What is a hyperlink?
A link (short for hyperlink) is a connection built with HTML code that sends a user from one place to another. It may move you between websites, or it may download a document to your device. It may trigger a popup or add an item to your cart. For the purposes of this article, I refer to links as connections between websites, pages, and posts.
Search engines use links for SEO
Links are important in SEO because search engines use them to map your website and understand the context of your content. You’ve probably noticed that I link to Yoast, Mailchimp, and WordPress frequently. That’s not just because their articles offer more in-depth reading for my topics. Linking to those sites lets Google understand the focus of my site better so it can put my website under the noses of people who are interested in my product. This is called a link strategy.
Google has a series of articles for developers telling them how to code for optimization, and it says the following. “Google uses links as a signal when determining the relevancy of pages and to find new pages to crawl.” Their article is technical, dry, and not particularly helpful for those who don’t read code, but that part, at least, is pretty clear.
Links are helpful for local SEO
Adding outbound links to local businesses is a great way to drive traffic to your website and theirs. When you gain backlinks from other local businesses to your site, it’s even better! Not only is that free advertising, but it’s an endorsement for your services.
Backlinks may originate from blogs, social media posts or pages, or in online publications.
Some common types of links
Internal links connect two points on one website. They allow you to point visitors to related content within your site, giving them a richer experience. They also help search engines index your site and let you indicate which posts and pages are most important in your site. Pages with more internal links are more significant.
Types of internal links include:
- Menus, which point from page to page. My menu includes links to Home, Services, Projects, Who’s Freed?, Library, and FAQ.
- Contextual links which point from content to content
- Hierarchical links that lead from a primary topic to subtopics, and vice-verse
Outbound links lead from one website to another. You can use them to direct viewers to further reading, as I do at the bottom of each of my posts. You can send readers to your published articles, as my client Sally James does here. You can link to your YouTube channel, as my client S*P*M does.
Adding richness to your site, outbound links help your users by adding background and context to your content.
Backlinks, also called Inbound links
A backlink is a link that leads to your site but originates elsewhere. It may be from someone else’s website, a PDF, or an app. As I mentioned in my post on Types of SEO, don’t buy backlinks. Instead, develop relationships with other local businesses and the link will come.
Backlinks that originate from websites with high authority, that is, from websites that are trusted by search engines and people alike. The higher the authority of the site that links to you, the better.
Attracting backlinks to your website is known as link building, and that’s a topic for another post. Read more on my post on Backlinks.
Broken links do not lead to the place they were meant to go. Often, a broken link will take you to a 404 page. What’s a 404 page? It’s a page that tells the viewer that there’s nothing there, kind of like printed pages that say, “This page is intentionally left blank.” Happily, 404 pages usually have a link back to the home page or you can always hit the back button to get back to where you were going.
Why might links break?
- The website no longer exists. If this happens, you can check the Internet Archive to see if you can find it there.
- The page was deleted and no redirect was made for it. To avoid this on your site, designate a redirect page before deleting or unpublishing an old page or post.
- Website gremlins eat them. I swear they’re real. Sometimes you just have to reload the link.
Easter eggs are links that lead to unexpected destinations, often to games or jokes. Google is famous for its easter eggs. For example, Google “cat” on your phone and touch the paw print that appears, but please, do this after you’ve finished this article 😉. I add easter eggs to my newsletter, but not to my website. Why? SEO.
If I’m adding random links to my blog on websites, I’ll confuse search engines. Is my blog about websites or is it about ukuleles? Over time, as I’ve learned more and more about SEO, I’ve cut easter eggs out of my website entirely. But I still put them in my newsletter.
Anchor text – the clickable copy that indicates a link. Using anchor text that flows naturally in copy is good for SEO because it gives search engines context for the link.
Click depth – the number of clicks it takes to get from your home page to the desired page.
Dead end page – a page that has no outbound links
Deep link – a link pointing to page or content that isn’t the home page
Deep link ratio – the ration of the number internal of links on your site that lead to your home page vs the number that lead elsewhere on your site
Editorial link – a link that leads from one website to another without the destination website asking or paying for it. The Knowledge is power section at the bottom of this page is a collection of editorial links. Also called a natural link.
External link – a link that leads off the website where it’s located. Also called an outbound link.
Inbound link – a link that comes from an external source
Internal link – a link whose origin and destination are contained within the same website.
Natural link – a link that leads from one website to another without the destination website asking or paying for it. The Knowledge is power section at the bottom of this page is a collection of editorial links. Also called an editorial link.
Orphaned content – pages or posts that have no internal links pointing to them.
Outbound link – a link that leads off the website where it’s located. Also called an external link.
Redirect – a technique which sends a user from the requested site to a different site