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We see them, we use them, but do we understand them? Figuring out how links work will help you use them to your advantage.

Try this. Let your cursor hover over the following underlined blue word: links.  Most likely, your cursor changes from a pointing arrow into a pointing finger. If you click, the page on your screen will start to change—and you’ll be virtually transported to another page on our site (NetHosting’s online marketing page).

This experience is made possible by a hyperlink; an online doorway into another virtual space and place. Billions of them, spanning across millions of pages, are what connect the internet together. They make it simple for us to travel from page to page with just a click.

Without links, the internet would not be the swarm of activity, sharing, and communication like it is today. Similarly, without links, your business will not be able to tap into the huge pool of potential customers who use the internet every day.

Links can directly bring traffic to your site when they are clicked on by an interested person. But more importantly, links communicate your company’s value to search engines like Google and Bing. If you want to be there when a potential customer searches for your products or services, getting links are your golden ticket.

The rest of this article will teach you what a link is and how you can start to use them to influence to your success online.
Anatomy of a Link:
It’s useful to think of a link as being made up of three parts:

1.  Anchor text: In real life, places we visit have both names and an address. Both are important. The title and description of a company, like an anchor text, tells the customer what they can get from a company.  Dora’s Diner offers hot-dogs, soft-serve ice cream, and a salad bar.  Yum. If we’re hungry, these words grab our attention. And they are what we search for when we want them.

Activity: Brainstorm a list of words and phrases that describe your company. What does your company offer to customers? What services or products do you offer? Which are your favorite, or the most popular? What are customers looking for when they find your site?

2.  Target URL: Anchor words grab our attention, but without an address (633 N. Domain Avenue) the taxi driver has no direction to know how to get there. Most links are the same way. On the internet, anchor text words have directions unseen which lead to the correct page.  For example, the link “hot-dog” above directs us to Wikipedia’s page about hot dogs. The actual address of this page is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot-dog.

Activity: Connect the dots. Look at the list of keywords you’ve created. Now think of your website. Are there certain words in your list that correspond to certain pages on your website? Or is there one main page that everyone should see first?  Draw out a diagram of your website’s individual pages on paper, and draw lines between the sites as they are linked online. Is it easy to follow, or like a maze? Do your links use proper words? If not, fix the links and test how likeable your site is on a friend.

3.  Location: Location refers to where a link (anchor text + target URL) exists. On what page is a link found? In real life, it can make a difference how you hear about a company. Did you find Dora’s business card in a gutter, or did a friend give it to you with high recommendations?  It’s the same on the internet.  Two identical links, sharing the same anchor text and target URL, will weigh differently depending on the value of the page they are placed on. One of the main indicators of a strong page is Google PageRank. To find out more about PageRank, check this out.

Activity: Backlink Analysis. If you know you have backlinks, find out where they are coming from. Look at the pages they live on. Are the people visiting each page likely to try your product? Does the link relate well to its context and the other content on the page?  Make a list: In the real world, where would you want to advertise? What directories or organizations could tell other people about you? Make a list of which have a web presence, and if necessary, search out other places online where it would make sense to place a link.

With this information, you are ready to begin linking yourself out to the internet and start reaching potential customers.  Tune in next time to learn how to make a link and where to put links.