When it comes to search engine optimization, we can all agree that links are the real MVPs.

Links are one of the most used currencies in SEO to ensure search engines can properly discover, rank, and understand your website’s content. Without them, the content you worked and optimized so hard for would end up at the bottom of the barrel.

Besides search engines, links also serve as references, aid in site navigation, and facilitate access to relevant external or internal content for users.

Since Google values good user experience, it’s clear that having links in your content is important.

But simply having them isn’t enough.

Knowing the right kind of links to attract users and drive traffic requires knowledge and strategy. That’s our main agenda for today.

In this entry, we’ll explore the types of links used in SEO, discuss their best practices, and learn their importance for SEO and user experience.

P/S: Bonus content is inside to help you get steps ahead of everyone else when building your link profile.

What are SEO Links?

A hyperlink is a digital reference that is used to navigate from a source to a destination by clicking or tapping. In general, internet users use hyperlinks to move between web pages and websites. 

You can see them displayed in a different format—usually blue text, sometimes underlined and changing color when hovered over—than normal text to make them stand out. 

Hyperlinks, in the context of search engine optimization (SEO), are links that are strategically incorporated to optimize a page or a website for search engines. Whether the goal is to achieve higher rankings in search results or to better accommodate web users when browsing your content, SEO links are important players.

They are designed to influence search engine algorithms, helping you achieve those and more. Want to increase your web’s visibility? Work to build credibility and authority? The honor is theirs. 

The effectiveness of SEO links is often determined by (but not limited to) factors such as the source site’s authority, the link’s relevance to the content, the anchor text used, and the overall quality of the content being linked to.

While all SEO links are essentially hyperlinks, not all hyperlinks are SEO links. Regular links are primarily used to direct users to another source or act as a reference for users without considering optimization factors.

So what can links created for SEO do that regular hyperlinks can’t? 

The Importance of SEO Links

Links allow users to find your content from one of your pages and from content on other websites. And although they are not as significant as before in influencing a website’s ranking, links are still important to SEO as they tell search engines how credible and valuable your content is.  

Improved Navigation for Users

Strategically placed links help users find relevant information on your page and across your website. They guide users to explore related topics on different pages or go deeper into specific details within your content. 

Credibility and Trust

Links to and from reputable sources can indicate to users and search engines that you write trustworthy and valuable content. They are more likely to believe information backed up by credible sources. For search engines, each link acts as a vote of confidence from one site to another.

Discovery of New Resources

Links can be gateways that introduce users to valuable resources that they might not have discovered on their own. When users are researching a specific topic or when they’re exploring related content trails, this can provide them with direct access. 

Increased Traffic

Well-placed links from relevant websites can attract visitors who are already interested in your niche; targeted traffic, thus raising the potential for converting these visitors into customers or regular readers. 

Relevance and Context

Anchor text and the content surrounding links provide context to search engines about your page’s relevance with the linked destination and vice versa. Proper use of anchor text and linking strategies can help search engines understand your page’s theme better, leading to improved indexing and relevance for search queries.

How Do Search Engines Use SEO Links?

Google is the dominant search engine for a list of reasons, and links are one of them. 

The founders of Google—Larry Page and Sergey Brin—are widely credited with developing a ranking algorithm, PageRank, that relied heavily on links to determine a web page’s authority and relevance. 

How do they rely on them exactly? Through two main processes: crawling and indexing. 

Crawling is executed by automated computer programs called crawlers. Their job is quite literally crawling through the internet by following links to discover new pages and index their content. 

Indexing refers to the process of storing and organizing the information discovered during crawling in a database. Once a crawler identifies a webpage, the search engine employs algorithms to analyze its content through various mediums, including links.

SEO links act as pathways for crawlers to navigate to where your page is linked to and from. The content of the links, along with the websites they point to, provides clues to search engines about the crawled page’s theme and relevance. 

If a content can’t be crawled, it can’t be indexed. If your content is not indexed, users can’t find them.

The more SEO links you have, especially from relevant websites, the more entry points there are for crawlers to find your content and index them.

So, does more links mean more chances to rank? Which SEO links are the best of the best? How to use them to their full potential?

The Three Main Types of SEO Links

Not all links are created equal. Like building a house, you wouldn’t just throw bricks together and hope for the best. Some links provide foundational support for your website’s ranking, while others add a touch of credibility and authority. 

We can categorize these links into three primary types, each playing a significant role in the SEO grand scheme. SEO links can be inbound (from other sites to your site), outbound (from your site to other sites), or internal (linking different pages within the same site).

These are the three musketeers of SEO links.

1. Internal Links

Internal links are hyperlinks that connect different pages on the same website or domain. Internal linking can keep visitors engaged with your website (you’ll see why) and help search engines understand its structure.

