Anatomy and Deployment of Links · Index · Part 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · 6 · 7 · 8 · Expand · Web Feed


A universal node contains one or many anchors suitable for in- and outgoing natural linkage. The formerly introduced anchors attribute of the universal node is (technically) located in different entities.

Each node has a primary anchor, stored in the nodes table. This anchor is the page representing a primitive node, or an index page or table of contents page of a complex node (called the node's primary [landing] page). In order to form a valid link, the universal node provides at least these attributes:

Static URL is an absolute URI, whereby scheme and server/domain are not necessarily persistent. That is, internal URIs get stored as relative URIs, then the method fetching the tuple from the database adds scheme and server for portability reasons (development systems -> production systems and vice versa). Load balancing may require on the fly server names too (www1 ... wwwn). Scheme may be given in a separate attribute (http vs. https ...).
- XOR -
Dynamic URL is a transient attribute populated at runtime dependent on the node's type. The method fetching the tuple from the database knows which script is assigned to which node type and how it has to compose the absolute URL. If you make use of keywords in file names, ensure that the file name cannot get changed after the first page view. You don't like bookmarkers, search engine users and spiders reading your 404 page, don't you?

Page Title is the content of the primary page's title tag and the default anchor text. It appears in the page header in a h1 tag. On index pages (internal hubs) and in other long internal links it makes sense to use the page title as anchor text.

Short Anchor Text is a keyword or catchword (phrase), which is preferable unique within the scope of your site, and short enough to fit in the limited space of menu items.

Long Description is the rich text snippet appearing on index pages and alike.

Short Description is an ODP like one sentence summary of the page's content, used in 'related stuff' link blocks and alike.

Tooltip is the title text displayed on mouseover. If Long/Short Description is used as tooltip (component) too, you must strip out the HTML tags. If tooltip is a persistent attribute, don't allow tags.

With the few components above you can create a lot of different links, some examples:


<h3><a href="URL" title="Tooltip">Page Title</a></h3><p>Long Description</p> [Index pages]

<h5><a href="URL" title="Tooltip">Page Title</a></h5><p>Short Description</p> ['Related stuff' link boxes]

<li><a href="URL" title="Page Title
Tooltip">Short Anchor Text</a></li> [Menus, most browsers recognize and render the NewLine between 'Page Title' and 'Tooltip']

<li><strong><a href="URL" title="Page Title">Short Anchor Text</a></strong>&middot;<a href="URL" title="Tooltip" style="text-decoration:none;">Short Description</a></li> [Right handed news like navigation, the description is invisible linked. (Don't make use of inline style attributes, reference a CSS class instead!)]


You can use more or less the same design for topical connectors, which either receive their link attribute values from the destination node dynamically, or overwrite specific values like title, description, and tooltip.

Basically, the design patterns discussed as yet should cover enough stuff to create a site navigation and more. But wait, what about the haut école of internal and external linking?


Identifying (Alternate) Anchors

Many pages provide enough content to have alternate anchors in the body section, which should be used in (new) in- and outgoing links. Valuable interlinking with related internal and external resources helps the visitor gathering more good content in less time, and it helps the Web site itself, because search engines honor legitimate interlinking too, what leads to an increase of incoming targeted traffic. The common problem is the lack of a suitable system to manage those alternate anchors. Lets see what we can automate, but first we need to discuss the basics and requirements.

Since anchor means more than starting- or endpoint of a hyperlink, and anchor is also defined as 'mechanical device that prevents a vessel from moving', we need a suitable definition of the anchor object to continue:


Define Anchor: An anchor is a fragment of a hypertext document serving as point of entry or point of exit, technically represented as one end of a hyperlink.


Besides the anchor's technical attributes an anchor has content and a context, both defining the anchor's topic.


Define Topical Anchor: A topical anchor is the whole picture of an anchor in its context, that is the topical anchor extends the anchor's technical properties and behavior with usage information. The topical anchor's extended attributes are theme tags, topic tags, catchwords, context, rating, realm. A topical anchor has one or more sets of anchor text, title text (tooltip) and description, but only one URI.


The implementation of topical anchors is a highly individual task, their usage and appearance depends on the site's theme and (commercial) goals. Thus I'll leave it at a few general comments on the topical anchor's attributes:    

Theme Tags designate the overall theme of a topical anchor's context, for example 'Linkage'.

Topic Tags designate the particular topic of a topical anchor's context, for example 'Linking to fragment identifiers'.

Catchwords are more detailed and more targeted keyword phrases expressing the topical anchor's content fragment and nearby content like surrounding text (subject, purpose), for example 'How to link to a link' or 'Scrolling to a particular table cell'. The catchwords attribute should not get abused by populating it with keyword lists.

