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WHAT IS SEO? | SEO Tips and Tutorial 2014

What is SEO?

What is SEO?

What is SEO? - SEO Tips and Beginner's Tutorial

What is SEO? Learn what SEO means and discover SEO Tips for on-page & off-page search engine optimization in 2014: definitions, videos, free How-To examples.

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What is SEO? Definition

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. It is an all-encompassing term which is defined as:

1. SEO is the use of techniques within the programming code, the Web content strategy and the Web marketing of a website or webpage to achieve top rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific search queries (keywords).

2. SEO is the critical element which determines whether a website or webpage will be found by searchers in the vastness of cyberspace or sink irretrievably into a black hole.

3. Search engine optimization is both a science and an art. SEO is the science of discovering the algorithms search engines use to determine which sites are listed in answering queries and in what order they are listed (ranking); SEO is also the art of designing a website or webpage to be the best answer for specific search queries, above all competitors.

In this guide you will learn what SEO is and discover SEO tips which are valuable and easy to apply for high rankings on SERPS in 2014.

Table of Contents - Jump to Section

I. Search Engines

II. What is Google SEO?

III. SEO Tips – How-To for 2014

III. B. SEO Tips for Off-Page Optimization

III. B. 1. Backlinks: SEO and Google PageRank

III. B. 2. Backlinks and Anchor Text

III. B. 3. Identifying Backlinks

III. B. 4. Link Spam and Scam

III. A. SEO Tips for On-Page Optimization

III. A. 1. Keywords

III..A. 2. SEO Content

III. A. 3. Meta Tags

III. A. 4. SEO Web Design

III. A. 5. On-Page Links

Search Engines

Search Engines

Black Hole in Cyberspace

Black Hole in Cyberspace

I. Search Engines

The Goal of SEO

The goal of SEO in 2014 is to generate free website traffic which will convert into customers for a website's products, services, advertisers, or non-profit mission. This is also referred to as conversion rate optimization.

Without search engine optimization, a website is solely dependent upon paid advertising and referrals to send visitors. With expert SEO: If you build a website, they will come. The search engines will send them to your site in droves. In 2010, Search engines fielded more than 120 billion searches worldwide, per month. At the end of 2013, searches from the Google search engine alone exceed 1,200,000,000,000.

Once optimization is in place, traffic from search engines is free, dependable (though not always consistent in volume), and measurable.

Scroll to Continue

According to a forecast report from Forester Research Inc., in the year 2014, spend for SEO services in the U.S. alone will exceed $5 billion.

Google reports a skyrocketing number of search queries for SEO since 2004. The chart below represents these worldwide searches from the Google search engine through the close of 2013.

Searches for SEO from Google Search Engine: 2004 – January 1, 2014

Searches for SEO from Google Search Engine: 2004 – January 1, 2014

SEO Cartoon: I just got a big promotion to SEO of a large ecommerce firm … wanna be my administrative assistant?

SEO Cartoon: I just got a big promotion to SEO of a large ecommerce firm … wanna be my administrative assistant?

"SEO is talking to a robot."

"SEO is talking to a robot."

Search Engines and SEO

Search engines use software programs to copy, store and analyze webpages from the World Wide Web for their indexes. These programs are often called robots, bots, spiders, or crawlers. (The Google crawler is known as GoogleBot.) When a search query is entered on the search engine's site, the engine sorts through its stored index to determine the most relevant and most trusted answers.

"Search engine optimization is talking to a robot."

– Writer Fox™

Sometimes there are literally hundreds of millions of possible results. Out of these, search engines select up to 1,000 webpages to offer the searcher.

Most searchers never look beyond the first 10 results. The majority of people never look beyond the first three results. The top three positions on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for a highly searched word or phrase represent the most coveted real estate in Internet marketing.

SEO Video: How the Google Search Engine Works

Google Search Results Page

Google Search Results Page

Ranking on the displayed results is said to be ranking for natural search or organic search (as opposed to ranking for paid advertising placement). SERP-referred website traffic sent from organic search far outpaces that from paid advertising.