They can be categorized based on their function within your website. Here are the commonly found internal links:

Navigation Links

Navigation links are clickable text or icons that take the visitor to a different web page on your site when clicked. These links are typically grouped together in menus such as the header, footer, or sidebar. As the name suggests, it navigates you to different pages on a website.

Screenshot example of navigation links on a website's header.
Navigation links

The common navigation links that we’re all probably familiar with are “Home,” “About Us,” “Products/Services,” “Contact,” and “Blog.”

By keeping your navigation menu the same on every page, you create a clear and organized website that’s easy for visitors to navigate. No matter what page they’re on, the links give them a path to the main sections and important pages.

Contextual Links

Contextual links are links that appear within your website’s body content and point your visitors to other pages that provide additional or relevant information about the content.

By strategically placing contextual links within your content, visitors can explore one relevant content after another on your website. It’s a double win. When visitors enjoy the smooth user experience, they tend to spend more time browsing your website.

They differ from navigation links in that they are not part of a website’s menu structure but rather flow naturally within the text.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a navigational element that appears as a trail of links near your website’s or page’s header. You would typically see breadcrumbs take the form of a list, separated by arrows ( > ) or other visual separators.

Navigational breadcrumbs on a website's header
Breadcrumbs

They are designed to pinpoint a visitor’s location within your website’s hierarchy, how they get there, and how they can navigate back to previous sections or the home page.

Each element (like “jewellery” or “pearl necklace”) in a breadcrumb trail functions as an internal link, and clicking it takes you directly to that specific webpage.

Why is Internal Linking Important?

Could a link that only directs to pages on the same domain be beneficial to SEO? Yes, here’s why.

Help Search Engines Understand Your Site’s Structure

Internal links connect one page on your website to another, and so on. These connections help Google understand the bigger picture: which pages are more important and relevant to specific topics and what the relationships between different pages are. Strategically linking your content helps you create a well-defined hierarchy for search engines to follow. 

Pass On Authority Via PageRank

Other than making connections, crawling between links can help distribute PageRank throughout your website. Pages with high authority can share some of their ranking power with other pages they link to internally. If page A has established authority, an internal link from it to a less authoritative page B can help transfer some of that authority from page A to page B.

Improve User Experience

Users benefit from internal links the most. By providing relevant links within your content, it’s easier for users to look for more relevant information within your website and intuitively move from one page to another. It’s even easier for you to keep them engaged within your website and lead them towards conversions or a desired action if the browsing experience is as smooth as butter. 

Internal Linking Best Practices

You won’t be able to reap the benefits of internal linking until you learn how to do it strategically. Here’s how:

Use Descriptive Anchor Text

Using descriptive anchor text will help users understand what to expect when they click and aid search engines in understanding the context and relationship between your pages. The simplest way to do this is to follow anchor text best practices when writing it to ensure it’s not only descriptive but also relevant.

Link to Important Pages

It might not seem like much, but linking a page that’s important to your SEO strategy from high-authority pages can increase that particular page’s visibility and authority. This will channel the established trust and SEO strength of your higher authority pages directly to the targeted page.

Maintain a Reasonable Number of Links

Practicing more is less is important when internal linking. Overloaded internal links can reduce their value and negatively impact user experience. A page full of links is hard to read and, therefore, doesn’t get attention, let alone clicks. You can optimize by keeping the number of links per page reasonable and avoid excessive linking by monitoring your link density.

How To Do Internal Linking Easily

Internal linking can become unmanageable when dealing with hundreds of pages that need to be interconnected, not to mention the often neglected orphan pages when you’re overwhelmed with tasks.

If you’d rather spend your time doing something meaningful than sitting at a desk managing hyperlinks, then the best way to do internal linking easily is to use an internal linking tool. 

Manual internal linking might be manageable for websites with a small number of pages. But as your website grows, tracking internal linking opportunities and ensuring relevancy becomes a massive operation. 

Your effort is not worth the risk if your site’s performance tanked because your anchor text is half a sentence long and linked to a low-priority page. We believe that human expertise and data-driven automation go so well together. 

Using tools for internal linking automation will help you handle large websites without being overwhelmed. You’ll be able to effortlessly analyze links and get suggestions of relevant links across hundreds or even thousands of pages without losing any sleep. 

But not all tools get it done down to a science.

Most internal linking tools offer automation. So, what you want to really look for is a tool that makes internal linking processes easy, fast, and precise. A tool that follows best practices smarter than you do manually. The tool in question? LinkVector.

With LinkVector, you and your website can benefit from:

a. Higher-relevancy links that significantly strengthen the structure of information on your site.

b. Data-driven decisions that ensure you’re optimizing your internal links for better search engine visibility.

c. Rapid fixes for link issues such as broken links to prevent users from encountering dead ends on your site.

