Understanding Links

This week the Official Google Webmaster Blog had a series of posts on links.  If you haven’t subscribed to their blog feed yet, you are missing some great tutorial articles that are valuable for all knowledge levels.  One article each day provided an overview of three different link types and their role in Google’s (and all search engines) indexing and search results.

Internal Links

The key takeaway on internal links is twofold: maintain a shallow link hierarchy so pages can be reached with as few of clicks as possible and use descriptive anchor text.  In addition to to a link architecture that allows pages to be accessed quickly, you also need to make sure your internal links are visible to search engines.  Some sites use javascript or flash for navigation menus which sometimes make the navigation links invisible to search engines (and unaccessible to some visitors).  I recommend small site owners avoid these methods and use CSS hover methods to hide and display menu sections.

External Links

External links are often overlooked by site owners.  They focus on their internal link structure and incoming links instead.  External links are important as proof of a human behind a site.  Humans link to related content which provide background, commentary or opinions on topics they are discussing.  Visitors give more credibility and are more likely to follow sites which have links to back up their opinions or provide background information.  Linking to others in an non-obligation way also encourages others to link to content on your site they enjoy, providing great incoming links.

Incoming Links

The article on inbound links is worthy of a read.  A quick explanation of how inbound links affects ranking is followed by tips on getting inbound links.  The most important thing to remember is you will likely need to cultivate relationships to attract links.  This means writing quality content, being passionate about your site and making your site known in your niche market.  Sometimes this means creating the online industry for your niche as the members of it are not web-savy.  This may mean encouraging members of a community or industry to start their own websites, blog and subscribe to feeds.  Once a small group of people start organizing an online community this way, starting conversations and linking to each other the community will be more discoverable and more likely to grow.