While inbound, outbound, and internal links can all be leveraged to improve your website’s usability and organic search engine rankings, it is important to know that some links are more valuable than others — and some are even considered bad. Here are three reasons some links are better than others:
- Not all links are good links. A website with misleading, irrelevant, broken, or factory-farmed links will make you and your site look bad to both users and search engines.
- Inbound links from high-ranking, authority websites are better than links from low-ranking, obscure websites. So a link from www.cnbc.com will mean more than a link from www.weirdcatblog.com. (Hint: Pages may pass some of their page rank to the sites they link to, so be choosy about the sites that you link to.)
- In industry links will help you more than random links from your friends’ websites. If you’re in the cupcake industry, links from cupcake, frosting, cake decorating, and baking sites will be worth much more than links from your babysitter, accountant, or golf buddy.
Still not sure what I mean?
Let’s look at this like high school: Each inbound link to your website is like a vote for your popularity. So the more votes you get, the more popular you are. And the more popular you are, the more you’ll be in the spotlight, seen by others, attracting lots of attention.
Search engines work just like the high school popularity chain: The more websites that vote for (link to) your website, the more popular your site will be with the search engines. That means it will be seen by more people, you’ll earn more clicks, and gain more website traffic. But before you drop everything and focus your efforts on building tons of inbound links from every place you can think of online, you must understand that some links are better, more savory, and more valuable than others.
Let’s go back to our high school example: The star of the football team inviting you to a party is a huge vote for your popularity and will increase your status among your peers pretty quickly. But on the other hand, an invitation from a relatively unknown, wallflower won’t help raise your social standing at all — in fact, if you go to their party, it may do the opposite! (Sad I know.)
Again, search engines work the same way: A link from a high-quality, high-ranking, authority site is much more valuable and apt to have a much bigger impact on your own site rankings than a link from a random site. So, it’s important to understand that just building lots of links from random places isn’t going to cut it, because it’s not just about quantity — it’s also about the quality of links to your site.
The Difference Between a Good Link And A Bad Link
Examples of Good Links:
- Links from websites with high page ranks
- Links from websites with good Alexa rankings
- Links from website who already rank in the top search results for your target keyword or key phrase
- Links from other sites in your industry or complimentary industries (i.e. a designer linking to a copywriter)
- Anchor text links to your website that use your keywords as the link text
- Natural, non-spammy links that occur without solicitation
Examples of Bad Links:
- Links to or from link farms or link directories with no useful content
- Links to or from sites with explicit content or sites associated with spam or unethical practices
- Links from your website to completely irrelevant websites (i.e. a designer linking to a dog groomer)
- Using too many links in your content — resist the urge to turn every keyword into a link. It dilutes the important links and can distract the reader
- Broken links
- Repetitive links — too many of the exact same keyword link
- Purchased, solicited, or unnatural links
- Paragraphs of keyword links in your website footer (everyone knows what you’re doing)
Two Sides To Every Story
If you do any amount of research on links, eventually you will come across a blog post or article by an SEO company or consultant, or even an online marketer, warning you of the dangers of bad links. These articles usually have big warnings, fearful messages, and even threats of what may happen if you use any of the bad link types they mention. And most of them all warm of the potential Google Slap or punishment you will suffer if you have too many of these links.
But there are two side to every story and this is no different. Yes, there are certain link types that have been deemed bad — like those I mention above — and these links types now have such horrible reputations that business owners are almost afraid of them. The problem is that some of those links can actually be beneficial to your business.
Here’s what you need to understand: The importance of links isn’t always about the search engines and SEO. First and foremost your link strategy should be about helping users discover the content they are looking for quickly and easily.
Pursuing random directory listings just for a quick link is a well-known bad SEO strategy. Most link farms are spam type sites posing as directory sites. These are low-quality links that can be bad for your search rankings. But before you swear off directories forever, know that some directories are good. Some online directories can be considered high-quality opportunities for your business because it gets you in front of an audience of your ideal clients.
Here are some examples of when a directory listing may be a smart business decision:
- A restaurant choosing to be listed in a directory of local eateries
- A wedding planner choosing to be listed in an online directory of wedding professionals for a bridal expo
- A business choosing to be included in the directory for and industry trade association
- A business being listed in the directory for the local chamber of commerce
- A local farmer choosing to be listed on their county or city “buy local” directory and promotions
Too Many Links
There is no minimum or maximum number of links you should have on a page. In fact, there are no EXACT guidelines on this topic whatsoever. It is up to you to use your best judgement. But understand that a web page stuffed with links can be viewed negatively by search engines because it looks spammy and seems unnatural. The same goes for a web page that is nothing more than a long list of links. And again, it’s not just about the search engines, cramming a page with too many links makes your content harder to read and it is distracting to your visitors.
If you have too many of the exact same link, with the exact same words, this could also reflect negatively on your site because it also looks spammy and seems unnatural. It looks like you’re trying to “game the system” for that particular keyword or key phrase — and everyone who comes to your site knows what you’re doing. This approach is almost as bad as including an entire paragraph of keyword links in your website footer because you think it will help with SEO. Ick!
When you speak and write naturally, not specially for search engines, you don’t use the exact words over and over, you use different variations of the words, and you use them in different contexts. So when you’re working on building your internal website links, don’t sculpt your content to use the exact same keywords over and over. Instead, write naturally, use the words in various forms, add links only where it makes sense.
Advice On Creating And Building Links
You’ll have nothing to worry about when it comes to leveraging good links for SEO and building quality inbound links, as long as you are:
- Writing and creating content naturally, and not purposefully stuffing your content full of awkward uses of your keyword.
- Linking to other website and web pages with it is natural and makes sense, instead of trying to force it.
- Putting the visitor first, focusing on delivering value, and helping them access the content they are looking for quickly and easily.
Now what about you? Have you benefited from good links, or accidentally been affected by bad links? Did you even know there were bad links? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
- The Real Story About Inbound, Outbound, and Internal Website Links
- 10 Ideas To Build Quality Inbound Links and Increase Website Traffic
- 6 Ways You Can Use Internal Website Links for SEO
- The Secret to Building More Inbound Links
- Why Broken Links Are Bad For Business
- What Are NoFollow Links and DoFollow Links? Do I Need Them?