To make the most out of search optimization, every site needs at least a few links pointing to it. If the keywords you want to rank well for are very competitive — lots of other people want to rank well for them, too — you’ll need lots of links pointing to your site, and lots of links containing those keywords in them.

Links help your pages in a number of ways:

  • Links make it more likely that the search engines will find the pages — and more often. The more links, the quicker the site is likely to be indexed, and the more often the search engines will revisit.

  • Links provide an indication of value. More links means your site is more valuable. A link is, in effect, a vote for your site. Better still, links from other valuable sites provide more value. In effect, links from popular sites provide more “votes” than those from less popular ones.

Google uses a complicated algorithm called PageRank to figure out the value of your page; you can see an indication of the general range in which your PageRank lies using the Google toolbar.

In HTML a link tag is known as an anchor tag (<a>This is a link to Yahoo</a> , where <a means anchor). So you’ll hear people talk about anchor text, which is the text between the two anchor tags <a>This is the anchor text</a>

Putting keywords into anchor text in links pointing to your site is a very powerful way of telling the search engines what your site is about. These links tell the search engines that your site is related to Rodent Racing: <a>Rodent Racing</a>

Don’t let anyone tell you that low-PageRank pages hold no value. Put lots of well keyworded links on low-PageRank pages and you’re still telling the search engines what your site is about. Even links inside your own site tell search engines what the pages they point to are related to, so make sure you have plenty of keyworded links inside your site.

Links from related sites may be more valuable than links from non-related. But as there’s no way to know for sure if a link is “related,” don’t let anyone tell you that links from nonrelated sites hold no value; it’s simply not true.

Here’s another linking concept: TrustRank. The idea is that search engines trust pages that are linked to from trusted sites. Thus links from newspapers, government sites, educational sites, and so on can provide more value than normal.

In addition, keep the following pointers in mind:

  • Links are not always links!

  • nofollow links tell the search engines not to follow them. You’ll see this in the link: <a rel="nofollow">Rodent Racing</a>

  • Links sometimes appear to link to a particular site, but actually work through some kind of redirect, like adserver software, and so do not pass value to the referenced site

  • If a link to your site is on a page that isn’t indexed by a search engine, then it does you no good!