2. External Links

External links are hyperlinks on your website that point to a different domain. These outbound links act as a bridge that links your website’s visitors to other online resources.

Although it’s not a direct ranking factor, outbound linking for SEO success is a conversation that has not yet died. It can still affect how search algorithms evaluate your content and the website’s overall authority.

There aren’t necessarily different “types” of external links, but these links are commonly used in external linking practice:

Sponsored Links

Sponsored links are external links you place on your page or website in exchange for payments or other forms of compensation. 

These links might not be the first ones that come to mind, but they’re a good reminder that there are different types of links out there, and not all of them have a positive impact.

Some websites incorporate excessive sponsored links that aren’t highly relevant to their content and aren’t disclosed to users.

Search engines will have a field day penalizing your website! Therefore, it’s generally recommended that you avoid sponsored links.

Affiliate Links

An affiliate link is a URL used primarily for monetization and contains a unique identifier to track the traffic sent from one site to another to credit commissions from sales or leads generated by the link. 

These links lead to products or services that offer a commission for referrals. If you frequent review sites, blogs, or websites that provide buying advice, then you’ve probably seen it. 

Affiliate links aren’t necessarily good or bad for SEO. They can have some indirect benefits. For example, if the affiliate link is embedded in high-quality, relevant content, it can drive more traffic to the linked site.

The advertiser gains access to a wider audience through the affiliate’s promotion, while the affiliate earns money by recommending products they like.

Social Media Links

Social media links are links you place on your website that direct users to your or your brand’s social media profiles on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. These links can appear as icons  (e.g., the Facebook “f” logo) or text links (e.g., “Follow us on Facebook”). Within a website or a page, you can usually identify social media links placed at the footer like this:

Example of social media links and icons on a website's footer
Social media links at the footer

Or placed inside Contact Us pages, where users actively look for ways to connect with you.

While these links can drive traffic to your social media profiles and increase brand awareness, they have no direct impact on your rankings. Search engines like Google don’t count social media shares or follower count as a ranking factor. 

Why is External Linking Important?

A link that leads users to external sites sounds bad for business, especially if the site isn’t yours. But to a certain extent, external links do contribute to SEO performance. 

Builds Trust and Expertise

To become a reliable source in the future, you need to build trust and expertise today. External linking to relevant expert sources or industry authorities can indirectly associate your website with that expertise, positioning you as a knowledgeable source of information in your niche.

Provide Sources, Context, and Value

When you link to reputable sources to provide a comprehensive context as an extension of your content, you show your audience that you’ve done your research. A demonstration of transparency through outbound linking can strengthen your website’s credibility. 

Offer Deeper Dives

If you can’t comprehensively cover everything in your own content, external linking to relevant resources can encourage your users to explore topics in more depth. This creates a better user experience. Happy users are loyal users.

External Linking Best Practices

When you direct your users and search engines to another site, here’s how you can ensure that the destination doesn’t affect your SEO efforts.

Choose High-Quality, Relevant Sources

Watch where you link to. Choosing high-quality sources can reflect and strengthen your credibility and the value you offer to your readers. Practice linking only to reputable websites that provide authoritative, accurate, and up-to-date information relevant to your content or niche.

Check the Trustworthiness of External Sites

You can never be too careful, right? Linking to a site with compromised or decreased quality can severely damage your site’s reputation. Make it a habit to check the sites you are linking to, ensuring they maintain high standards of content quality and security.

Open External Links in New Tabs

When directing your users to another destination, make sure it doesn’t disrupt their navigation on your site while still offering additional resources. You can configure your link settings to allow external links to open in new tabs. 

Are External Links Good for SEO?

A link that directs your readers to other websites from your own seems like a traffic drain instead of a strategic move, doesn’t it? It’s a misconception, depending on how you apply the links.

There isn’t a situation where you should completely avoid external linking to keep traffic on your site. In fact, external links are good for SEO, even if it means users might temporarily leave your site.

The golden rule of linking practices is keeping your users happy. It’s tempting to give in to greed and keep visitors within your website.

However, consider the fact that your content lacks the information users need. Therefore, you should link to reputable sources, research, or expert opinions that strengthen your own content and show you’ve done your research.

Give your website the credibility and authority it deserves. A satisfied user is more likely to return to your site in the future and trust your recommendations.

To maximize the benefits, you still have to follow external linking best practices. It’s important to (a) not overdo your links and (b) focus on linking to authoritative websites (c) with relevant content (d) using descriptive anchor text. 

3. Backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites pointing back to yours. 

Having more high-quality backlinks means your website will appear more trustworthy and authoritative to search engines.

To list each type of backlinks will be never-ending, so here are the basic players of backlinks that matter most for SEO:

Editorial Backlinks

Editorial backlinks are links that are naturally obtained from other websites because they believe it’s a valuable and highly relevant resource for their readers.

