Category: Links and Link Building

Suggests 5 Google Tools for Building SEO Content

Search Engine Optimization and internet marketing are the processes which might find you using a tool or two from a source which is not known. People who love analytics and metrics might need a lot of information which is only available from paid tools. Fortunately, Google offers some tools which can suit your SEO needs. Some of these tools are features and tricks present on our daily search engine tasks, but we often fail to use them.

Ryan Johnson, the Senior Sales Manager from Digital Services, has carefully chosen Google tools to help your SEO campaign and internet marketing strategies proceed successfully:

1. Google Analytics.

This tool can be helpful in getting insight on the appropriate content to include in the future posts. It contains metrics that show you useful information for plans.

2. Google Autocomplete Feature.

This feature enables you to see some completed search suggestions whenever you are in the midst of typing something in the Google search bar. These ideas come from the search metrics of Google giving you other marketers tips that have previously been on a high search density. Making a long list of many auto-completed search suggestions creates spinnable content that can bring high ranking website information.

3. Google Search Console.

This tool can help you monitor and improve your ranking in the search results of particular keywords. For instance, individuals can go to “Search Analytics”. This menu is in the Search Console dashboard and enables one view the clicks, click through rate, impressions, and average search position for up to 999 keywords that relate to your website.

4. Going to the Google’s “Searches Related To” Section.

This section can be your next key to success. This area is at the bottom of the Google search page. It contains items and queries in an elongated form. These ideas can be your next blogging ideas or titles of your posts. For instance, when you search “dog food”, this area can have statements like “best dog food for skin allergies”. Making a long list of these ideas can make a blog that is authoritative in that particular niche.

5. Google AdWords.

If keywords have a high search density on Google, there is not much need of spending money on a different SEO deal. Persons running paid search ads can access this from the keywords tab in their Google Analytics campaign. Here, one can find the actual search queries to invest money. Google AdWords has a keywords search feature that is one of the best and most reliable.

Conclusion.

People carrying out Search Engine Optimization may require using a tool or more. Countless tools are emerging from different sources which promise to deliver but at times scam individuals and fail to help. However, Google has some tools which any person doing SEO and internet marketing can use. Some of these tools exist as services present in our search engines but often go ignored. From the tools, recommended by Semalt, it is clear that numerous SEO tasks such as keyword search, Google bots and crawlers are possible using tools provided by Google. As a result, the need for going for funny unproven tools is not there.

Explains Why Incoming Links Are Crucial For Your SEO

Explains Why Incoming Links Are Crucial For Your SEO

Many times when Google discharges information for its procedures, which regulates the ranking of websites, I would advise clients to make no amendments to anything. Our company has never been involved in search engine junk tactics like the creation of insignificant low-quality incoming website links. Creating exclusive content and quality links have always been our motivation.

Still, we deal with the cases that when clients come to us telling that after the changes of Google released, like the Penguin 2.1 appraise, it affected their rankings. Clients usually think that it relates to some difficulties with their success process, but we discover most of them had bad incoming links created by the previous SEO company they were working with.

Incoming links are an essential element for determining websites ranking in Google. Earlier, a website with the highest number of incoming links would rank higher than a competing website with lower backlinks. Firms would create lots of incoming links regardless of their quality or if they made any sense since Google didn’t care about any relationships between the links and the websites. Google then revolutionized. Panda was first introduced in early 2011, then Penguin was released later in 2012. All of a sudden, the quality of incoming links took over the quantity, at the same time, the firms that got involved in the collection of a large number of backlinks were getting involved in wrong techniques during the creation of content. According to Semalt expert Andrew Dyhan, an online marketing specialist, what Panda has started was finished by the Penguin. Many websites witnessed a drastic fall in their rankings, revenue, and traffic, and this is where one of our clients was caught up. This was a great astonishment for the affected webmasters whose sites got hit.