Top ranking for organic search is the critical mission for a website's SEO strategy. Improving a site's ranking for hundreds of queries is an ongoing process for the search engine optimizer (referred to as an SEO).

Google SEO

Google SEO

II. What is Google SEO?

Increasingly, search engine optimization means 'Google search engine optimization.' Although there are many general Web search engines, there is little real competition among them. According to industry figures, at the beginning of 2014, Google's search market share represented 77.74% of global Web searches. In a distant second place is Bing/Yahoo. (Yahoo has been powered by Microsoft's Bing search engine since August, 2010.) The Chinese language search engine Baidu is in third place.

Search Engine Market Share

Search Engine Market Share January 29, 2014

Search Engine Market Share January 29, 2014

1999 Production Server at Google.com

1999 Production Server at Google.com

The Google search engine has located over a trillion webpages and stores billions of them in its index. It is the most comprehensive index of the World Wide Web and its search results are the most trusted.

Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, created Google Inc. in 1998 with this stated purpose:

"to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

With the introduction of its AdSense content-targeted advertising program in 2003, Google became more forthright with website owners and SEO consultants about its system for ranking websites. Since advertising is its primary source of revenue, Google has every reason to help webmasters develop effective sites for Google search engine optimization in conjunction with its advertising program.

Google launched its Webmaster Central SEO Blog in 2005 and has allowed talkback comments since 2007. It also reaches out to webmasters via its posted Google SEO Webmaster Guidelines and Google Webmaster SEO Forum.

Google also offers private information to website owners about their sites at Google SEO help. Though Google will never reveal all of its secret sauce for site rankings, its considerable outreach to search engine optimizers and to webmasters is superior to other search engines.

Google PageRank

The Google search engine's ranking of websites was originally based only upon a patented mathematical formula, or algorithm, for determining the importance of a webpage based upon the number and quality of links to it from other webpages.

Under the algorithm, every link is seen as a vote, but each carries a different weight depending upon the quality of the incoming links to the referring page, and the quality of the referring pages' referring pages, and so on. This system of ranking is called PageRank, and the term is a Google trademark. It was named after Larry Page, co-founder of Google.com.

Google Toolbar with PageRank Meter

Google Toolbar with PageRank Meter

Every page on a website has its own PageRank, which indicates Google's opinion of links pointing to the page. PageRank is only about links and nothing else. The true PageRank of a webpage is known only to Google, and it is recalculated as Google continuously crawls the Web. But an estimate of Google PageRank, over an approximate 3-month period, can be obtained for every website by installing the Google toolbar for SEO on the Firefox browser or installing a free PageRank developer app for the Chrome browser. (In 2013, the Google Toolbar was only updated twice.)

The green bar will display a number between 1 and 10, with 10 being the best PageRank. If the bar is grey, it means the webpage you are viewing is not ranked for PageRank in the Google index. This could indicate a new site or a site banned from PageRank, probably for severe violations of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. If the bar is white and the rank is 0, it means the site is in the index, but it either has no value according to Google algorithms or is too new to show the most recent update for public display of PageRank.

Google PageRank Meter Close-up

Google PageRank Meter Close-up

The green bar will display a number between 1 and 10, with 10 being the best PageRank. If the bar is grey, it means the webpage you are viewing is not ranked for PageRank in the Google index. This could indicate a new site or a site banned from PageRank, probably for severe violations of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. If the bar is white and the rank is 0, it means the site is in the index, but it either has no value according to Google algorithms or is too new to show the most recent update for public display of PageRank.

n the video on the right, Google spokesman Matt Cutts explains that ordinary Web users have the PageRank meter installed on their browsers and use the information to evaluate the authority of webpages as they surf the Internet. In that sense, the PageRank of a webpage is part of the user experience as well.

Although it is no longer the only factor in Google's current algorithm for search results rankings, PageRank is still a significant factor in the ranking formula. According to Google:

"Webpages with a higher PageRank are more likely to appear at the top of Google search results ... The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites."

It will continue to be a significant factor for high-rankings on SERPs in 2014. However, because it is only one of over 200 criteria used by Google to find the best webpages to answer a given search query, the site with the highest PageRank is often not the very first listing on a SERP.