Context is a descriptive text snippet featuring the topical anchor's primary information or message in its context. For example

If in Web development potential references to an external resource occur multiple times on one HTML page, encapsulating the point of exit is a search engine friendly way to expose an outbound link and strengthen its topic authority. Deployment of multiple optimized on page links with varying anchor text pointing to a named outbound link satisfy the visitor and help maximizing the authority status of the page with regard to search engine rankings, without decreasing the page's linking power.

describing a paragraph in an article on boosting a page's authority status with outbound links covers:

Context: User- and search engine friendly Web development    
Theme: Deployment of optimized hyperlinks
Topic: On page link pointing to a named outbound link
Subject: Multiple references to related external information on a HTML page
Purposes: Encapsulating points of exit. Minimizing the risk of diluting the ranking power of outgoing links.
Information [implicit]: On page links to a named outgoing link strengthen the page's topic authority and minimize the potential risk assumed in devaluation of other outbound links.

Assembling those text snippets is a lot of work, but worth it - think of non-textual content too and read on.

Rating is a subjective valuation of the usefulness of the topical anchor's page fragment, measured by quality and quantity of its information with regard to the topical anchor's labels (theme, topic, subject ...). In some environments it makes sound sense to handle user ratings too.

Realm tells where the topical anchor belongs too. In case of 'nearby' or 'own' the destination page referenced by the topical anchor's URI resides within a network, or site. Other possible values would be 'related' and 'foreign' standing for friends and external resources.

So far to the topical anchor's properties. Identifying topical anchors is a manual process like editorial indexing of content. In most cases this task will be part of a post-release business process, because it needs a more comprehensive view on the content's scope and environment than the author posses (workflow example: [autor/editor]:tentative release -> [editor]:topical preparation -> [publisher/webmaster]:review and final release). Alternate topical anchors are independent pointers, thus they can be created when the news are out. Scanning related content and inserting links in its body text is part of this task.

Obvious topical anchors are (an attribute of) universal nodes and topical connectors, and linked off site resources. Reusable content may have many topical anchors assigned. Especially complex nodes will contain fragments which are worth of creating a topical anchor, for example the chapters and sections of a large document, troubleshooting FAQ entries of manuals, paragraphs and headings of step by step guides and tutorials, blueprints, video sequences, image series, podcasts ...

While creating topical anchors, don't think too much in terms of keywords. Dealing with tags and topics without SEO and keywords in mind will result in better and more natural wording, because writing anchor text targeting a topic instead of a keyword phrase makes you inventing natural keyword phrases, which very likely get used to search for your content. Semantic algorithms like word stemming and contextual indexing invented by the major search engines make assignments of artificial keywords (misspellings, obscure synonyms ...) obsolete.


Making Use of Topical Anchors

EXAMPLE: Inserting a link made up from a topical anchor into the current body text at the cursor positionHaving a searchable database of topical anchors is a great tool to maintain proper internal linking, especially when the tool stores usage data in the background. Usage data means link direction plus source or destination, and other attributes as well, if a topical anchor is source and/or destination in an off site link trade. Also, it's a good idea to capture the anchor text for each placement. Storing anchor text variations with the topical anchor allows regular fine tuning of the tagging, it enhances search functionality and more.

On small sites the webmaster probably hosts this database in the brain. When it comes to large sites providing mostly static content, that's another story. It makes no sense to create alternate topical anchors for time limited content like news articles or blog posts, but it makes a lot of sense to create them for any kind of static content (fragments). Structured storage of topical anchors enables the content management system to reuse the data, it can provide a lot of functionality based on persistent anchors:

  • Inserting links into body text stored in a database (see picture above) allows the CMS to draw a picture of all linkage (link maps are a great design and SEO tool), it makes it easy to locate and change internal links if the referenced content changes, it allows general changes of link syntax, because the anchor elements are generated dynamically, etc. etc.
  • Accessing topical anchors besides the page contents will enhance the search functionality, because it allows delivery of more targeted results than a simple keyword oriented relevancy algorithm.
  • Based on topical anchors one can provide a page-independent directory like navigation element. Due to the fine granularity of topics (in comparision with pages or complex documents), users can navigate way faster to the content of their interest. As a side effect, these navigation pages add unique content to a site, and they provide kinda shortcuts for crawlers to pages buried deeply in a site's structure.
  • Storing internal and external resources as topical anchors enhances the management of link trades with related sites. Since all URIs are stored in database tables instead of within the body text, (reciprocal) link checking becomes an easy task.
  • The creation of (more) themed feeds based on stored queries will attract additional (recurring and very targeted) traffic.
  • Creating topical connectors and alias nodes based on topical anchors eleminates points of failure and makes structural link maintenance an easy task.
  • Proper normalization is sexy at all, because one can make multiple use of normalized data. Think of glossaries, easily achieved close meshed internal interlinking, reduced costs of maintenance and operation...

All sites are different, thus an architecture making sense for one site may not work for another site, or the architecture must get altered and customized. I've tried to explain the principles of link normalization in general, that is my examples and design patterns should be taken as flexible elements meant to provide ideas for your design, not to declare anything as set in stone. As always: Every rule is meant to be broken. Knowing when to do so is one of the things that separates the general from the major.



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Anatomy and Deployment of Links · Index · Part 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · 6 · 7 · 8 · Expand · Web Feed



Author: Sebastian
Last Update: September/7/2005 [1st DRAFT]   Web Feed

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