The bad incoming links don’t show the harmless effect until they hurt a great deal someday. Clients don’t realize the urgency of getting rid of backlinks before we show them the analysis of their account of the client. If on the first stages, removing bad links is not very time-consuming and expensive, later when the loss will bad enough, removal of incoming bad links became the urgent priority that will make you ready to any amount in. We immediately witness positive output once we embarked on bad links removal, but unfortunately, some clients tend to be willing to get the immediate result.

In order to maintain clients, any SEO firm should immediately look out for bad links and eliminate them. Currently, we reveal to potential customers regarding removal of bad links and if obligatory, we advise them to invest in it for an initial couple of words. The greater lesson is to have an understanding of where Google is headed and drive clients towards that route. For the SEO customers, it is no longer an option to be up to date with the trend in order to succeed. Also, abandoning the necessity to get assistance from the SEO firm very likely will make your competitor a winner. Therefore, following up with professionals is important.

What Links Cause SEO Penalties?

Search engine optimization (SEO) experts understand the importance of link building. Essentially, link building is one of the cornerstones of effective SEO strategy. This is because Google’s algorithm relies a lot on inbound links to determine website’s authority that influences organic search rankings.

Links are a critical factor in increasing brand visibility and referral traffic. In spite of this, a recent survey indicates that only 62 percent of all marketers are engaged in link building. So, why some marketers avoid pursuing this strategy? Andrew Dyhan, the Customer Success Manager of Digital Services explains the factors, which make link building a critical aspect of SEO.

Fear of Google penalization is the primary reason why many marketers avoid building links. It is quite fair, however, in most cases, this threat is overrated. Google’s penalization bases on Google’s Penguin update. According to this update, if you build links that violate Google’s terms of service, the search engine will respond in a form of burying your website in a deep sea of content where users won’t find you. This translates into less traffic and low rankings. So, what are the unhealthy links that earn you penalties?

Links from bad sites

Links from low-authority sources and spammy sites are the first type of links you want to avoid. At the most basic level, the value of a link is determined by the authority of the site it emanated from. In other words, if you source links from high authority sites, you command more authority on your site. On the other hand, if you build links from a questionable or spammy site, the authority of your domain takes a beating.

Contextually inappropriate links

Unlike the past, Google’s algorithms are advanced enough to detect how content fits the needs of the audience and the natural use of language. In simple words, if you link to content that has nothing to do with the piece, Google will flag you down and punish you for trying to mislead users.

Keyword-stuffed links

Initially, it was common practice to include keywords in the anchor text of your links. Today, doing that might get you penalized by Google because SEO enthusiasts started abusing the practice by stuffing keywords into links where they did not belong. In spite of this, you can still optimize your anchor text, however, it must be contextually appropriate for the link.

Spammed links

Spammy links include posting comments on a forum with just a link to your website and no other content. Why? Because the main goal of such a link is to drive traffic to your site without giving any value to readers. In addition, Google can penalize you if you place links on the same pages of the site repeatedly.

Links from schemes

Any link you build with the sole intention of driving traffic to your site without giving the user any valuable information is suspect and subject to Google penalties. There are a number of such links including reciprocal links and link wheels where the intention is to pass authority to sites within the wheel. To find out what Google considers as link schemes, read their article on the subject to avoid getting in trouble with the search engine.

Other techniques of manipulating site rankings

Normally, Google’s main aim is to reduce the possibility of SEO enthusiasts manipulating their site rankings using links. As long as you are using links in a way that is beneficial to users, there is nothing to worry about. However, if you are trying to use underhand methods to drive traffic and manipulate rankings, you are setting yourself up for Google’s penalization on your site.

Ultimately, an official Google penalty is a manual action similar to blacklisting. This is what strikes fear in every webmaster but most of the time, Google’s heavy hand only comes down on intentional offenders. However, webmasters often panic and think they have been penalized when their site experience a drop in traffic. But if you avoid running afoul of Google’s mode of operation or work with the specialized SEO services provider, who technically track your website’s performance, you will have nothing to worry about.