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Website Magazine

Website Magazine

Website Magazine

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Google tweaks its algorithms for displaying search results more than once a day; therefore, the difficulty of Google optimization increases daily. In December, 2009, Google accelerated its use of personalized search, which customizes the search engine results page based upon 180 days of a specific user's search history. Google also customizes site ranking on its SERPs based upon the IP address of the searcher.

Someone searching for insurance from Omaha, Nebraska, will receive different search results from someone searching from New York City or from Tokyo. Thus, ranking on Google now depends upon who is searching and from where.

According to Google, as the year 2014 began, there were over 60 trillion pages on the World Wide Web. Of those, Google stores more than 40 billion in its index.

Competition among webpages is increasing astronomically. The Google index in 1998 stored 26 million pages. In 2008, Google software engineers Jesse Alpert and Nissan Hajaj stated:

"The number of individual webpages out there is growing by several billion pages per day."

SEO Tips

SEO Tips

SEO Tips

SEO Tips

III. SEO Tips: How-To SEO for 2014

In the ever-changing environment of search engine optimization, defining 'what is SEO' is a moving target.

The SEO Tips below are the most significant things to address for high search rankings in 2014. Almost all of these tips are easy to apply, but don't let their simplicity fool you. Each step in this how-to SEO guide is a critical element for the overall success of a webpage on search results.

These SEO Tips are arranged in two categories:

On-Page Optimization

Off-Page Optimization

On-Page SEO

On-Page SEO

III. A. SEO Tips for On-Page Optimization

Answering the question What is SEO? for 2014 begins with on-page SEO. The majority of optimization techniques apply to on-page search engine optimization and these are all things which the webmaster totally controls.

Most of the work of search engine optimization begins before a website or webpage appears online. The common mistake amateurs make is to visit a programming company first, have a site developed, launch the site and then visit a search engine optimization expert 'to optimize.' What happens most of the time in that scenario is that the site has to be redesigned and relaunched.

Google's advice posted on its Google Webmaster Central site is:

"If you're thinking about hiring an SEO [search engine optimizer], the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you're considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO [search engine optimizer] can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up."

This How-To SEO guide to on-page SEO addresses the internal issues of the website and the webpage:

1. Keywords
2. SEO Content
3. Meta Tags
4. SEO Web Design
5. On-Page Links

Keywords

Keywords

SEO keyword research is the discovery and analysis of search queries.

III. A. 1. Keywords

All search engine optimization begins with keyword research. Wanting to rank number one on a Google SERP is a vague desire. For what term(s) do you wish to rank number one on Google? This is the question that must be answered. The choice of keywords to target can make or break a website's goals.

SEO consultants use several data bases to determine what searchers are searching for, how many searches are made for specific terms and how many webpages are competing for those terms. Most of the best data bases are by subscription only, at a cost of several hundreds of dollars per year, per data base. Google and Bing also provide tools for keyword research based on their advertising programs. A keyword can be a single word, such as Internet. Or, it can be a phrase, such as: 'Quotes About the Internet.' The majority of online searches are for a phrase of three or four words.

Longer queries are referred to as long-tail keywords, such as a query for: How do you get Internet on your ipad?

A site which is already online has the additional advantage of gathering information from its analytics programs and server logs to find the keywords which are actually bringing visitors to the site and further optimizing for those words.

Simply knowing the number of searches for a given keyword is not enough information. For example, in the image below, a search on Google for the term Internet showed that at least 1,570,000,000 webpages were stored in the Google index for the term.

Google Search Query

Google Search Query

Keyword Search Queries

Keyword Search Queries

The odds are impossible that a new site could quickly, if ever, rank on the first 10 search results for that keyword. Evaluating the competitiveness of a keyword is an integral part of SEO keyword research and selection.

The ideal keywords will have a large volume of searchers and very low competition from other websites targeting the keywords. There are several mathematical formulas that give a prediction of the success of a given keyword by analyzing the number of competitors. One such formula was invented by Sumantra Roy and is referred to as the Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI):

KEI = (Monthly Searches ÷ 30)² ÷ Competing Webpages

The higher the KEI, the better the chances are for ranking your page for that keyword.

