Friday, August 12, 2011

Content Might be King but Inbound Links are Queen - Sit Down Kids - This is a Lesson in Linkology

Outbound Links, Inbound Links, Back Links, Hyper Links, and Internal Links – Links Explained for SEO

Lesson 1 – What is a Hyper Link?

I’ll spare you the techno-babble. A hyper link is anything on a Web page that is “clickable” and navigates you to another Web page. What’s the difference between a “link” and a “hyper link” online? Nothing. They are the same thing. Ok, onword ho!
plastic sausage links
These are not Hyper Links

Lesson 2 – What is an Inbound Link?

Inbound links are the single most important thing that will affect your site’s SEO

Inbound links, also called “Back links,” are links on other websites that link back to pages of your site. If Content is King, inbound links are Queen. Maybe someday this will change, but my guess is it won’t be for a very, very, VERY long time. Think about it this way: You apply for a job and submit your references to an interviewer. She contacts all of your references. They say amazing things about you. Some other guy wants the same job too and has all the same qualifications. However, he only has two references while you had five and his don’t say amazing things. All other things being equal, who get’s hired? Right! You do!

In SEO the site with the strongest inbound links wins!

You could have a crappy site, with misspellings and bad grammar. If you have more better inbound links than the other guy, your site will come out ahead of his in the SERPs. [Now don’t get all excited, my bad grammar was intentional!]. What other people say about you holds more weight with Search Engines than beautiful design and immaculate editing. Search Engine spiders are like the interviewer I just mentioned. They are ranking your site based on your references from other people, more than anything else. Everything else in SEO is important, but less important.

So does that mean that outbound links are bad?

Lesson 3: What is an Outbound Link?
Gypsy man with crystal ball

Outbound links are links from your site out to other sites. There was a time when some SEO professionals were obsessed with something called Pagerank. I will address Pagerank in tomorrow’s post, so don’t worry if you don’t know what it is. These SEO’s believed that any outbound link on a page reduced the importance of that page to a search engine spider. This led to people trying to manipulate the importance of their own pages and a mystical activity called “Pagerank sculpting.” Believe me, it had nothing to do with art.

SEO’s who say they have a magical bag of tricks that can “fool” the search engines are most likely attempting to manipulate Page Rank with bogus inbound and unhelpful outbound links. Stay away from people who say they have “secret methods.” They are charlatans. 

Outbound links can often be crucial to the success of your pages. 

Saguaro Cactus
For example, what if your site was all about travel to Sedona, Arizona. Your content discussed places to see, guided tours, hotels, restaurants and even had reviews from other people who had visited. But on the site, there were no links to any of this, no hotels, not the chamber of commerce, no local attractions, no transportation companies, nothing.

This would give your visitors a terrible experience. Here you are telling them all these fun things they can do in Sedona, but you’re not giving them any way to even begin making reservations or planning their trip. In this case, not only would outbound links help your visitor, they would establish your credibility as a travel expert.

Outbound links that are relevant to your content and enhance visitor experience are always a good thing for your SEO

Lesson 4 – What are Internal Links?

Internal Links are links from one page of your site to another page of your site. Your Navigation menu on your home page is a good example. You might also reference things from one page to another. For example, if you are selling microphones and you want to suggest a mic stand to your customer, you could include a link to that accessory to make it easier for your customer to find. That would be an internal link.
hansel and Gretel following breadcrumb trail
Just in case you can't wait, click the link
for an excellent Web design article on breadcrumbs

Think of internal links as a breadcrumb trail for your visitors. Actually using breadcrumbs in your Web design is a great idea, but a different topic, so I will save that for a future post. These breadcrumb trails need to be a logical progression. If you start sending your visitors or spiders around in circles, or worse, dead ends, they just get frustrated and leave, or worse, possibly at a cabin in the Austrian woods where an old lady in a tall pointy hat invites them in for dinner. Neither are good scenarios.

Your trail should not be a digital rendition of Escher’s Mummies on Stairs [okay, it’s not called Mummies on Stairs, it’s really called “Relativity” – a 1953 lithograph]. Ooohh, that was an outbound link!

Stay tuned for a future post on easy ways to get high quality inbound links to your site. Yes, when that post is written there will be an inbound link that will take you right to the article. In the meantime, read something from the Dana Tan SEO Blog Archives [ooohhh, now that was a real inbound link!]