SEO Rankings Drop: A Step-by-Step Guide to Recovery

A few weeks ago, rankings for pages on a key section of my site dropped an average of a full position in one day. I’ve been an SEO for 7 years now, but I still ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, panicked that I wouldn’t be able to figure out my mistake. There are so many things that could’ve gone wrong: Did I or my team unintentionally mess with internal link equity? Did we lose links? Did one of Google’s now-constant algorithm updates screw me over?

Since the drop happened to a group of pages, I made the assumption it had to do with our site or page structure (it didn’t). I wasted a good day focused on technical SEO. Once I realized my error, I decided to put together a guide to make sure that next time, I’ll do my research effectively. And you, my friends, will reap the rewards.

First, make sure there’s actually a rankings change

Okay, I have to start with this: before you go down this rabbit hole of rankings changes, make sure there was actually a rankings change. Your rankings tracker may not have localized properly, or have picked up on one of Google’s rankings experiments or personalization.

Find out:

  • Has organic traffic dropped to the affected page(s)?
    • We’re starting here because this is the most reliable data you have about your site. Google Search Console and rankings trackers are trying to look at what Google’s doing; your web analytics tool is just tracking user counts.
    • Compare organic traffic to the affected page(s) week-over-week both before and after the drop, making sure to compare similar days of the week.
    • Is the drop more significant than most week-over-week changes?
    • Is the drop over a holiday weekend? Is there any reason search volume could’ve dropped?
  • Does Google Search Console show a similar rankings drop?
    • Use the Search Analytics section to see clicks, impressions, and average position for a given keyword, page, or combo.
    • Does GSC show a similar rankings drop to what you saw in your rankings tracker? (Make sure to run the report with the selected keyword(s).)
  • Does your rankings tracker show a sustained rankings drop?
    • I recommend tracking rankings daily for your important keywords, so you’ll know if the rankings drop is sustained within a few days.
    • If you’re looking for a tool recommendation, I’m loving Stat.

If you’ve just seen a drop in your rankings tool and your traffic and GSC clicks are still up, keep an eye on things and try not to panic. I’ve seen too many natural fluctuations to go to my boss as soon as I see an issue.

But if you’re seeing that there’s a rankings change, start going through this guide.

Figure out what went wrong

1. Did Google update their algorithm?

Google rolls out a new algorithm update at least every day, most silently. Good news is, there are leagues of SEOs dedicated to documenting those changes.

  • Are there any SEO articles or blogs talking about a change around the date you saw the change? Check out:
  • Do you have any SEO friends who have seen a change? Pro tip: Make friends with SEOs who run sites similar to yours, or in your industry. I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been to talk frankly about tests I’d like to run with SEOs who’ve run similar tests.

If this is your issue…

The bad news here is that if Google’s updated their algorithm, you’re going to have to change your approach to SEO in one way or another.

Make sure you understand:

Your next move is to put together a strategy to either pull yourself out of this penalty, or at the very least to protect your site from the next one.

2. Did your site lose links?

Pull the lost links report from Ahrefs or Majestic. They’re the most reputable link counters out there, and their indexes are updated daily.

  • Has there been a noticeable site-wide link drop?
  • Has there been a noticeable link drop to the page or group of pages you’ve seen a rankings change for?
  • Has there been a noticeable link drop to pages on your site that link to the page or group of pages you’ve seen a rankings change for?
    • Run Screaming Frog on your site to find which pages link internally to the affected pages. Check internal link counts for pages one link away from affected pages.
  • Has there been a noticeable link drop to inbound links to the page or group of pages you’ve seen a rankings change for?
    • Use Ahrefs or Majestic to find the sites that link to your affected pages.
      • Have any of them suffered recent link drops?
      • Have they recently updated their site? Did that change their URLs, navigation structure, or on-page content?

If this is your issue…

The key here is to figure out who you lost links from and why, so you can try to regain or replace them.

