Why Links Are Important

Probably the word that associates best with Web is "links". That is what hypertext is all about - you link to pages you like and get linked by pages that like your site. Actually, the Web is woven out of interconnected pages and spiders follow the links, when indexing the Web. If not many sites link to you, then it might take ages for search engines to find your site and even if they find you, it is unlikely that you will have high rankings because the quality and quantity of links is part of the algorithms of search engines for calculating relevancy.

Inbound and Outbound Links

Put in layman's terms, there are two types of links that are important for SEO - inbound and outbound links. Outbound links are links that start from your site and lead to another one, while inbound links, or backlinks, come from an external site to yours, e.g. if a.com links to mydomain.com, the link from a.com is an inbound link for mydomain.com.

Backlinks are very important because they are supposed to be a measure of the popularity of your site among the Web audience. It is necessary to say that not all backlinks are equal. There are good and bad backlinks. Good backlinks are from reputable places - preferably from sites with a similar theme. These links do boost search engine ranking. Bad backlinks come from suspicious places - like link farms - and are something to be avoided. Well, if you are backlinked without your knowledge and consent, maybe you should drop the Webmaster a line, asking him or her to remove the backlink.

If you are not heavily backlinked, don't worry - buying links is an established practice and if you are serious about getting to the top, you may need to consider it. But before doing this, you should consider some free alternatives. For instance, some of the good places where you can get quality backlinks are Web directories like http://dmoz.org or http://dir.yahoo.com. First, look for suitable sites to backlink to you using the Backlinks Builder below. After you identify potential backlinks, it's time to contact the Web master of the site and to start negotiating terms. Sometimes you can agree to a barter deal - i.e. a link exchange - they will put on their site N links to your site and you will put on your site N links to their site - but have in mind that this is a bad, risky deal and you should always try to avoid it.

Internal Links

(i.e. links from one page to another page on the same site) are also important but not as much as backlinks. In this connection it is necessary to say, that using images for links might be prettier but it is a SEO killer. Instead of having buttons for links, use simple text links. Since search engines spider the text on a page, they can't see all the designer miracles, like gradient buttons or flash animations, so when possible, either avoid using them, or provide a meaningful textual description in the tag, as described next.

Link Practices That Are To Be Avoided

Similar to keyword stuffing, purchasing links in bulk is a practice to be avoided. It gets suspicious if you bartered 1000 links with another site in a day or two. What is more, search engines keep track of link farms (sites that sell links in bulk) and since bought links are a way to manipulate search results, this practice gets punished by search engines. So avoid dealing with link farms because it can cause more harm than do good. Also, outbound links from your site to known Web spammers or "bad guys" are also to be avoided.

As mentioned, link exchange is not a clean deal. Even if it boosts your ranking, it can have many other negative aspects in the long run. First, you do not know if the other party will keep their promise � i.e. they might remove some of the links to you. Second, they might change the context the link appears into. Third, it is really suspicious if you seem to be "married" to another site and 50% or more of your inbound and outbound links are from/to this direction.

When links are concerned, one aspect to have in mind is the ratio between inbound and outbound links. Generally speaking, if your outbound links are ten times your inbound links, this is bad but it also varies on a case by case basis. If you have a site that links to news sources or has RSS feeds, then having many outbound links is the inevitable price of fresh content.

Anchor text and SEO

Anchor text is the most important item in a backlink. While it does matter where a link comes from (i.e. a reputable place or a link farm), what matters more is the actual text the link starts from. Put simply, anchor text is the word(s) that you click on to open the hyperlink - e.g. if we have the best search engine, than "the best search engine" is the anchor text for the hyperlink to google.com. You see that you might have a backlink from a valuable site but if the anchor text is something like "an example of a complete failure", you will hardly be happy with it.

When you check your backlinks, always check what their anchor text is and if there is a keyword in it. It is a great SEO boost to have a lot of backlinks from quality sites and the anchor text to include our keywords. Besides the anchor text itself, the text around it is also important.