Previously we touched the subject of hyperlinks or links and their role in search engine optimization. Search engine crawlers use natural links to identify the subject, relevance and importance of a page. When an important page (as defined by the page rank) sends a link to your website it improves your page ranking. There are different types of link structures and links may carry different attributes with them, affecting the way the search engine crawler identifies the link source and target.
So for starters, what is a natural link? A natural link refers to a link that was created with the user in mind. Supposing you have a paragraph on elephants in your website but you don’t plan on expanding on the subject much yourself. Instead you insert a link into the paragraph sending the user to a website with loads of information on elephants with anchor text that says ‘elephant’. That would be considered natural. An artificial link on the other hand is a link created solely for the purpose of promoting the source or target website in the search engines. This type of link gives value to the site owner or to a third party. The target page is irrelevant to the source and the average user/surfer who clicks on it will probably hit the back button as soon as he can or disappear forever.
Each link has two ends called anchors and a direction. Each link starts at the ‘source’ anchor and ends at the ‘destination’ anchor.
The simplest link is created by opening a tag and using the ‘href‘ attribute which specifies the location of a web resource or document, the URL, the ‘anchor text’ and a closing tag, in the following manner:
<a href= “http://www.wix.com“> Wix </a>
The link above is a simple html link to the wix.com website, using the word Wix as anchor text. The anchor text in a natural link gives the Google bots more information on the subject and topic of your website, as well as the target website. If you have links pointing at your site with an anchor text that says ‘free cameras’, Google’s crawlers will assume that your website, or at least the page linked to deals with free cameras. If the site sending you the link is a strong site, with a high page rank, it will be considered a more reliable source. The more ‘link juice’ your homepage gets, for example, the more this ‘juice’ trickles down to your other pages – as long as they are linked to the homepage.
Up till now, we’ve only been discussing links from and to external websites, but links inside your website, connecting the pages, are also very important. A good internal linking structure can:
- Make sure your entire website gets crawled properly, as discussed in previous posts about sitemaps and links.
- Strengthen the relevancy of a specific page for a specific keyword, by using anchor texts as well as other practices.
- Increase the page rank of an inner page.
Using inner pages to consolidate keywords is particularly useful when you have a large site and/or you want to get ranked for a large number of keywords. In this case, it is a good idea to create specific pages targeting a specific keyword. If your inner page is targeting the keyword ’round swimming pools’ you would make sure that all links using ’round swimming pools’ as anchor text will be directed to this specific page.
Increasing the Inner Page PageRank
As I mentioned before, link juice trickles down from the homepage to the pages connected to it. The closer a page is, in clicks, to the homepage, the more link juice it gets and as a result, the pagerank increases.
This doesn’t mean that all your pages should be linked from the homepage. Creating too many links from the homepage will diffuse the weight of each separate link. Create solid pages for the phrases (keywords) you are targeting and link to those specific pages. A good navigational structure could use:
- A footer text with good, organic anchor text links. Keep the footer clean looking, don’t spam it with hundreds of links. For one thing, this could be flagged by the search engines, another reason is that you are diffusing the value of each individual link, so what’s the point?
- Text link navigation, which is basically a menu with texts. Make sure to use the keyword you are optimizing. This doesn’t mean that every link to that page has to be crammed with the keyword. Try every other link, or one of three. Keep in mind that the page should not natural and appealing to users (you know, those people for whom you’re building your website).
- You can also use internal text links, which are links that appear organically within the text of your website. They are given extra weight because it is assumed that their relevancy to the content is superior.
Doing all this doesn’t mean your website will automatically be launched into the first spot of the Google search results, but it will improve your standing in terms of SEO. Moreover, you are identifying specific inner pages with specific content or subjects and increasing their individual importance. This will help your entire site get crawled and promote it in Google and the other search engines making the effort worthwhile.