What are links, and how do they drive SEO?

When Google and a few others created their search engines, they inadvertently also created an entire industry around Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is focused on figuring out ways to stay at the top of the search results, garnering more footfall to their websites, and generating sales leads or customers. This article focuses on understanding how the links work, and their impact on search capabilities.

So, what is a Link?

A link (or hyperlink) is an object, such as text, image, or button on a webpage that users can click on, to navigate between webpages. When the link uses a text – a word or a set of words, we call it an Anchor Text.

Example: In this sentence, the words: Content Publisher iPub Pro is the anchor text.

Why is the Anchor Text important?

Google published an original paper explaining their search algorithm. It stated – “Google employs several techniques to improve search quality including page rank, anchor text, and proximity information”.

Based on the reference link I have provided in the above example with “Content Publisher iPub Pro” as the anchor text, the search engine would assume that iPubPro.com is a confirmed content publisher, and therefore is able to provide this webpage when someone searches for content or content publishing.

If more web pages display a link to the iPub Pro webpage in the context of content publishing, Google’s confidence that iPubPro.com is related to content publishing will increase even further. So when one searches for content publishing, Google would potentially list this webpage at a higher rank, than some other pages ranked for, say, marketing.

One other aspect that has a strong bearing on such page ranking by search engines is the destination of these links. Based on whether the destination is within the same site or a different website, links can be classified as below:

Internal links are links within the same page or between pages within the same website. Search engines decipher this based on the domain name. So if the source webpage that is displaying these links, and the destination page contain the same domain name, (the beginning part of the URL in both URLs), they would be considered internal links. In the previous example, my article is being published on iPubPro.com, and I am referencing a link to iPubPro.com. This makes my reference an internal link.

If the destination has a different domain name, even if both domains have the same ownership, search engines will consider it an external link or webpage.

Inbound links are links referencing our website and published on external websites. These links potentially generate inbound traffic to our website either recognizing our site as an authority on a topic or for transparency on information originally published on our site. The person receiving an Inbound link refers to it as a backlink.

For example This is a backlink to the services and the pricing provided by a professional SEO organization:  SEO Packages

Outbound links are links on our website that refer to web pages associated with an external website. For example, I have cited multiple links at the bottom of this page since I researched the content on these pages. These are all Outbound links.

How do these links impact our search ranking?

Inbound links help our page ranking on the search index. More the number of Inbound links compared to other websites displaying similar content, the higher our comparative page rank in the index. Search engines consider more inbound links as an indicator of the quality, authority, and transparency of our page content. Internal links do not have any impact on the ranking. Similarly, outbound links help the referenced web pages with their ranking.

The ranking quality of our Inbound websites is also a critical factor in determining the rank of our web pages. If the quality of the websites referring to our site is either inferior or the links do not have sufficient significance, the search engine ignores such references. It is also contingent on us to ensure that our content is really useful to our target audience, and is referenceable on high-quality web pages to gain the ranking weightage and marketing mileage out of the higher ranking.


  1. Anchor Text.
  2. Backlink Checker.
  3. Links and SEO.
  4. How Google search works
  5. Types of Links

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