The ideal keywords will have a large volume of searchers and very low competition from other websites targeting the keywords.

If a website is totally dependent upon Google AdSense or similar keyword-targeted, contextual advertising, the keywords chosen should also have a high number of advertisers purchasing ads with the targeted keywords, high click-through-rates, and high bid prices.

Keywords used in the URL (domain name or website address) of a site can greatly influence search engines to rank that site for queries using those keywords. This applies to the homepage and to all interior pages of the site. (Recently, however, Google has cautioned against throwing up quick, shallow-content websites with exact match domain names for competitive, long-tail keywords.)

In the evaporating waters of keyword-rich domain names, it may not be possible to find the optimal URL for a site, but you can absolutely create the best URL's for your site's interior pages.

For example, the word SEO is not found on the homepage URL of the webpage you are viewing, but it is in the URL of this specific page.

Keyword research can also assist in monetizing a website by revealing income opportunities such as products and services people are searching for, which are related to your site's main subject. In this era of targeted, contextual advertising, keyword research also uncovers opportunities to monetize the value of keyword-driven, website traffic (using the Google AdSense program, for instance). Understanding the vital role that keyword research plays in search engine optimization is critical to developing an effective plan for SEO in 2014.

Google Hummingbird Algorithm

Google Hummingbird Algorithm

Google Hummingbird Algorithm

Google applied a new algorithm beginning in August, 2013, called Hummingbird. The company made the public announcement at its 15th anniversary celebration on September 26, 2013.

This new algorithm affected 90% of all websites stored in the Google Index.

This new formula for ranking websites for SERPs goes beyond the actual words used in a search query (keywords) and deciphers the meaning behind them. It determines the user's intent for a search query and gives additional attention to the user's location. It rewards website content which gives more comprehensive answers.

Keyword Density

The keyword density of a webpage is determined by calculating the number of times a keyword phrase is used on a page compared to groups of words on the page with the same number of words. To find the keyword density of a five-word keyword phrase used six times on a webpage of 1,500 words, this formula is used:

Keyword Density

1,500
÷ 5
= 300

6
÷ 300
=0.02

0.02
×100
= 2

Keyword Density = 2%

The video on the right explains Google's opinion of keyword density.

SEO Content

SEO Content

Writing SEO Content

Writing SEO Content

III. A. 2. SEO Content

SEO content for a website should be based upon the keyword research. Ideally, the menu navigation and the main categories of the site should use optimal keywords. The potential audience for your site can tell you precisely what information your site should contain by the terms used in search queries.

When the main categories for a site have been identified, keywords should also drive the decisions made regarding what webpages within the site should be created. This content architecture is the SEO blueprint of a website.

After making a list of proposed webpage titles, a sub list of keywords should be developed for each title. These keywords should be used to generate subheadings (heading tags) on the page. The content strategy for each webpage provides the outline structure of an article for the SEO Web content writer.

The SEO content strategy, based upon keywords, might also include videos, e-books, images, charts, maps, widgets, tutorials, forums, blogs, news, products, services, etc., that searchers want to find and that your site could provide.

The most successful content plans for SEO include one or two creative ideas that may or may not be discovered from keyword research. Every effort should be made to find the exceptional, unique ideas for content that will set a site apart from all others. This content will be essential for securing inbound links for off-page search engine optimization.

The actual website content writing will be the decisive factor for your success with visitors to your site, both humans and search engines. Carefully edit your Web content according to the Google Panda algorithm.

Meta Tags

Meta Tags

III. A. 3. Meta Tags

Meta Tags (meta elements or meta data) are programming code statements which give information to search engines about the content of a webpage. Several types of Meta Tags are significant for search engine optimization. The following Meta Tags are the ones most important for search engine optimization.

Robots Tag

The Robots Tag gives search engines permission to crawl a site for indexing. Blocking the robots with this Meta Tag means the site will never appear on a search results page; it's an SEO killer.