  • Can you get the links back?
    • Do you have a relationship with the site owner who provided the links? Reaching out may help.
    • Were the links removed during a site update? Maybe it was accidental. Reach out and see if you can convince them to replace them.
    • Were the links removed and replaced with links to a different source? Investigate the new source — how can you make your links more appealing than theirs? Update your content and reach out to the linking site owner.
  • Can you convince your internal team to invest in new links to quickly replace the old ones?
    • Show your manager(s) how much a drop in link count affected your rankings and ask for the resources it’ll take to replace them.
    • This will be tricky if you were the one to build the now-lost links in the first place, so if you did, make sure you’ve put together a strategy to build longer-term ones next time.

3. Did you change the affected page(s)?

If you or your team changed the affected pages recently, Google may not think that they’re as relevant to the target keyword as they used to be.

  • Did you change the URL?
    • DO NOT CHANGE URLS. URLs act as unique identifiers for Google; a new URL means a new page, even if the content is the same.
  • Has the target keyword been removed from the page title, H1, or H2s?
  • Is the keyword density for the target keyword lower than it used to be?
  • Can Google read all of the content on the page?
    • Look at Google’s cache by searching for cache:www.yourdomain.com/your-page to see what Google sees.
  • Can Google access your site? Check Google Search Console for server and crawl reports.

If this is your issue…

Good news! You can probably revert your site and regain the traffic you’ve lost.

  • If you changed the URL, see if you can change it back. If not, make sure the old URL is 301 redirecting to the new URL.
  • If you changed the text on the page, try reverting it back to the old text. Wait until your rankings are back up, then try changing the text again, this time keeping keyword density in mind.
  • If Google can’t read all of the content on your page, THIS IS A BIG DEAL. Communicate that to your dev team. (I’ve found dev teams often undervalue the impact of SEO, but “Googlebot can’t read the page” is a pretty understandable, impactful problem.)

4. Did you change internal links to the affected page(s)?

If you or your team added or removed internal links, that could change the way link equity flows through your site, changing Google’s perceived value of the pages on your site.

  • Did you or your team recently update site navigation anywhere? Some common locations to check:
    • Top navigation
    • Side navigation
    • Footer navigation
    • Suggested products
    • Suggested blog posts
  • Did you or your team recently update key pages on your site that link to target pages? Some pages to check:
    • Homepage
    • Top category pages
    • Linkbait blog posts or articles
  • Did you or your team recently update anchor text on links to target pages? Does it still include the target keyword?

If this is your issue…

Figure out how many internal links have been removed from pointing to your affected pages. If you have access to the old version of your site, run Screaming Frog (or a similar crawler) on the new and old versions of your site so you can compare inbound link counts (referred to as inlinks in SF). If you don’t have access to the old version of your site, take a couple of hours to compare navigation changes and mark down wherever the new layout may have hurt the affected pages.

How you fix the problem depends on how much impact you have on the site structure. It’s best to fix the issue in the navigational structure of the site, but many of us SEOs are overruled by the UX team when it comes to primary navigation. If that’s the case for you, think about systematic ways to add links where you can control the content. Some common options:

  • In the product description
  • In blog posts
  • In the footer (since UX will generally admit, few people use the footer)

Keep in mind that removing links and adding them back later, or from different places on the site, may not have the same effect as the original internal links. You’ll want to keep an eye on your rankings, and add more internal links than the affected pages lost, to make sure you regain your Google rankings.

5. Google’s user feedback says you should rank differently.

Google is using machine learning to determine rankings. That means they’re at least in part measuring the value of your pages based on their click-through rate from SERPs and how long visitors stay on your page before returning to Google.

  • Did you recently add a popup that is increasing bounce rate?
  • Is the page taking longer to load?
    • Check server response time. People are likely to give up if nothing happens for a few seconds.
    • Check full page load. Have you added something that takes forever to load and is causing visitors to give up quickly?
  • Have you changed your page titles? Is that lowering CTR? (I optimized page titles in late November, and that one change moved the average rank of 500 pages up from 12 to 9. One would assume things can go in reverse.)

