Anatomy and Deployment of Links ·
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The World Wide Web is based on hyper links, your tiny site providing a few thousands of pages or more is just a molecule of the Web, thus apply the principles of linking to your site as part of the Web. Don't buy the myths telling you that internal linkage is much different from environmental linkage. Based on your linkage your site interacts with the Web or not. Your internal links are more or less a continuation of 3rd party Web links. If you don't link out, nobody links in, it's that easy. To amplify your internal linkage, you need foreign inbound links. To make a page part of the theme/topic authority spread on the Web, you need to put in closely related outbound links.
A link is a transportation medium, its load is primarily a traffic stream, that is human visitors are landing on the destination page. To convert this traffic into sales, donations, attention or whatever your site's goal is, design each page as a landing page. Once the browser has rendered your page, you've five seconds or less to hold the visitor. The first heading and the first sentence(s) (or image(s) ...) make up the user's mind. If you can't catch the visitor with your content, you've one more try with your most prominent links. Look at the traffic stats of a popular Web site:
|Number of visits: 7,492,987 |
Average visits duration: 449 seconds
|Number of visits||Percent|
|0s-30s||5,846,110||78 % |
|30s-2mn||171,738||2.2 % |
|2mn-5mn||150,763||2 % |
|5mn-15mn||230,672||3 % |
|15mn-30mn||202,073||2.6 % |
|30mn-1h||383,915||5.1 % |
|1h+||496,288||6.6 % |
|Unknown||11,428||0.1 % |
Lay out your prominent links in a way that the majority of visitors staying only a few seconds can view them, and expect that search engines interpret link prominence and placement. Link formatting and placement primarily belongs to Web design and marketing. However, link deployment is based on a site's (technical) architecture and it has huge impact on its search engine optimizing, thus 'talk traffic' in your team (for example don't accept fancy client sided links and other search engine unfriendly stuff like that).
The picture on the left indicates that the power of a link is (at least partly) dependent on its placement on the page. Please note, that this is an overstressed example, you cannot apply it to any page. However, prominently placed links near the top of a page, and links embedded in the body text count more in search engine ranking algorithms. There are a few methods to code pages in a way that some content gets placed high in the HTML code, although the visitor's browser renders the content elements in a different order. This may or may not help with search engine rankings, but it comes with decreased performance and most probably issues with some 'intolerant' browsers. Better optimize your pages for loading speed and user friendliness, and avoid tricky stuff meant to outsmart search engines, which are usually way smarter than you can imagine.
Search engine ranking algorithms try to emulate a human user's behavior. To rank Web pages for their users, they simulate zillions of virtual trails thru the Web trying to measure popularity and authority. In a search query's context, there are three major factors determining a Web page's placement on the SERP (simplified):
1. Relevancy of the renderable content. Relevancy is determined by keyword matches and more sophisticated technologies.
2. Authority on the topic which the engine has identified by analyzing the search term. Authority is determined by analyzing anchor text and topical relations of linked pages (and their neighborhood). The ranking factor authority is a bridge between relevancy and popularity, it takes both incoming and outgoing links into account.
3. Popularity. A page's popularity is determined by counting and weighting on-topic inbound links, and (to a low degree currently) bookmarks, tracked visits duration and clicks on the SERPs. The topical popularity as used in a search query's page ranking does not equal link popularity or PageRankô. LinkPop/PageRankô stands for the total number of incoming links, and their universally weighting based on the source page's score. When it comes to placements on the SERPs, related natural links (topical PageRankô) count more than the mixture of artificial and natural inbound links (LinkPop/PageRankô)
Link and get linked for traffic management, user convenience, commercial purposes, you name it, but always bear in mind that your link carries more than traffic, its underlying cargo is authority and popularity. If you sell link spots, you should put 'nofollow' in the sold link's rel attribute, because Google decreases or even takes away your ability to pass reputation with your links, if you don't devalue your unrelated ads and other purchased links yourself.
You'll find a lot of 'content is king vs. only linkage counts' discussions at webmaster boards and other internet marketing resources. Probably 90% of everything you can read on this topic is utterly nonsense, although there is some substance in both positions. Absolutely wrong is the assumption that content and linkage are mutual exclusive properties, so concentrating on one of both leads into dead ends beyond the first SERPs.
