Links links links. After content itself it may be your most important element. There are external links to your page which are like a thumb’s up from your readers. Internal links between your documents create the topical relevance of your page and become part of the depth of your coverage of the topic. Links within a document provide navigation and improve time on page. All of this helps create authority in Google’s eye.

Then there is the technical minutia of links; nofollow, sponsored, anchor text, and more. Let’s jump in and see everything an online marketer needs to know about links and linking.

Backlinks and SEO Impact

Backlinks are the external sites pointing to you. This helps your content by exposing it to an external audience. These backlinks are also a strong signal to Google about your content’s quality and topical relevance. The stronger the site that is linking to you and their authority for a topic the more value Google will place on the link.

Should you buy links? Use Forums?

Since backlinks are such a strong ranking signal there are lots of schemes to increase the number of backlinks to your site or page. These include:

Guest posts — Many sites will accept guest posts for a fee. Some will provide dofollow links other nofollow.

Niche edits — This is when you pay a site owner to add your link to an existing article. Be careful with these as many are placing links on hacked sites.

Link Swaps — “I’ll link to you if you link to me”. Many site owners will swap links with you.

Forum Links — placing links at Quora, Wikepedia or other forums.

Google has been clear that paid links are not allowed. They will devalue these links if discovered. In extreme cases you may get an “unnatural linking” penalty. Understand the purpose of your link building. If it is to make the page stronger for SEO purposes, I would carefully vet the lguest post site or other source and be sure that you are getting a “doFollow” link and that teh site does not make the fact that you purchased a link obvious. If you are getting a guest post on a site to expose your content to their audience. Then a noFollow link still has value. Google also recently announced that these “noFollow” links will be used as “hints”. So there is some SEO value.

Forum links are generally “noFollow” and have little SEO value, but again may provide traffic and branding value.

Internal Links & Content Clusters

It is critical to link between your pages on your website. These links help Google understand what your website is about and how deeply you cover a topic. A page with no internal links is generally referred to as an “orphan page”.

A common linking structure would be to have a pillar page that covered a topic in great detail. This would naturally break down a topic into sections. Each of these sub-sections should link to pages with more specific related content. The detailed pages then point back to the pillar page.

content clusters

This forms a virtual silo where related content is tightly interlinked to create a content cluster. You can also create a content silo by using categories and having your permalink setting be set to include the category name in the url. You still need to have internal links as Google doesn’t care about pathnames in URLS.

Anchor Text

Anchor text are the words that a user sees to navigate a link. It is the phrase the click on. They can be categorized as follows:

Exact Match — The link is the target keyword … “Best Toaster Oven”

Partial Match — The link contains a partial keyword … “Toasters”

Image — Any picture it is important to use the alt attribute and include the target keyword.

Branded — Your domain name … “Prosociate”

Naked — The url itself … “”

Generic — Random unrelated text … “click here”

For links that you have editorial control over you should evaluate your anchor text ratio and choose the best anchor text type. For a purchased guest post or niche edit this often is an exact match keyword anchor. However, if you have too many exact match external links it can be a signal to Google that these are unnatural (purchased) links. Which is a no-no and can lead to a Google devaluing the links or even a penalty. The trend seems to be towards Google just ignoring links they are skeptical of which means your purchased link is useless. If you do get a penalty though the reevaluation process can take months even when succesful.

Best practice is to evaluate the anchor text ratios of your competitive pages and stay within those ranges. Aggressive SEO tactics would include using “exact match” links from the strongest sites and also add additional anchor text types to keep the links looking natural. These additional links to offset the exact match are often referred to as pillow links.

Link Technical Details:

To create a link you can either be in the Visual or Text editing mode in your site’s WordPress backend. However, to edit attributes and link details you will need to be in the Text mode.

link editing

Link Attributes

There are many attributes that your link can have in addition to href “destination”. The most important for SEO and content marketers is the Rel=”nofollow | ugc | sponsored”. This is what let’s you tell Google which links you should pass your site’s “link juice” to. When a strong site links to you you want that link to be “do follow”. These do follow links have no are identified by the absence of nofollow, ugc or sponsored. There is no explicit “dofollow”.

When should you use sponsored, nofollow or ugc?

sponsored — Someone is being compensated

ugc — User Generated Content like post comments

nofollow — An untrusted site that you do not want to be associated with

Relative vs. Absolute links

Internal links can be relative vs. absolute. If you start with a leading slash the link will be relative to your domain root. On this website for instance …

<a href=”/”> = <a href=”>

<a href=”/books/latest”> = <a href=”>

Image Links

Links do can be associate with an image. There will be no anchortext and the user will go to the destination url when the image is selected. This takes the form of …

<a href=””> <img src=”” alt=”keyword”/></a>

Note the alt=”keyword”.  All images should use the alt tag. You can use the primary keyword or if already optimized a related keyword.

Anchor Links

Sometimes you want to link within the same document. For instance a link from a toc at the top of a long post to the items. This is done with the anchor type link. There are two parts — the location to go to and the link itself.

The location needs a label to be able to point at. This is done with the <a> tag and name attribute …

<a name=”toc3″></a>

The link is created as a standard <a> tag link but instead of an absolute or relative url you use #label name …

<a href=”toc3″> Go to TOC item 3</a


You tell the client software to explicitly open the link in a new window or tab. The general rule is to use the same window for internal links but open a new tab for external links so your site is still on their tab bar. The normal behavior for most browsers is the same window and to use the target attribute for opening new tabs …

<a href=”” target=”_blank”> Open link in new windows </a>

Here is a visual look at how a hyperlink is formed …


anatomy of link

Noreferrer and Amazon

WordPress now uses the noreferrer attribute by default. This means that the information about the sending server is not revealed to the destination host. This was viewed as a security issue by the WordPress team. There have been reports of Amazon Associates affiliate program having an issue with this. One of the reasons Amazon will suspend a client is if they think traffic is coming from unauthorized sources. There has been no explicit statement from Amazon about this and since 90% of all websites will now have this attribute set it would seem that this is not an issue. If you are worried there are free plugins and scripts to remove this.

Other Link Attributes

There are more attributes that few content marketers need. If are creating language versions of your copy you will want to look into the hreflang attribute. Some client systems may make use of the title attribute. You can see more technical details at W3C.


Are purchased links ok with Google

No. You are not allowed to purchase or trade links. The links will be ignored if discovered and there is a risk of a Google penalty.

Do most sites purchase links?

Many do -- even succesful ones. It is still a large ranking factor.

What is Anchor Text in a hyperlink

Anchor text is what the user sees. These are the words a user click on to go to the destination. Having keyword anchortext is a strong topic/ranking signal.

What are Pillow Links

The best backlink is from the strongest site and has an exact match keyword anchor text. For aggressive SEO practitioners other non-exact match anchor are used to make the profile look more natural. These are Pillow Links