Bill Hartzer

Get a Grasp: The 12 Link Types for Website Optimization

Link Types PictogramLike it or not, the web is made up of links—and many different link types. Links from one web page to another. Even a search engine’s results are really just a list of links to other websites. Links are the lifeblood of the internet–without links, we probably wouldn’t be able to easily find other websites, and click on them.

Let’s focus, for now, though, on your website, and review all of the link types. There are certain link types that you’ll want to stay away from, and don’t include them. And then there are link types that are actually good, for SEO purposes.

12 Link Types

Here’s a list of the link types, along with comments and issues worth noting.

1. Internal Links
Internal links are links that link to another web page on your same website, on the same domain name.

2. External Links
External links are links that link out to another web page, on another website, on another domain name.

3. Text Links
Text links are links that include clickable text, called anchor text. You can highlight the text in the link with your cursor, and literally copy and paste that text. These are different than image links.

4. Image Links
Image links are links that are clickable-but it’s an image, a graphic, or a photo that must be clicked. Usually there is no text associated with this type of link.

5. Nofollow Links
Generally, a nofollow link is a link attribute added in the link code to another internal or external web page. This link attribute tells the search engines not to trust the link. They may still index the page that you’re linking to, because they know the URL you’re linking to.

But a Nofollow link doesn’t pass any Google PageRank (search engine ranking power) to the other page if the link contains the nofollow link attribute. For example, a nofollow link would look like this:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>Rocks Digital</a>

There are some times when you should include a nofollow link on your site, and other times when it’s not necessary. For example, links to certain pages on your website, such as your privacy policy and terms of service page, could have nofollow links pointing to them. Blog comments (if someone comments on your blog post) generally should include the nofollow link attribute on links.

There are cases where even if a link contains the nofollow link attribute, Google may choose to ignore the ‘nofollow’ part.

6. Dofollow Links
There really isn’t any such thing as a “dofollow” link. It’s really just a link, a normal link to another web page, that doesn’t have the nofollow link attribute on it. The “dofollow” term is really industry slang to indicate that a link doesn’t have a nofollow link attribute on it.

7. Paid and Sponsored Links
If someone has paid you either by giving you money, merchandise, services, or some other benefit, it’s considered a paid link. Not only by the search engines, paid links have been highly scrutinized by the US government, as well (the US FTC). If you include a link to a website or web page as a result of payment or sponsorship, you absolutely must disclose that it’s sponsored or paid. Also, any external links must include the nofollow link attribute on the link(s). This includes advertising, where a text link or an image link appears on your website.

8. Sidebar Links
Sidebar links are image or text links that appear on the “side” of your web page. For example, these could be on the right side or the left side, and won’t be in the main content area of your web page. Since they’re off to the side of your web page, they’re not seen as often as other links on your site. So, the search engines may consider these less important than other links that are prominent on your web page.

9. Navigation Links
Navigation links are almost always internal links to other web pages on your website. For example, navigation links are how most people “navigate” around your website, from page to page.

10. Footer Links
These are links that appear on the “footer” area of your web pages. They typically appear at the bottom, and not too many people click on those links. I recommend only including links in the footer area that are really needed, but won’t be clicked very often. These typically are the pages such as the privacy policy page, the terms of service, and other related pages.

11. Links within Content
Links that appear in the middle of content, usually in the middle of a sentence, could be considered “links within content”. These are important, and could be external links or internal links. If, for example, you’re wanting to prove a point or reference a certain website that you’re talking about, then you would want to include a link to that source.

For example, if you’re talking about another company, then you’d want to link to their website.  It gives the reader a frame of reference, and they can click to the other website you’re linking to if they’re interested. It’s totally natural, and expected, that you would link out to other web pages that you mention in your content. Personally, on the contrary, I believe it’s unnatural not to link out–what would happen if no one linked out to other web pages on the internet?

Keep in mind that while it’s natural to link out to other web pages, such another website, you can help your site’s SEO by linking to other web pages on your own website. It’s natural to link to other products on your website, especially if you mention them in a blog post, for example.

12. Widget Links
Widget links are links that are included in a website ‘widget’. Typically, you’d create an image or code that “does something”, such as load content, load an image, or load software code (usually in javascript) that allows someone to do something. For example, it could be a mortgage calculator that others can include on their website. These widgets typically include links. The search engines, mainly Google, has been very public about their views of links included in widgets. They need to include the “nofollow” link attribute, or the website associated with the link could be penalized.

There are a lot of different link types, and this is just one aspect of effective SEO. Knowing which link type and when to use the nofollow link attribute is important. Whether you like it or not, your website can be penalized in the search results if you don’t use link types properly. But, when in doubt, use your common sense to decide if you should include a link. And, if you are unsure, you can include the URL only, so it’s not a clickable link.

How are you using links on your website?

Bill Hartzer

Bill Hartzer is the Senior Vice President of Agency Services at Advice Interactive. Bill is a frequent speaker and expert discussion panel participant at various search engine marketing and internet marketing conferences and events such as SMX and PubCon.

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