Meta Title Tag

The meta Title Tag (page title) should use targeted keywords and a lure. The Title Tag appears at the top of the browser (the blue heading in the image below) when a webpage is loaded. It also titles the webpage listing on the search engine results page and, therefore, should be written to persuade a searcher to click on your listing.

Title Tag

Title Tag

In this example from the bizrate.com homepage, the targeted keyword is Find Deals and the lure is compare prices, read reviews & save money. (Savvy marketers will note that the word buy is not used. People don't like being told to buy something, but they love to shop and to compare prices!)

The meta Title Tag should be no more than 60 characters, including spaces. More characters than this limit will not appear online. Google's advice is:

"These 60 characters are an opportunity to tell both users and search engines what the focus of the page is. There's no need to go past this many characters, as most search engines will display ellipses ( ... ) after this limit. Also, search engines may give less weight to words after a certain point."

The title is used by search engines to identify the content of the page. The content writer must write a unique title for every page on the website. The targeted keywords should always appear first on the Title Tag. The Title Tag for a site's homepage should also include the business name, organization name or domain name.

Meta Tag Description

The Description Tag appears on the search engine results page just below the page title. Google calls this the snippet. The SEO copywriter will spend a disproportionate amount of time writing the words (no more than 160 characters, including spaces) for a Description Tag. A top listing on the SERPs is of little value if nobody clicks on the link to visit the website. The Description Tag must persuade the click-through. It is, then, the ultimate sales pitch challenge and opportunity.

The description should focus heavily on verbs and keyword nouns. Forget the adjectives. It should also attract the searcher by outlining the benefits he will receive by visiting the site.

A description that motivates the searcher to click is valuable in another way. More and more, Google is using the click-through rate (CTR) to determine organic website rankings on the SERPs. It is part of the Google formula which evaluates if the correct search results are given for the search query, i.e., if there are fewer clicks on the site ranked first and more on the site ranked second, then Google perceives that the site ranked second is the answer preferred by humans. The more the Meta Tag Description successfully encourages searchers to click-through to your webpage, the more your page moves up in the rankings.

SEO Description Tag Example

Meta Tag Description

Meta Tag Description

Notice how this short Description Tag for the bizrate.com homepage is loaded with highly-searched keywords: comparison shopping, product reviews, merchant ratings, deal alerts, coupons, compare prices, read reviews, top brands. These words aren't in there by accident. The skilled SEO writer, armed with keyword research, weaves the keywords into the description with a natural flow.

The verbs in this snippet tell the searcher what he can do on the webpage: compare, read.

The close is the call to action. In this example, the call to click is: Compare prices and read reviews on top brands.

There are times when the search engines will pull another description from the copy on a webpage and display that instead of the one in the Meta Description Tag. When that happens, the Google search engine has found specific copy on a webpage that is more appropriate to the query and it serves that as the description. In effect, the search engine is showing the searcher why the webpage was chosen.

This practice has increased in recent years as searchers enter queries which Google has never seen before and, for the most part, no webpage has specifically targeted with an answer.

According to former Google Vice President Marissa Mayer (now CEO of Yahoo):

"A quarter of all daily searches on Google have never been seen before."

For SEO purposes, well written alternate descriptions should be seeded within the copy surrounding subordinate keywords and potential keywords. This is done naturally by a skilled Web content writer.

Like the Title Tag, the Description Tag must be unique for each page on a website.

Alt Tag

The Alt Tag (Alt attribute or alternative text) is a short description of an image which provides an alternative to the graphic for the visually handicapped, for the text-only browser, and for slow-loading Internet connections or hosting servers.

The Alt Tag also gives content information to search engines, which can't see images either. Use of Alt Tags is the means of optimizing images for targeted keywords.

In the video to the right, Google engineer Matt Cutts explains the importance of the Alt Tag to search engines.

For SEO purposes, images provide added content and interest to a webpage, achieve organic ranking on their own on a SERP, and are specifically searched for on search engines – all of which are traffic generators.

Alt Tag

Alt Tag

The Alt Tag should be a short description of the picture, not just a title. Most search engines will not read beyond about 10 words of an Alt Tag.

