What is a Link ?
A link is an automatic direction to another web page, embedded in the code of the originating page. A visitor to that page, which might be a person using a browser, or a search engine bot, is routed to the other page if they interact with the link.
You interact with a link by clicking on it with your mouse, when viewing the page in your browser. A search engine spider can also follow links - which is how it finds other websites.
Why do you need links ?
The Internet runs on links, without them you cannot go anywhere or find anything. The only reason you are reading this page is because of a link. The only reason you can find your favourite website is due to a link - somewhere, somehow, it takes a link in order for a web resource to be found and used. Without links the web would not exist. Occasionally you might go to a web page by using an address seen printed in a magazine or similar, but this is such a tiny percentage of visits that there would be a thousand zeros after the decimal point in the figure of 0.01% of visits this represents. The Internet only exists because of links.
Search engines rank the importance of a website in several ways, and one of the core factors is the number of links from other sites that site has. If two other websites reference your site with a link to it, then a search engine may believe that your site is not of any great merit. But if five hundred other websites all have a link to your site, perhaps in order to show their visitors other useful resources, this is seen as an important signal that your site is of use to others.
There are all sorts of flaws in this argument, of course, but as yet nothing else has ever been found as a better substitute, which is why search engines use it as one of the primary signals for rating a web page's value.
How do you make a link ?
You simply need to add the correct HTML code to your page. This is done with a web page editor (if you have the hand-coded type of site), or within your CMS editor, if you have that type, which is very similar in most modern websites such as ecommerce, CMS, blogs and so on.
What is linking ?
Linking is a description of the action of coding a link, or of a website owner creating links to other sites - or having other websites link to your site. Linking is super-important for ensuring your website becomes popular and busy, and the links on other sites that point to yours are of course the most important.
What is a reciprocal link ?
In some cases website owners simply link to another site they find useful; in others they link to that site and then ask the other website owner to link back to them. Then, each links to the other. This is called a reciprocal link (or simply a recip) because each has reciprocated or returned the favour.
Reciprocal links used to be one of the few ways to get links, and were therefore considered very important. Now, there are dozens if not hundreds of methods, so the importance of reciprocal links has diminished. However we find they still have one extremely important use, which is theming - a method of strongly reinforcing the area your site is in and who the audience are, to search engines among others.
Reciprocal links are still one of the best ways of theming the search profile of a site, since if the site is about ecommerce, and it links out to other sites about ecommerce, and more sites about ecommerce link back to it - then there are very strong signals that the site is relevant to searches in the ecommerce arena. As such this is a tool that will not become redundant any time soon.
What is a sponsored link ?
This is simply another name for an advert. A sponsored link might be the PPC adverts that a search engine shows you next to the results you asked for, or it could be a banner ad or a text link on a website. A sponsor is an advertiser. A sponsored link is a paid link in some form.
What is a backlink ?
A backlink or back link is a link to your site from another. It is the main word that we use to distinguish these links from others. A 'link' could be of any type, such as the links on your web page menus, or those on your pages that point to other sites. But a backlink is always, and only, one that exists on another website and points to your site. Your backlinks are very important for your online business, for many reasons.
What is a hyperlink ?
A hyperlink (or hyper link) is simply the original description of a web link, at a time when the word 'link' could have meant just about anything. We don't normally use it now except when there may be confusion for some reason. Hyperlinks are text or images that have HTML code added to them in the 'background' so that clicking them (ie switching them on) takes you to another place on the Net. That might be to another spot on the page (usually called an anchor), or to another page on your site, or to another website entirely.
What is a hotlink ?
This description for a link is normally given to an image that is linked. The link is the same as any other. However a hotlink / hot link or hotlinked image can often be one where the image itself resides on another website and is not embedded on the page where it is visible, but instead is 'called' from the other site. It is equally correct now to describe any linked image as hotlinked.
What is a deep link ?
A deep link is one that is within normal web page content and is of a natural type that would occur when a site owner simply wanted to point visitors to another useful resource. For example, this link to a Wikipedia explanation of links is a deep link as it is within normal web page text. If it were on a Links page, it would not be a deep link. A deep link is a natural link or one that looks as if it is natural, i.e. editorial. An editorial link is another word for such a link.
What is a link exchange ?
This is where website owners link to each other via a page or a site that exists just for this purpose. Because it is verging on manipulation of links to create artificial strength for a website, it is seen as bad practice and therefore frowned on by search engines. Such links are often discounted by search engines for this reason, and they might even allocate a negative value - a penalty - to sites engaging in this practice. Link equity and valuable content are the two most important factors in the value or rank that a search engine allocates to a website, so that trying to manipulate either is a negative and risky activity. It's also rather easy to discover because the evidence is right there on the web for anyone to see who wishes to investigate.
What is a link farm ?
This is a low-quality website or page that only exists in order to provide a link-anywhere service. It hosts many worthless links. It allows links to be created that have zero editorial value and serve only to distort the link equity of participating sites. Search engines intensely dislike these pages and often ban the site hosting them, and even penalise those who participate. A link farm is therefore the lowest kind of link exchange and definitely to be avoided.