You can't go wrong following the 'properly linked content is king' SEO advice. Content alone is nothing, you need popular content and lots of it, clever interlinked within a site and the rest of the world. Linkage alone is nothing, because to what do you link if you've got no content? Search engines aren't that cheatable, and only few users click on the ads out of desperation.
Properly Linked Great Content Survives on the SERPs
Here are a few more reasons1 why properly linked outstanding content brings in more, and more targeted, search engine traffic - not to speak of all the valuable traffic streams created by word of mouth.
When many visitors bookmark pages, this is a sign of a great site. Although at the time of writing all major search engines providing toolbars disclaim the capturing of bookmarks, you can bet that they are well aware of Joe Surfer's bookmarking behavior. If it's really not done by capturing or spying out bookmarks (note that those search engines hold (pending) patents on this technology), it's done by toolbars counting the number and duration of recurring visits per URI.
Sensible and prominent on-topic internal interlinking gives visitors good options. The result of well placed and trustable options is an increase of page views, since vistors explore a site more completely. All page views by search engine users with toolbars are logged. The engines make use of statistical data harvested from toolbars and cookie based tracking from the SERPs to determine quality. Those signs of quality lead to kind of trust bonus in the engine's index and have, respectively will have in the near future, impact on rankings.
Providing the visitor with top notch external resources not only makes the page linking out a part of the topical auhority hub or network spread all over the Web. Surfers tend to remember places where they've got good recommendations. Next time they go out searching for something, most likely they click on a link leading to a previously visited site where they've found something useful, and chances are this site gets bookmarked during the second or third visit.
Inbound links directly boost search engine rankings. An often overseen source of inbound links are social bookmarking services like delicious or blinklist. Due to the mostly precise tagging their links pages are on-topic, and as a bonus those pages often come with a high PageRankô2. When many users bookmark a page, the traffic volume produced by page one listings at Delicious & Co. often surmounts the number of hits coming from all major search engines together.
Satisfied visitors blogging a commented link is a sign of quality too, and another inbound link. Don't underestimate the blogosphere, good links get spread like wildfire. The same goes for users dropping links in forums, newsgrous and blog comments. Because URL dropping is very common in forums and usenet groups, having keyword rich URLs ensures that those links pass not only PageRankô but also topic relevancy.
Well marketed content rich sites offer interactive components like forums or blogs. Surfers become loyal recurring visitors when they get a chance to contribute. It pleases their ego, it makes them nosy for follow-ups on their posts, and if they are treated with respect, they start to actively acquire new community members. As a side effect, the mostly unique content contributed by users attracts more search engine traffic on new but related search terms and topics.
Prominently linked and easy to subscribe site feeds as well as themed feeds on particular topics can function as 'pulling bookmarks'. Users get alerted on content changes, updates, news or whatever by their RSS reader, which makes it easy to click the link leading to the source. This works best with headlines and descriptive snippets. Full content feeds do get abused by scrapers and spammers, and they produce less Web site traffic because the reader gets the content remotely. Search engines are greedily spidering RSS feeds and they are working on technologies to count subscriptions like page views and bookmarks. By the way, promoted feeds get listed in all kind of catalogues and directories, that's even more inbound links to the home page and the feed URIs.
Summary: Bookmarks and other tracks left by recurring visitors earn a ranking boost on the SERPs - only outstanding content along with a user friendly content presentation gets bookmarked. Before the search engine traffic floods in, ensure the title tags and description META tags of each page are somewhat sexy. Catchy titles have a high CTR. High ranking pages with gibberish titles and crappy snippets on the other hand are pretty much useless (text previews on the SERPs get often extracted from directory submissions and META tags, if they reflect the on page content).
Optimizing Web Site Navigation
A Universal Node's Anchors and their Link Attributes
Anatomy and Deployment of Links ·
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Thanks to EGOL for a nice short-list of often forgotten principles of Web site development, which I've used as kind of storyline in the next couple of paragraphs.
Even if the bookmarking service doesn't allow search engines to index the links pages (like delicious), those links get spread via feeds to many places on the Web, and some of them insert those links server sided.
Last Update: September/7/2005 [1st DRAFT] Web Feed