Alt Tags should be used for every image on a site, including the company logo and images used as links. On a webpage, the alternative text will appear in a box when the cursor mouses over an image (try that on any of the images in this article). In this example from Amazon.com, notice the full description in the Alt tag. In this example, the ten words which search engines will index are on the first line and the internal Amazon category is on the second line.

Heading Tags

Heading Tags

Heading Tags

Heading Tags (heading elements, Header Tags, or H Tags) are actually document elements and not meta data. Heading Tags for SEO purposes delineate the most important parts of a webpage and flag them for search engines. There are 6 grades of tags, with H1 representing the most important. For webpages of less than 1,000 words, there should be only one H1Tag used on the page and it should be identical to the Title Tag.

The subordinate Heading Tags follow the same hierarchy used as in an outline. The use of Heading Tags will change the font size on the page with the H1Tag displayed in the largest type and the H6 Tag in the smallest, though this can be adjusted by a programmer. Most webpages don't need H Tags lower than the H3 level.

Heading Tags are used by search engines to evaluate the categories of content on a webpage, the importance of the categories and the relevancy to a search query. The keywords used and their emphasis (according to the number on the H Tag) should be carefully evaluated for SEO when the content plan is developed for each webpage.

Keywords Tag

The Keywords Tag is used to identify the specific keywords targeted on a webpage. It is used by directories, minor search engines, and on-site search features (including the Google Search Appliance) to identify relevant content. The words used in the Keywords Tag can also be used as blog posting tags and press release tags. Only keywords specific to the page should be used in the tag. The one exception to this is on the homepage, where main keywords used throughout the site may be listed.

It should be noted that the Google search engine no longer uses the Keyword Tag in determining search results.

The Keywords Tag should be written by the Web content writer when a webpage is created, because the writer knows exactly what words were targeted. To create these tags after 100 pages have been written is a tedious endeavor and fraught with error, since many keyword phrases might be missed. The Keywords Tag generally contains between 5 and 25 words and phrases.

SEO Web Design

SEO Web Design

III. A. 4. SEO Web Design

SEO Web design usually refers to programming. Programming errors in code or in decisions can derail the best-laid SEO plan for a site. Most website designers who advertise that their services include SEO are speaking only from the programming side of the SEO equation.

If you ask a Web designer, "What is SEO?", the answer will be that SEO Web design means clean, crawlable code. This is essential for search engine optimization. If a robot cannot crawl the site, the site will not be properly indexed. A website's code can be validated with a free tool from the source of Web standards, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), at: Coding for SEO. Also, Google offers a free SEO Site Check called Fetch as Googlebot, which allows you to view your website as the Google robot sees it.

Code is Poetry

Code is Poetry

SEO Tips for Web Design

To facilitate SEO, programmers must avoid:

*slow page load speed

*hosting down time and hosting load limits that prevent thorough crawling by robots

*page sizes in excess of 100K

*flash or Java script navigation

*dynamic URL's and session IDs

*CSS, Ajax and JavaScript that is on-page instead of in an external file

*frames

*drop-down menus

*site intro pages

*webpages without text in the tag

*hidden text and links

*broken internal/external links

*pop-ups

*navigation in Flash, Java or JavaScript instead of text

*duplicate content pages, especially from print page applications

*malware, cloaking, JavaScript redirects, doorway pages


Programmers can make valuable contributions to the search engine optimization of a site by:

*choosing a canonical URL and redirecting all others with a 301 redirect

*using breadcrumb navigation

*creating an XML Sitemap according to the protocol established by Sitemaps.org (instructions at SEO XML Sitemaps) and submitting it to the organization's members, such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

*creating an HTML Sitemap for use on the website

*optimizing images for fast download

*using the NoFollow attribute on advertising links and irrelevant links (more about this below)

*viewing the website in multiple browsers, including text-only browsers

On-Page Links

On-Page Links

On-page links are a valuable tool for search engine optimization. These are links on a webpage which point to other pages on the same website or which point to pages on external websites. There are four aspects of on-page links:

1. Internal Links
2. Anchor Text
3. External Links
4. Paid External Links

Internal links are used primarily for site navigation. The importance the webmaster places on these internal links is picked up by search engines. For example, if every page on the site links to the homepage and to the top menu categories, these are given the most significance by search engines in determining the featured content within the site. Conversely, placing links on every page for minor categories such as about us, privacy, terms of use, copyright, etc., drains attention away from the main content and can bleed the PageRank of more important pages.