If this is your issue…

  • If the issue is a new popup, do your best to convince your marketing team to test a different type of popup. Some options:
    • Scroll popups
    • Timed popups
    • Exit popups
    • Stable banners at the top or bottom of the page (with a big CLICK ME button!)
  • If your page is taking longer to load, you’ll need the dev team. Put together the lost value from fewer SEO conversions now that you’ve lost some rankings and you’ll have a pretty strong case for dev time.
  • If you’ve changed your page titles, change them back, quick! Mark this test as a dud, and make sure you learn from it before you run your next test.

6. Your competition made a change.

You may have changed rank not because you did anything, but because your competition got stronger or weaker. Use your ranking tool to identify competitors that gained or lost the most from your rankings change. Use a tool like Versionista (paid, but worth it) or Wayback Machine (free, but spotty data) to find changes in your competitors’ sites.

  • Which competitors gained or lost the most as your site’s rankings changed?
  • Has that competition gained or lost inbound links? (Refer to #2 for detailed questions)
  • Has that competition changed their competing page? (Refer to #3 for detailed questions)
  • Has that competition changed their internal link structure? (Refer to #4 for detailed questions)
  • Has that competition started getting better click-through rates or dwell time to their pages from SERPs? (Refer to #5 for detailed questions)

If this is your issue…

You’re probably fuming, and your managers are probably fuming at you. But there’s a benefit to this: you can learn about what works from your competitors. They did the research and tested a change, and it paid off for them. Now you know the value! Imitate your competitor, but try to do it better than them this time — otherwise you’ll always be playing catch up.

Now you know what to do

You may still be panicking, but hopefully this post can guide you to some constructive solutions. I find that the best response to a drop in rankings is a good explanation and a plan.

And, to the Moz community of other brilliant SEOs: comment below if you see something I’ve missed!

When and How to Use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Link Count Metrics – Whiteboard Friday

How can you effectively apply link metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority alongside your other SEO metrics? Where and when does it make sense to take them into account, and what exactly do they mean? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers these questions and more, arming you with the knowledge you need to better understand and execute your SEO work.

When and how to use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and link count metrics.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about when and how to use Domain Authority and Page Authority and link count metrics.

So many of you have written to us at Moz over the years and certainly I go to lots of conferences and events and speak to folks who are like, “Well, I’ve been measuring my link building activity with DA,” or, “Hey, I got a high DA link,” and I want to confirm when is it the right time to be using something like DA or PA or a raw link count metric, like number of linking root domains or something like Spam Score or a traffic estimation, these types of metrics.

So I’m going to walk you through kind of these three — Page Authority, Domain Authority, and linking root domains — just to get a refresher course on what they are. Page Authority and Domain Authority are actually a little complicated. So I think that’s worthwhile. Then we’ll chat about when to use which metrics. So I’ve got sort of the three primary things that people use link metrics for in the SEO world, and we’ll walk through those.

Page Authority

So to start, Page Authority is basically — you can see I’ve written a ton of different little metrics in here — linking URLs, linking root domains, MozRank, MozTrust, linking subdomains, anchor text, linking pages, followed links, no followed links, 301s, 302s, new versus old links, TLD, domain name, branded domain mentions, Spam Score, and many, many other metrics.

Basically, what PA is, is it’s every metric that we could possibly come up with from our link index all taken together and then thrown into a model with some training data. So the training data in this case, quite obviously, is Google search results, because what we want the Page Authority score to ultimately be is a predictor of how well a given page is going to rank in Google search results assuming we know nothing else about it except link data. So this is using no on-page data, no content data, no engagement or visit data, none of the patterns or branding or entity matches, just link data.

So this is everything we possibly know about a page from its link profile and the domain that page is on, and then we insert that in as the input alongside the training data. We have a machine learning model that essentially learns against Google search results and builds the best possible model it can. That model, by the way, throws away some of this stuff, because it’s not useful, and it adds in a bunch of this stuff, like vectors or various attributes of each one. So it might say, “Oh, anchor text distribution, that’s actually not useful, but Domain Authority ordered by the root domains with more than 500 links to them.” I’m making stuff up, right? But you could have those sorts of filters on this data and thus come up with very complex models, which is what machine learning is designed to do.