What is link equity ?
A website's link equity is the total value of the backlinks, the amount of weight that a search engine would attribute to them, measured by their number and the relative value of the pages they are on. An individual link's value is measured in several ways but by far the most important is the importance of the page and the site that the link is on. Therefore the number of your backlinks, plus the rank of the resources the links are hosted on, combines to produce a value that is your site's link equity. For example your site may have 110 links in total: 100 links from pages of strength PageRank 1, and also 10 links from pages of PR3. Because the value of those on PR3 pages is much higher, the latter 10 links have more value. The combined values of the 110 links equals your link equity.
What is a text link ?
A text link is a normal link where you have coded some words to point to another web resource - the same as any other link. However, it is now frequently used to denote a link given to another site that may have paid for this link as a form of advert or false editorial boost. A text link may well therefore be one that has been paid for but not designated clearly as a paid advert. For this reason it is an unethical practice and should not be either paid for or provided, since it is against every search engine's ToS (terms of service, also called quality guidelines). Sites that participate in these activities are frequently penalised.
What is a cross link ?
Cross-linked sites are those with reciprocal links. The term 'cross link' is often used to denote sites that are owned by the same person or enterprise, and are mutually linked. In some cases this may be entirely valid but in others it is clearly a nefarious practice. There is a risk of a search penalty here so it is best avoided.
If such sites are extensively cross-linked then this produces what is called a 'microsite network', which is expressly banned by search engines.
What is a backlink ?
What is a link in ?
A link in to a website is one that is on another site, and points to the site that is linked to. A backlink is a better term: your website may for example have 2,000 backlinks, and this enables it to be found on the web, and tells search engines that your site has a certain amount of link equity. The exact value is measured by several factors including the strength of the sites the links are at.
What is a nofollow link ?
Nofollowed links are those where the linking code has been specially arranged so that the link is designated as one that should not be followed or otherwise rated in any way by a search engine. It is a safe way of protecting a site from appearing to endorse the linked-to site in some way. In effect, it says "We had to link - but don't count this in any way, we're not related". No page rank or anchor text value flows through a nofollow link, which reduces its benefit considerably. However, such links still have value for other reasons - in many cases there may be around 1% to 10% of the relative value passed, by our calculation. Where the nofollow link is on a mega site (such as Wikipedia or Yahoo Answers), then the value of the link is considerable even though it is nofollowed. Therefore you could make a rough statement that a nofollow link has had 4 or 5 page rank points deducted from its value, it will not be entirely without value unless used unwisely on the lowest-quality site such as a social bookmark site.
A nofollow link can be safely used for any and all links that may be adverts, unknown sites, or sites with issues that nevertheless must be linked to. It is a common method of rendering unknown links safe, such as those in blog comments or other third-party generated links. All adverts must have a nofollow attribute or be masked like this in some way, otherwise you will appear to be linking to and editorially endorsing the linked site. This would cause a search engine to penalise you since an advert link has obviously been paid for, and paying for links is expressly prohibited.
What is an anchor ?
What is an anchor link ?
An anchor or anchor link or anchored text is just a link to another place on the same page. It may also be a link to another page, with the exact place on the page designated. In the code, it looks like this, with a hash and a name after the page address:
What is a href ?
This is part of the HTML code that enables the link to work. Links use similar code, as above, according to where they point. A link to another page or site is very similar to the code above.
What is anchor text ?
Anchor text is the wording that is linked to the other resource, and which when clicked, sends you to that resource. It can refer to an anchor link - one where you jump to another place on the page - but it is mainly used to mean the text that is linked with a backlink to your site. It is probably the most critical of all link factors and outweighs everything except a link from a very important site. As an example, a backlink to your site (which sells stainless widgets) might say 'click here', or it may say 'stainless widgets'. The last format is superior as it has relevant anchor text. However this factor has been heavily spammed in the last few years, so too many relevant anchor text links are to be avoided.
How to measure your links ?
The best way to measure the number of your links is to use an online resource. However, no single resource is entirely accurate, and it is best to use several and combine the result.A good resource is probably only temporary - things change. For several years, by far the best link evaluator was Yahoo Site Explorer, for example, but it became too expensive to maintain and went offline.
You also need to know exactly how to use these resources and understand why the numbers are inaccurate on any one resource. For this reason we don't advise that you rely on your own judgement here.
One of the most inaccurate sources for this information on the entire Net is Google, because they don't want you to know how many of your links they can see. You may find they report less than 10% of your links, for example. We have never seen any instance anywhere of them reporting more than 60% of a site's links, even within private accounts where such information could be freely given**. Smaller sites with few links will find that Google reports perhaps 10% of the existing links, even within your account with them. Larger sites with over 100,000 links will find that the maximum reported is around 60%, whatever method is used and wherever the info is requested.
In fact it's safe to say that if you are advised to check your link numbers in Google, the person advising you probably knows less about this subject than your granny.
** At Q2 2009 this situation changed as Google decided to show a greater proportion of your links within your website account with them - but still not all of them it can see.