Every SEO company understands that links are critical to developing rankings. We have watched as websites that have been loaded with good content will sit with almost no rankings for general terms on Google, and only begin to develop those rankings and positions once a minimum of a few good links from quality websites have been established. There is no debating that links are a ranking factor, but what is debatable is the actual value of different types of links towards improving rankings. For the purposes of this article, we will be discussing both the onsite and offsite versions of various types of links. We have found that both the onsite versions and offsite versions have about the same value when compared to other link versions in the same placements. The link types that we will discuss are: content links, header and navigational links, breadcrumb navigation links, footer links and comment links.
To make this easy to understand, we will simply discuss the most powerful link types first. In content links (both keyword rich and blind url) are the best and most powerful types of links with regards to developing higher rankings for the page they are linked to. This goes for both onsite links within the same website that they are linking to, and offsite links that are embedded into articles and content pieces that are on the subject. Google views these types of links as a method of easy navigation to the further development of an idea, or further explanation of a topic. The most obvious examples of these types of links are found on Wikipedia, which uses them as an in-content navigational structure linking concepts together. Developing your content on your website works the same way, almost as a hybrid navigational structure but instead of simply listing the important topics or sections of a website, they function to link smaller and more niche concepts. If the article they are embedded into is on the topic and itself has the ability to rank for a subject, then the page that the link points to will also have the ability to rank for that phrase or concept. Links embedded into articles that are not ranking for a topic will not pass any value on to the linked page. Articles that are on different topics, thin content or are simply links without any on-topic wrap text are essentially valueless. While they may drive actual visitors to your site (which has value in it’s own right) they do not do much for transferring the ranking power of that piece of content to your linked page. Also, remember that is a link is tagged as a “nofollow” on the page that you are linking from, it will not transfer ranking power to your page. Keep your links within pieces of content that are at least 500 words and develop a topic that is connected to the link and the linking page, and you should receive some value.
Navigational links at the top of your website and in the breadcrumb areas have value, but not as much as in-content links. Essentially, Google views the navigation of your website as providing an ability to travel easily from topic to topic, and because the most important topics on your website are generally linked from navigational positions Google views them as broad. More precise and on-topic links can generally be found inside content, so while there is no harm in concentrating on navigational links for SEO purposes, they do not have the same power as in-content links. Use them to make it easy for people to use and navigate your website, but do not concern yourself with stuffing keywords into them.
Footer links (credits for website design or SEO being a common example) have a small amount of value, but generally appear spammy.Because footer links are generally put into a secion that is repeated across every website page, you look like you are link stuffing even if you aren’t. The link from a website that is offering you a footer link is not going to provide link value from all the pages, and instead is only counted once from that website. Due to the fact that it is not surrounded by wrap text, and generally is not placed on a website that is providing information on the same topics as your site, it will have only a little value to you for rankings. Once again, if the site that the link is found on does not rank for the phrase you are targeting, it will not provide value to increasing your rankings for that phrase.
Lastly, I will mention “comment links.” These are links that are allowed in the comment sections on blogs, either in the form of a keyword rich link that is generally positioned as the person’s name or login, or inside of the comment section on blogs that allow HTML. These had some value many years ago, but have little to no value today. The practice of comment linking was so overused by SEO companies in the past that Google has begun to look to it for potential penalization cues, as in if they find websites that are heavily invested in comment linking from unrelated blogs they may slap you with a manual penalty. Google is also very good at identifying “blog farms” and “link farms” today. Linking in any format from a blog that has been identified by Google as a blog farm can push penalties toward the page it is linking to. Within your webmaster console if you receive a warning for “un-natural linking” this is one of the things that Google has identified. These types of links are not worth your time to develop and post, and at worst can actually harm your rankings.
There is much debate about the position of a link on a piece of content with regards to it’s value. Generally accepted is that the higher up on the page the link is found, the more value it has. Keyword rich links have the most value, but must be used sparingly and in a natural way in order to not trigger penalties. With regards to developing content links, write the most developed content you can on a subject and use that content as your main “push page.” Link lesser developed content to that page, and on your push page provide one keyword rich link back to your target page. From within other areas and offsite places develop different keyword links, or use URL links in order to flow naturally. Link back to your main push page as well as the target page. Only link from places that are providing content on that same subject, even if they are “free for the taking.”
A developed interlinking strategy is the main ranking factor that will determine position on Google, along with the value of the content that is on the page itself. Don’t be surprised if a content page on your site is actually the one to rank for a phrase instead of your main home page, even if you are linking to your home page from that particular page. For this reason, treat every page as the only page that a potential customer will see, and make sure that you provide all the information for a conversion without asking them to click to another place on your website. Think of every page of your site as a landing page.