Unlike some backlinks, editorial backlinks are a badge of honor—they are earned. Forget forced advertisements. Editorial links can’t be purchased or requested. 

Screenshot example of editorial backlinks in an article
Editorial backlinks

These aren’t your everyday links. They usually come from high-authority websites or publications in your niche. Scoring a backlink shout-out from a big-name site is a big deal because the authority and link juice passed on to your website can significantly boost your SEO.

Guest Blogging Backlinks

Guest blogging backlinks are links obtained from writing articles or blog posts for another website. Within the content, you can include a link pointing back to your website or a page on your website.

Example of guest blogging backlinks placed under the article's title
Guest blogging backlinks

Basically, you write a high-quality article for them, and in return, you get a backlink to your site. The host gets content; you get an SEO boost.

But guest blogging backlinks aren’t a free ride. They require some legwork. Writing top-notch content and reaching out to relevant websites in your niche takes effort.

Resource Page Backlinks

Resource page backlinks are links found on a website’s resource page. Not all websites have it, but well-established ones go the extra mile to ensure they do.

Remember resource materials at the back of a textbook? A resource page is a dedicated page of compiled resources—articles, templates, portfolios, etc. —that act as a certain topic’s all-in-one information page for users to refer to.

To build a resource page backlink, you can offer your content to be featured on the resource page, or the host can reach out to you to fill an empty spot with relevant and high-quality content.

Either way, backlinking from an authoritative source can attract targeted traffic from the host’s site to your site and signal authority to search engines.

Why are Backlinks Important?

Here’s how votes of confidence from backlinks contribute to your SEO:

Drive Website Traffic

Backlinks directly contribute to driving traffic to your website. If someone clicks on a link from another site and is brought to your site; that increases your page views and potential customer base. Once established, backlinks can continue to drive traffic and influence your site’s ranking for a long time. 

Visibility and Exposure

Getting backlinks from high-traffic websites can quickly increase visibility and exposure, especially for your new websites or pages. You can expect to reach a broader audience, which potentially brings in more traffic, conversions, and overall better SEO performance. 

Direct Credibility and Authority

High-quality backlinks from reputable and authoritative websites are seen as endorsements of your content’s credibility and trustworthiness. If a page on your site has a high number of quality backlinks, it will typically rank higher because each backlink is considered a vote of confidence.

How to Earn High-Quality Backlinks

Linking your page to other sites is easier than getting a link from other pages that points to your site. It can’t happen overnight, but here’s a starting point.

Create Valuable Content

This is cliche, but content is king. You should produce high-quality content that is informative and valuable enough for your audience and for others to link to. High-quality content is more likely to be referenced and linked as a resource, thus organically increasing your backlink profile.

Use Natural Link Building Techniques

Avoid schemes or practices that manipulate links, such as buying links or participating in link farms. Manipulative techniques can lead to penalties from search engines, including significant drops in rankings or even complete de-indexing. Honest work always works. And the best way to earn it is through genuine connections, guest posts, and by creating link-worthy content that aligns with search engines’ guidelines.

Engage in Guest Posting

This is a common practice among many successful blog owners. You can follow in their footsteps by slowly contributing to writing high-quality content on other reputable blogs or websites within your industry. Guest posting allows you to include one or more backlinks to your own website within the content or author bio. This means you can drive direct traffic back to your site and reach new audiences.

Backlinks Authority and How It Is Determined

Backlink authority, also known as link equity or link strength, refers to the influence a website’s backlink holds.

Google determines a web page’s importance and relevance using its secret sauce: the PageRank algorithm. Backlinks are one of the major factors that influence PageRank.

Instead of simply counting how many websites link to yours, Google also considers the reputation and relevance of those websites as a factor to determine backlink authority.

For example,

A page on your website has a backlink from 2 different pages on different external websites

– Page A has 50 backlinks

– Page B has 400 backlinks

Given that these pages cover the same topic, page B would rank higher than page A. Because page B has 8 times more links, it is seen as a more credible source by PageRank. This makes it more likely to appear higher in search results.

This means the link from page B has more value compared to page A due to the higher authority.

Final Remarks

Hey, you’ve conquered the beast! SEO links can get pretty complex, but now you’ve got the core concepts down: internal links, external links (outbound links), and backlinks (inbound links).

There’s a world of difference between reading about SEO links and actually implementing them. Reading can teach you about different link types, but your website’s content convinces others to link to you. High-quality content lies at the heart of any successful link-building strategy, so focus on that foundation, and the rest will follow suit. 

As search engine algorithms constantly evolve, what worked yesterday might not be as effective today. It’s important to stay updated and adapt your approach when implementing changes.

Until next time.