All we have to worry about is that this is essentially the best predictive score we can come up with based on the links. So it’s useful for a bunch of things. If we’re trying to say how well do we think this page might rank independent of all non-link factors, PA, great model. Good data for that.

Domain Authority

Domain Authority is once you have the PA model in your head and you’re sort of like, “Okay, got it, machine learning against Google’s results to produce the best predictive score for ranking in Google.” DA is just the PA model at the root domain level. So not subdomains, just root domains, which means it’s got some weirdness. It can’t, for example, say that randfishkin.blogspot.com is different than www.blogspot.com. But obviously, a link from www.blogspot.com is way more valuable than from my personal subdomain at Blogspot or Tumblr or WordPress or any of these hosted subdomains. So that’s kind of an edge case that unfortunately DA doesn’t do a great job of supporting.

What it’s good for is it’s relatively well-suited to be predictive of how a domain’s pages will rank in Google. So it removes all the page-level information, but it’s still operative at the domain level. It can be very useful for that.

Linking Root Domain

Then linking root domains is the simplest one. This is basically a count of all the unique root domains with at least one link on them that point to a given page or a site. So if I tell you that this URL A has 410 linking root domains, that basically means that there are 410 domains with at least one link pointing to URL A.

What I haven’t told you is whether they’re followed or no followed. Usually, this is a combination of those two unless it’s specified. So even a no followed link could go into the linking root domains, which is why you should always double check. If you’re using Ahrefs or Majestic or Moz and you hover on the whatever, the little question mark icon next to any given metric, it will tell you what it includes and what it doesn’t include.

When to use which metric(s)

All right. So how do we use these?

Well, for month over month link building performance, which is something that a lot of folks track, I would actually not suggest making DA your primary one. This is for a few reasons. So Moz’s index, which is the only thing currently that calculates DA or a machine learning-like model out there among the major toolsets for link data, only updates about once every month. So if you are doing your report before the DA has updated from the last link index, that can be quite frustrating.

Now, I will say we are only a few months away from a new index that’s going to replace Mozscape that will calculate DA and PA and all these other things much, much more quickly. I know that’s been something many folks have been asking for. It is on its way.

But in the meantime, what I recommend using is:

1. Linking root domains, the count of linking root domains and how that’s grown over time.

2. Organic rankings for your targeted keywords. I know this is not a direct link metric, but this really helps to tell you about the performance of how those links have been affected. So if you’re measuring month to month, it should be the case that any months you’ve got in a 20 or 30-day period, Google probably has counted and recognized within a few days of finding them, and Google is pretty good at crawling nearly the whole web within a week or two weeks. So this is going to be a reasonable proxy for how your link building campaign has helped your organic search campaign.

3. The distribution of Domain Authority. So I think, in this case, Domain Authority can be useful. It wouldn’t be my first or second choice, but I think it certainly can belong in a link building performance report. It’s helpful to see the high DA links that you’re getting. It’s a good sorting mechanism to sort of say, “These are, generally speaking, more important, more authoritative sites.”

4. Spam Score I like as well, because if you’ve been doing a lot of link building, it is the case that Domain Authority doesn’t penalize or doesn’t lower its score for a high Spam Score. It will show you, “Hey, this is an authoritative site with a lot of DA and good-looking links, but it also looks quite spammy to us.” So, for example, you might see that something has a DA of 60, but a Spam Score of 7 or 8, which might be mildly concerning. I start to really worry when you get to like 9, 10, or 11.

What Is Link Building & Why Is It Important?

Whether you’re brand new to link building or have been doing it for a while, we’re sure you’ll find something useful in this guide. The landscape of SEO and link building is always changing, and today, the importance of building high-quality links has never been higher. The need to understand and implement high-quality campaigns is essential if you’re going to compete and thrive online, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. This guide is designed to get you going quickly and in the right direction. There is a lot to take in, but we’ve broken everything up into easy-to-digest chapters and have included lots of examples along the way. We hope you enjoy The Beginner’s Guide to Link Building!

