportunities" section in Moz, but this was discontinued very recently, so keep an eye on the site to see if it will be replaced with a similar tool.
- Broken link building: Find articles that link to dated or thin articles or broken URLs so you can send a better version of the linked content from your own website.
- How to: Search for a competitor you’re aware of in SEMRush and look in Indexed Pages. Tick the Target URL Error box to filter 404 pages.
- Use the Wayback Machine to find out what the broken webpage used to look like so you know your offering is relevant. You can then search for websites that link back to that page using Moz.
- Find out where your competitors are getting links and see if you can get links from those same websites, for example through offering a guest article.
- Find websites within your niche with a slightly higher domain authority and send guest articles to them.
- Find articles where your target keyword is mentioned and offer content relevant to that.
- Set your sights not on huge players in your field, or on tiny ones, but those in between, who are small and looking to grow.
- Ask manufacturers to add your company to their suppliers list with a link to your site.
- Add your company listing to directories.
Many of these strategies will involve creating new content, either because you might offer to write a guest article that contains a link to your site in your byline, or because in order to get a link, you may need to provide them with relevant content to link to that you may not yet have on your site.
Follow vs NoFollow Links
You may have noticed that I mentioned social media platforms as places that might link to your site, but I haven’t mentioned this as a link building strategy above. This is because while executing your link building strategy you’ll ideally want dofollow rather than nofollow links, and links on social media are generally nofollow. But what does this mean?
Follow and nofollow attributes tell search engine bots whether they should attribute “link juice” to a link. Links tend to be dofollow by default unless you intentionally mark them otherwise. If a website links to your site but uses a nofollow link, they are essentially saying to Google “we are linking to this page but don’t let that affect how you rank it.” They mean that they don’t endorse the site they are linking to and the site should not benefit from the link in terms of SEO. Sites like social media platforms may do this because anyone could put all sorts of links on the platform but the site itself doesn’t endorse them.
When you are link building, you will want to gain follow links so that you can benefit from the DA or reputation of that site to help boost your rankings. In terms of internal links, almost all of your links to your own pages should be follow because if they aren’t, you’re implying that you don’t trust your own pages and you’re not giving them the SEO benefits they should have. There may be some pages that are the exception, such as private pages behind a login that you don’t want search engines to crawl.
Nofollow links aren’t entirely useless, though. After all, they are still links and even if they don’t get the SEO benefit from search engines, users can still navigate through them and this can still help your brand visibility. A nofollow link, in most cases, is likely better than no link at all.
In conclusion, the best links for your website are followed internal links from your own site and followed external links from other sites with a good DA. Though you can’t control anchor text from external sites, your own anchor text from external links should be brief and descriptive and include one keyword where relevant. All of this can form part of your link building strategy, and when looking for link building opportunities you should always keep domain authority in mind and remember that not all links are created equal.
If you would like help with link building or any other aspect of your SEO, contact SilverDisc.