The Anatomy of a Link


I’m doing a lot of reading on SEO these days, and learning a lot. Thought I would share a simple starting point for understanding SEO.

Here is a basic explanation from SEOMoz:

Just as search engines need to see content in order to list pages in their massive keyword-based indices, they also need to see links in order to find the content. A crawlable link structure – one that lets their spiders browse the pathways of a website – is vital in order to find all of the pages on a website. Hundreds of thousands of sites make the critical mistake of structuring their navigation in ways that search engines cannot access, thus impacting their ability to get pages listed in the search engines’ indices.

So, here is an example of a link:

<a href=””>Writing Subject Lines for Mobile Optimized Email</a>

In the above example, the “<a” tag indicates the start of the link. Link tags can contain images, text, or other objects, all of which provide a clickable area on the page that users can engage to move to another page. This is the original navigational element of the Internet -“hyperlinks”. The link referral location tells the browser (and the search engines) where the link points to. In this example, the URL to a recent post of mine,  is referenced.

Next, the visible portion of the link for visitors, called “anchor text” in the SEO world, describes the page the link points to. The page pointed to is about writing subject lines for mobile optimized emails, so I’ve used the anchor text “Writing Subject Lines for Mobile Optimized Email”. The tag closes the link, so that elements later on in the page will not have the link attribute applied to them.

This is the most basic format of a link – and it is what the search engines read and understand. The spiders (automated programs that browser the internet)  know that they should add this link to the it’s corresponding search engines’ link graph of the web, use it to calculate query-independent variables (like Google’s PageRank), and follow it to index the contents of the referenced page.

Keep in mind; for the most part, spiders cannot read or index content or link embedded within Flash, java or other “plugins”. So, in that regards, the fancier your site, the harder it may be to optimize it for organic search traffic.


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