NEXT UP CHAPTER 2: Types of Links (Both Good and Bad) Jump to another chapter:

Definition of link building

Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A hyperlink (usually just called a link) is a way for users to navigate between pages on the internet. Search engines use links to crawl the web; they will crawl the links between the individual pages on your website, and they will crawl the links between entire websites. There are many techniques for building links, and while they vary in difficulty, SEOs tend to agree that link building is one of the hardest parts of their jobs. Many SEOs spend the majority of their time trying to do it well. For that reason, if you can master the art of building high-quality links, it can truly put you ahead of both other SEOs and your competition.

Why is link building important for SEO?

The anatomy of a hyperlink

In order to understand the importance of link building, it’s important to first understand the basics of how a link is created, how the search engines see links, and what they can interpret from them.

  1. Start of link tag: Called an anchor tag (hence the “a”), this opens the link tag and tells search engines that a link to something else is about to follow.
  2. Link referral location: The “href” stands for “hyperlink referral,” and the text inside the quotation marks indicates the URL to which the link is pointing. This doesn’t always have to be a web page; it could be the address of an image or a file to download. Occasionally, you’ll see something other than a URL, beginning with a # sign. These are local links, which take you to a different section of the page you’re already on.
  3. Visible/anchor text of link: This is the little bit of text that users see on the page, and on which they need to click if they want to open the link. The text is usually formatted in some way to make it stand out from the text that surrounds it, often with blue color and/or underlining, signaling to users that it is a clickable link.
  4. Closure of link tag: This signals the end of the link tag to the search engines.

What links mean for search engines

There are two fundamental ways that the search engines use links:

  1. To discover new web pages
  2. To help determine how well a page should rank in their results

Once search engines have crawled pages on the web, they can extract the content of those pages and add it to their indexes. In this way, they can decide if they feel a page is of sufficient quality to be ranked well for relevant keywords (Google created a short video to explain that process). When they are deciding this, the search engines do not just look at the content of the page; they also look at the number of links pointing to that page from external websites and the quality of those external websites. Generally speaking, the more high-quality websites that link to you, the more likely you are to rank well in search results.

Links as a ranking factor are what allowed Google to start to dominate the search engine market back in the late 1990s. One of Google’s founders, Larry Page, invented PageRank, which Google used to measure the quality of a page based in part on the number of links pointing to it. This metric was then used as part of the overall ranking algorithm and became a strong signal because it was a very good way of determining the quality of a page.

It was so effective because it was based upon the idea that a link could be seen as a vote of confidence about a page, i.e., it wouldn’t get links if it didn’t deserve to. The theory is that when someone links to another website, they are effectively saying it is a good resource. Otherwise, they wouldn’t link to it, much in the same way that you wouldn’t send a friend to a bad restaurant.

However, SEOs soon discovered how to manipulate PageRank and search results for chosen keywords. Google started actively trying to find ways to discover websites which were manipulating search results, and began rolling out regular updates which were specifically aimed at filtering out websites that didn’t deserve to rank.

This has also led to Google starting to discount a number of link building techniques that were previously deemed fine, for example, submitting your website to web directories and getting a link in return. This was a technique that Google actually recommended at one point, but it became abused and overused by SEOs, so Google stopped passing as much value from that sort of links.

More recently, Google has actively penalized the rankings of websites who have attempted such overuse of these techniques—often referred to as over-optimisation—in their link building. Google’s regular Penguin updates are one such example. Knowing which link building techniques to avoid and stay within Google’s guidelines is an important subject that we’ll discuss later in this guide.

We don’t know the full algorithm that Google uses to determine its search results—that’s the company’s “secret sauce.” Despite that fact, the general consensus among the SEO community (according to the 2015 Moz search ranking factors survey) is that links still play a big role in that algorithm. They represent the largest two slices of the pie chart below.