“The linkbuilding process is like building a portfolio of referrals; sites that link to your site because it is credible, relevant and authoritative.”

Understanding how links work

Without a doubt you’ve seen a link before, you’ve clicked one, you might have even used one in an email or a message to someone. Links are the placement of URL addresses for users to click on. Once the user clicks on that link they are taken to a source of data that the person who created the link wished them to view, visit or interact with.

Links come in many forms, sometimes they are plain text URL addresses like this More often than note they are hyperlinks, which are links you can click on to be directed to a particular place. Like this one:

The terms link and hyperlink are used almost interchangeable now. When setting up hyperlinks you define two items:

  • The target URL – this is where you want the user to end up when they click it.
  • The anchor text – this is the text that displays on the page where the hyperlink is placed.

The anchor text is more often than not something other than the actual address that the user will be sent to. This is often because it would interrupt the user’s experience if you were to place an address in the text. Other times it is because you are wanting users to click on an image or something other than text to take them to the desired destination.

To demonstrate this, the two links below will take you to exactly the same place despite displaying different text. This is because the target URL is the same, while the anchor text is different. Media Home Page

The other benefit of anchor text is that you can manage user expectations better by adding contextual clues about where the user may end up if they click the hyperlink.

What is linkbuilding then?

Linkbuilding should form part of all good SEO strategies. The more links that point to your site from other sites indicates to search engines, the importance of your site. This is the equivalent of word of mouth referrals. When you have many people telling you that they enjoyed something, it carries more weight than if one person informed you. The same principle applies to search engines.

A link that points to your site is good and valuable, however, a link that uses contextual anchor text in a paragraph that is relevant to the purpose of your site is even more valuable! Rather than just saying that this site is enjoyable or important an contextual link communicates that your site is enjoyable or important based on its function or purpose.

The importance of context

Consider for a moment the above word of mouth referral scenario. If one person came and told you that they recently visited a local cafe and it was good, that’s fine. However, if another person explained that the service was wonderful at the local cafe and the coffee was marvelous the specificity of that feedback gives it more weight and value to you. Furthermore, if many people said the same thing then you would be convinced that this was quite possibly the best cafe ever!

In the same vein, links pointing to your site communicate to search engine spiders that your site is a good one. For example, let’s say your site contains important information about cars and your local mechanic posts the following sentence in one of their blogs:

“One of the most authoritative sites on car information, Carsguide, is incredibly useful.”

The above link to is contained in anchor text which indicates the name of the business. This suggests to users that they will be transported to the homepage of this business. The surrounding contextual text explains the purpose of the link and its value to users.

“Links with high quality and high relevance pointing to your website are some of the most valuable assets of your SEO campaign.”

Search engine spiders take into account the messaging communicated by other sites about your site when they are analysing your backlinks. In this case, the above link is highly valuable given that it identifies the purpose and quality of the information from a source (the local mechanic) who is also reputable with regard to the same information.

Links with high quality and high relevance pointing to your website are some of the most valuable assets of your SEO campaign.

The importance of domain authority

As much as a link is dependent on its context its value is also dependent the referrer. In this case, the referrer is the site that embeds your link. In the above example, this was the local mechanic. Domain authority however, refers to the recognition given to a site based on its:

  • credibility
  • longevity
  • prestige
  • quality of content
  • information and website centrality and
  • the value of the website’s domain

Most of these values speak for themselves. However, the value of the website’s domain refers to two sections of the URL.

In addition to this, it’s important to briefly address longevity. Longevity refers to the length of time that the domain has been active. The longer a domain has been active the more likely it is to have developed stronger authority.

How domain authority works

Firstly, you have the domain name itself. Taking for example, the domain name in this case is google. The second part is the top-level domain, in this case, this is the ‘.com’ part. These two sections determine part of the value of a site for weighing the value of links on from a particular domain.

As you may know, there are many different high-level domains and some are more important and weighted more heavily than others. For example .gov and .edu sites are significantly more valuable given that they are domains reserved for governmental and educational organisations. It is therefore expected that these organisations will produce credible, high quality and highly relevant content on their sites. As a result, any link referral on a .gov or .edu site to another website is incredibly valuable.

URLs and the rel attribute

As we’ve learned, URLs are pretty important and a powerful weapon in your SEO arsenal. However, it’s also powerful to not only have a weapon but know how to wield it! Attributes for html elements (hyperlinks) tell Google’s spiders what they should know about your link.

When we want to tell a spider how to look at a link, we use an attribute. There are loads of attributes for hyperlinks but the two most important for us are “nofollow” and “canonical”.

Canonical URL Attribute

A canonical attribute is used where pages on your site might share a significant amount of content, like blog index pages for example. The second page of blogs will be very similar to the first page and the third page and the fourth page, etc. ad infinitum. The canonical attribute tells the spiders to disregard the fact that these pages have similar content and to treat them all as a child of the parent page.

Nofollow URL

The nofollow URL attribute is used when you don’t want spiders to follow the link you’ve placed. You might place a linked to an old page or to some information that is not entirely relevant to the content on the page. In either case, you don’t really want the spiders knowing this, because it’s not relevant to the page and that can detract from the value that spiders place on your site. On the other hand, links to high authority websites like .gov and .edu sites should always be followed!

For more info on rel attributes, check out this page on W3!


To sum it all up, the number of links your site has from reputable, high-quality, relevant sources will contribute to your online reputation.