Internal links for SEO purposes can also be effective in drawing attention to specific pages deeper within the site. Main category pages should link to every webpage within that category.

Any page on a website that is buried more than a few clicks away from the homepage will probably not be crawled by search engines. Internal links provide search engines with the pathways to crawl a site.

Internal links are also a way to point visitors to related articles within the site.

Internal Links

Internal Links

Individual article pages should link to important, relevant content in other articles. The image on the right was taken from an interior article page on CBSnews.com. Notice that other top stories are suggested. This use of internal linkage is not only useful for visitors, but it is a method of boosting PageRank for interior pages.

It is important to remember that every page on a site is given an individual PageRank by Google. PageRank is determined by links and internal links play a vital role in the formula.

Internal links give a webmaster full control over this opportunity to boost a webpage's search ranking. Strategic use of internal links should be a factor in the overall SEO content plan.

Note this SEO tip: Google reviews the content surrounding the internal link and uses that to determine the content of the linked page. Links in the CBS News example don't just have a link, but also include a description of the article.

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the use of words for a link instead of the URL. The most effective internal links for SEO purposes don't display a URL to be clicked, but rather give a description of the content on the page linked. In the above example from cbsnews.com, notice that the URL is not the link, but the news headline is the link. Part of the Google algorithm notices the anchor text used in links, especially keywords, and it is even possible to rank for a search term based solely upon the wording of the anchor text used in incoming links.

Anchor text used in links should be no more than 10 words or 65 characters with spaces. The code to create anchor text is:

Anchor Text

Anchor Text

On-page external links (or outbound links) are links that point to other websites. For search engine optimization, providing relevant, quality information through outbound links identifies a site as a resource for its subject. Here, too, anchor text is important. Anchor text for outbound links should describe the targeted site by using keywords.

In June, 2009, Google engineer Matt Cutts revealed on his personal blog that the Google search engine does use outbound links as a factor in evaluating a website. He wrote,

"Parts of our system encourage links to good sites."

You will notice many, high-quality external links in the page you are viewing. In listing other valuable, on-topic references, this page becomes a resource of information and is seen as more valuable in the eyes of Google. Also, the Google bot hates 'dead end' pages – pages that don't send it crawling to other sites in cyberspace.

As Google rewards sites for quality outbound links, it will ban sites from its index which link to spam sites, to sites without related content, to irrelevant sites owned by the linking site, or to sites which violate its Webmaster Guidelines. Google considers an outbound link to be an endorsement and a reflection of the quality of the linking site. Linking to a bad neighborhood identifies the linking site as a bad neighborhood.

Paid links are outbound links that have been purchased on a website. Google now considers all paid links to be advertisements and requires that they be marked as such. Failure to disclose paid links is a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines and can result in a site being banned from the Google index. Paid links can be indicated by using terms such as sponsored links, advertisement, ads, and the like. They must also use the NoFollow attribute.

The NoFollow attribute was introduced by Google in January, 2006, as a method for webmasters to properly label advertising and affiliate links and also to prevent unintentional endorsement of links within comments – especially in blogs and on forums – and other user-generated content. Until the attribute was introduced, blogs, forums, and Wikipedia pages were hotbeds for link spam. Google advises all webmasters to use the NoFollow code for comments sections.

External Links

External Links

Wikipedia now uses the NoFollow attribute on most outbound links. The image on the right is taken from the footnotes on a Wikipedia webpage. The links highlighted in blue are followed and are all to internal links to pages on the Wikipedia site. Links highlighted in pink are NoFollow links to external sites. While the NoFollow outbound links do generate traffic, they do not influence the PageRank of the linked sites and are not followed by Google. The Facebook website is another example of a link which might bring traffic to a site but, because it is NoFollow, it will not pass PageRank.

The code for a NoFollow link is:

NoFollow