Build a Contextual Link for Google and Microsoft - Link Best Practices
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This is About The Best Practices of Building Links Internally
As Google crawls a site, it looks for effective links that allow it to discover new content and establish connections between two or more sites. When used correctly, they should also help the crawler better understand the topic and intent of a website, which, in turn, improves the site’s SEO ranking. However, this only applies if the links were implemented with SEO in mind.
To help my fellow web and content developers improve their SEO rankings, I’ll quickly run through some of the best practices for creating links and then go over what Google is looking for. I recommend applying these strategies as you build your platform and remember that Google can demote your site for improperly using links.
What Makes a Good Link – Technical Considerations
From a technical standpoint, Google searches for specific formats that allow it to crawl and extract information from a link. These are straightforward segments of code that are easy to integrate:
Crawlable Links - HTML <a> Tag
Google will only be able to crawl a link if it includes an <a> HTML anchor element and an href attribute. If neither tags are present, or if they are coded using a different format, Google will likely be unable to parse and extract the information. The same format applies to Microsoft Bing:
Additionally, the URL in the <a> element must resolve into an actual website to which the crawler can contact and receive information. In other words, the URL must resemble a URL:
Well-Defined Anchor Text - Wrapped By HTML <a> Tag
Anchor text is the text that’s visibly shown as a hyperlink. This information should be added within the <a> element, as shown here:
If the <a> is left empty, Google may use the title attribute as a fallback. If you are building links directly into images, use the alt attribute of the img element to build the anchor text:
It will render the image with a link overlay below:
What Makes a Good Link – Contextual Perspectives
Beyond their basic format, Google will also judge links based on their qualitative features. The linked sites should be well-researched and trusted pages that offer quality user experience. In general, it’s best practice to link to authoritative sources, such as .org’s, .edu’s, and .gov’s, rather than citing lower-quality blogs or webpages. Additionally, Google will look for the following:
High-Quality Anchor Text
The exact wording of anchor text and link title attribute should be descriptive, to the point, kept in context, and related to the page it links to. A reader should have a basic understanding of where the link will lead them before they click. If not, Google will consider the link lower-quality:
- Good Anchor Text: We proudly stock a wide <a href=”https://linkedwebsite.com”>selection of chocolate truffles</a>
- Bad Anchor Text: Find our full selection of chocolate truffles <a href=”https://linkedwebsite.com”>here</a>
Keep anchor text relatively short and make it as natural as possible. The crawler will consider the text before and after the link so, if it’s a jarring sentence, the link won’t rate as highly. Google will demote your links if you try cramming keywords into them and classify your site as spam.
Cross-Referenced Internal Links
Links don’t have to send readers to an outside source—they can also guide them to other areas of your website. By cross-referencing your own platform with internal links, Google will be better able to understand the layout of your website and your readers will also find it easier to navigate. This factors into your SEO ranking and can improve overall user experience.
Use External Links to Cite Sources
External links should be used to provide evidence for your website. Linking to an authority proves that your site is trustworthy.
However, be careful to not overdo it. If you sense that a source may not be reliable or you don’t want to link back to it, you can use add nofollow to the code to distance yourself from it.
Likewise, if you’ve been paid to include a link, it’s considered best practice to add either rel="nofollow" or rel="sponsored" to the link.
How to Acquire Links
Both Google and Microsoft Bing prefer organic links that naturally drive traffic toward high-quality and respected sites. The more links your site receives, the more respected it becomes. This can be seen as a flow of value. The more people connected to your web, the more valuable it becomes. Therefore, you should work to acquire new links to improve your site's ranking.
You can do so by utilising the following strategies:
- Guest Blogging – Generate high-quality for another website.
- Skyscraper Technique – Improve your competitor’s content and then reference the same backlinks.
- Link Inserts – Link to a site that offers more information about something they’ve already referenced
- Ego Bait – Shine a positive light on another platform and they’ll reciprocate in time.
- Testimonials and Case Studies – Give positive feedback about their products or services.
- Exchange Links – Offer to link back to them if they agree to link to you.
- Resource Page Link Building – Collaborate and share a good reference that fits their existing content.
- Broken Link Building – Help them fix a “dead” link on their page by providing a replacement.
- Image Link Building – Ask to get credit for using your image.
- Unlinked Mentions – Ask to make any mention of your brand “clickable.”
- Link Moves – Ask to make changes to an existing link pointing at your website.
- HARO and Journalist Requests – Give an “expert quote” for their article.
- PR – Give them a killer story to cover.
Applying these strategies will allow you to rise in the rankings far faster than simply relying on good content.
The basic principles are simple—format your links correctly, structure them around natural text, avoid keyword stuffing, and link to authority sites. As you build your platform, you can collaborate with other websites to increase the flow of value and rise through the SEO rankings.