Anatomy of a link
A standard hyperlink in HTML code looks like this:
<a href="http://www.thewebconsole.com">The Web Console</a>
The Web Console
In this example, the code simply indicates that the text "The Web Console" (called the "anchor text" of the link) should be hyperlinked to the page http://www.thewebconsole.com. A search engine would interpret this code as a message that the page carrying this code believed the page http://www.thewebconsole.com to be relevant to the text on the page and particularly relevant to the term "The Web Console".
A more complex piece of HTML code for a link may include additional attributes such as:
<a href="http://www.thewebconole.com" title="Edit Your Site" rel="nofollow">The Web Console</a>
The Web Console
In this example, new elements such as the link title and rel attribute may influence how a search engine views the link, despite its appearance on the page remaining unchanged. The title attribute may serve as an additional piece of information, telling the search engine that http://www.thewebconsole.com, in addition to being related to the term "The Web Console", is also relevant to the phrase "Edit Your Site". The rel attribute, originally designed to describe the relationship between the linked-to page and the linking page, has, with the recent emergence of the "nofollow" descriptive, become more complex.
"Nofollow" is a tag designed specifically for search engines. When ascribed to a link in the rel attribute, it tells the engine's ranking system that the link should not be considered an editorially approved "vote" for the linked-to page. Currently, 3 major search engines (Yahoo!, MSN, & Google) all support "nofollow". AskJeeves, due to its unique ranking system, does not support nofollow, and ignores its presence in link code.
Some links may be assigned to images, rather than text. In this case, the alt attribute, designed originally to display in place of images that were slow to load or on voice-based browsers for the blind, shows the alt (alternative) text when you hover your mouse over the image. Search engines can use the information in an image-based link, including the name of the image and the alt attribute to interpret what the linked-to page is about.
<a href="redirectiontarget.htm">The Web Console</a>
It's important to understand that, based on a link's anatomy, search engines can (or cannot) interpret and use the data therein. Whereas the right sort of links can provide great value, the wrong sort will be virtually useless (for search ranking purposes). More detailed information on links is available at this resource - anatomy and deployment of links.
In search engine optmization, "off page" factors have become more and more important as they relate to rankings. In particular, solid link popularity can literally make or break a site with search engines.
What is link popularity? Link popularity refers to the number and quality of incoming links that are pointing to your site. So, in a search engine's view, your site is considered more important the more links you have pointing to you.
The process of building link popularity is one of the hardest parts of SEO because search engines are constantly trying to reduce "artifically created" or useless links. There is therefore no easy way to build links. The days of link farms and link exchange programs are over - trying those strategies now will easily get you booted out of a search engine's results.
You can find out how many links you currently have pointing to your website with the Yahoo! Site explorer tool, now part of Bing Webmaster Tools.
Tips and Hints
- Give out testimonials
Each testimonial you give out should have a link back to your site.
- Offer awards
Give companies an award (image linking to your site) that recognises the quality of their company/website.
- Submit your site to awards sites on the web
If you win, you'll get an award and a link back to your site.
- Create a small 3-5 page site
Create your own small site that has similar content to yours that links back to your website.
- Give away something for free
Try and get a listing on sites that list sites that give stuff away for free, such as www.thefreesite.com
- Have contract with suppliers/partners/subcontractors
Incorporate into all contracts that they need to link to you.
- Add your site to directories
Some directories we suggest can be found here. Choose your directories wisely.
Things to keep in mind
- Get links from websites which excercise editorial integrity
Google themselves recommend submitting to certain directories. When evaluating whether or not to buy a link from a site, browse a few pages. If they have links to Viagra and debt consolidation sites, then it is fairly obvious that the website owner is not exercising editorial integrity. Buying links there could trip a filter.
- Vary your Anchor Text (the text in the link)
A good rule of thumb is to never have the same link twice. If you are targeting "Tennis Shoe", you can vary your anchor texts. Eg: "Tennis shoes seller", Affordable Tennis Shoes", "Red Tennis Shoes" etc...
- Get links from website with high pageranks
You shouldn't spend much time trying to get links from websites with a pagerank less than 4. The higher the importance of the page linking to you, the higher your pagerank will be.
- Fill in the "Alt" text for images
Image links are followed by Google, and the text in the Alt tag for the image is what is thought of as the anchor text for the link.
- Not all links on a page have the same value
Search engines are able to see websites the same way that a human would. Search engines are therefore able to evaluate which links on the page are important. For example, links above the fold are more important than links below the fold.
- Do not rent links
Google measures how long a link has been pointing to you. Google therefore does not give credit to links that don't stay around long.
- Want to know where to get your links from?
Then get the first ten people coming up for your search keywords to link to you. Google has a patent for an algorithm that will rerank results based on links within the initial subset - and Google shows you the initial subset.