Explore the anatomy of a link SEO: Link Building

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Exploring the anatomy of a link

In the previous videos I've explained how the search engines killed off the directories, the problem that arose and the solution to the problem: links. So now it's time to get down to work, to learn what links can do for us and how to get them. So let's start right at the beginning. Let's look at what a link actually is. The word "link" is really short for the term hyperlink. A hyperlink is a connection in a hypertext system between two documents or two areas within a document.

Selecting a link, loads the other document or moves the document you are viewing down to the area the link connects to. Of course, these days selecting a link means pointing to it with a mouse pointer and clicking. During the early days of the web, each link had a number associated with it. The number was displayed at the end of the link and you selected it by typing the number and pressing Enter. Now in HTML, the system used to create web pages, a link is created using what is known as the anchor tag, the "a" tag.

Now they're not known as link tags that would be too easy. In fact, just to really confuse the issue, there is a link tag, but that's not what is used to create hyperlinks. It's most commonly used to tell browsers to retrieve a style sheet associated with a web page, as you can see here. Now it's the anchor tags were interested in, the "a" tag. Anchor tags can be used in two ways: to create a hyperlink that is clicked upon to load another web page or another part of the existing page, or to create a bookmark, an area in the page that can be linked to from another anchor tag.

Here's the basic format of an anchor tag when creating a link. This creates a link with the person viewing the page will see as the words click here. When the user clicks the link, a page named document.html will be loaded. It's the href attribute that points to the reference document, and in this case, document.html must be in the same directory as the current web page. And here's the way you use the anchor tag to create a bookmark using the name attribute. In this case, we've created a bookmark called "here1" on a piece of text Step 2.

You can then create a link elsewhere in the document that will link to this bookmark, but we're not really interested in the bookmark for the purposes of this course. You can certainly use internal linking to bookmarks to optimize pages adding keyworded internal links. That would be a good thing. But from the perspective of this course on linking, we don't care about the bookmark, so this is the last we'll see it. Let's go back to using anchor text to create hyperlinks between documents. So here, again is a simple link pointing to a web page called "new-document.html".

This is structured so that the reference points to a document within the same directory as the page containing a link. This is what's known as a relative reference to the web page we're linking to, because it defines how to get to the page from the current page location not using the full page address. But we can also use an absolute reference like this. Now we've included the full URL of the page we're linking to. This links to the new-document.html web page which is found in a directory called 123 in a website at the domain,

Now let's look at the anchor text. The anchor text, also known as the link text, appears between the anchor tags. It's the text that will actually appear in the web page itself. The text that the user will read and click on. For the purposes of SEO, it's always good if the anchor text contains keywords that we want to rank well for in the search engines. The search engines read the anchor text and use it to tell them what the reference page is about. It's even better if the page we are pointing to also contains matching keywords of course.

What else can be put into a link? Well, there's the target attribute though from an SEO standpoint is not important. The target attribute simply tells a browser what to do when loading the reference page. In this case, for instance, the new page will load in a new tab or window. One attribute that's often used by people for SEO purposes, if they're trying to promote the targeted page, is the title attribute which is intended to provide additional information about the link to browsers and other programs downloading web pages.

For instance, browsers may use this text as pop-up text when people point at the link. Does it help from an SEO perspective? I think it probably doesn't help, at least with Google. It's a matter of debate in the business. But it wouldn't hurt; perhaps it does help at least with some search engines. One attribute that is important to know about is the "rel" attribute. This attribute was originally intended to allow authors to specify the relationship between the linking document and the links to document.

"Alternate" means the reference document is an alternative version. "Next" means it's the next document in the sequence. "Glossary" means that the reference document contains a glossary of terms in the linking document, and so on. From an SEO standpoint though, it's the rel ="nofollow" attribute that's important. This provides the author with a way to tell the search engines not to follow the link. You need follow links, links that do not contain the rel="nofollow" attribute.

You should assume that no-follow links provide no value to your site. Just assume that the search engines ignore them. There are various other attributes that can be placed into anchor tags, but we don't need to concern ourselves with them. From an SEO perspective it's "href," "rel," and perhaps "title" that we care about. Of course, links aren't always place on to text. They can also be placed on images. From an SEO perspective, putting the links on text is generally better. The text, as we'll discuss in a later video, tells the search engines what the reference page is about, so the text can improve the page's rank in the search results.

Still, now and then you'll want to put links on the images as you can see here. You can improve a link like this in a couple of ways. First, it's always good to use image names with keywords in them. You can also use an "alt" attribute in the image tag. The "alt" is intended to contain words that describe the image in browsers that are not displaying images. Hover over the image with the mouse and the "alt" words pop up. You might also want to use the title attribute in the anchor tag just in case.

Links can also be placed on to images by combining the image tag with the map and area tags. When doing so, remember to use the "alt" attributes throughout, for the image tag itself and in all the links created by the individual area tags. So that's the anchor tag. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about the anchor tag is to use keywords wherever you can in order to be as descriptive as possible.

Exploring the anatomy of a link
Video duration: 7m 14s 2h 24m Intermediate Updated Sep 14, 2015


Exploring the anatomy of a link provides you with in-depth training on Marketing. Taught by Peter Kent as part of the SEO: Link Building in Depth

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