Hyperlinks that get search engines’ OK

If you are reading this post, chances are you can create a hyperlink. The question is, do you know how to do it well enough that neither you nor the source to which you link are penalized for link spamming?

I’ll show you the right way and the wrong way to create hyperlinks so you can teach your students to do it right.

Bad hyperlinks

When using hyperlinks to link to content off your site, you need to remember that an exact keyword match is bad. The web world is full of freeloaders trying to get rich quick by stuffing their text with high-demand keywords not related to the theme of the page rather than building original content.  Search engines are not fooled. They know what keywords occur naturally and regularly in writing on particular topics.  Keywords are the core of their businesses.

Just as a  writing teacher would be suspicious if a student submitted an essay about  why Star Wars is his favorite movie and included the titles of the all-time top 100 movies,  search engines get suspicious when a webmaster/blogger loads pages with dozens of exact keyword-matched links.  (Note that a single blog page may contain hundreds of blog posts.)

Look at this example of hyperlinked text:

Portion of text showing hyperlink

Here’s the URL  that appears when you click the hyperlink:

address bar for hyperlinked textNote that the hyperlinked text is an exact keyword match for the page URL. That suggests a lazy writer who hasn’t bothered to produce original content.  People don’t normally come up with 28 reasons for something.  Three, five, or even 10 are typical; 28 is not. What search engines want to see is original content.

Here’s a second example of improperly hyperlinked text:

portion of page with three poor hyperlinks

Here are the addresses to which those hyperlinks lead. You can see that the highlighted portion is an exact keyword match.

address bar 3 with exact keyword match

address bar 5 shows exact keyword match

address bar 4 shows exact keyword match

Pages consisting primarily of links, with or without descriptions of their content, which are very popular with educators, are very unpopular with search engines.  They regard such pages as attempts to deprive them of their income.

Good hyperlink use

Here is a section of blog post. The highlighted section is a hyperlink in the original.

Here is the address bar for that hyperlink. Notice that the text is not an exact match for the address bar information, which is highlighted below.

The text and keyword in the URL are only slightly different, but even a slight difference in the way a keyword is typed makes a big difference to search engines.

Why you should care

Having good hyperlinks matters to you only if:

  • You want traffic to your website or blog: too many exact keyword matched hyperlinks will lower your search engine ranking and drop your traffic.
  • You want websites to allow you to link to them; since search engine’s began weighing the quality of incoming links from other sites, webmasters are asking  to have links to their site removed from pages that look like link spam.
  • You want other sites to link to yours: nobody wants to link to a site suspected of link spamming.
  • You want your education peers to regard you as a professional.
  • You think practicing good netiquette is as important as lecturing your students about it.

[Updated links 04-03-2012.]