Contextual linksSEO specialists in the UK and the rest of the World went mad a few years ago on the importance of links. The more links you pointed into a website the higher up the Google results page you would go. For a while this was true but any SEO expert worth his salt knew that it was a matter of time before Google would change their algorithm to combat the “spammers” who were abusing this in the same way as keywords were once abused. One thing that you can be assured of is that Google isn’t dumb, nor are their complex algorithms. A sharp spike in the number of links between weekly or monthly Googlebot crawls and alarm bells will ring that you are either outsourcing your linking activities to the overseas companies who offer 100 links for £10 or you are just leaving spam comments on forums wherever you can.

Will my Website SEO be harmed by poor links?

The latest Panda update to the Google algorithm devastated some Website SEO companies. Clients who were enjoying a lofty page one position suddenly vanished from the search results overnight. Crys of woe could be heard all around the land. Talk of injustice was rife and speculation of websites being penalised for poor links filled the SEO forums and blogs. The truth is quite simple when you think about it. Google can’t penalise for poor links, if it did then it would be easy to flood your competitors websites with shoddy links from wibblywobblylinkfarmdotcom. All that happened is quite simply that the Panda update removed any advantage that was once enjoyed by the websites who had collected links as if they were going out of fashion. They weren’t penalised, it’s just that the algorithm was adjusted to not pay any attention to such links.

So are back links still important for SEO?

Yes of course they are. Back links act as a vote from the linked site that tell Google and indeed other search providers that your site is relevant and approved by the linked site if you like. The link game has changed though. Like any other SEO specialist we are never told what Google or its algorithms give weight to. That said, it’s simply a case whenever you are doing any Website SEO work to remember that Google has one main aim, and that is:

To provide relevant search results

With this in mind it’s really easy to work out what links are worth something and what aren’t. Naturally several factors come into play when link building, these are:

  1. Authority of the linking website
  2. Relevance of the linking website
  3. Relevance of the article in which the link appears
  4. Relevance of the link text

And it is point four that highlights Contextual Links

So what exactly is a contextual link?

(this article has been edited from here onwards to reflect the current search thinking in 2015 on contextual links)

You must have seen links on websites, or you may have even created some yourself that simply say “To find out more about Website SEO in Merseyside click here” That link is pretty worthless to be honest. Although the reader sees the full sentence the search engine only used to see the words “click here” which have as much to do with Website SEO as bacon has to do with Russian Ballet.

It is better to make the entire phrase into a link for SEO reasons but, a true worthy contextual link would highlight the keyword or ideally the keyphrase as the link thus: To find out more about Website SEO in Merseyside click here, or even better slightly reword the sentence and make the full “relevant phrase” as the link, i.e. find out more about Website SEO in Merseyside.

The search engine then scans the page, realises that the article is about Website SEO and contextual links, reads the link text, follows the link to the destination URL and again scans the content and realises that the link is RELEVANT and that brings us back to Googles main objective which is to provide relevant search results. That is a contextual link! Contextual links can be useful internally too, not only will they aid your readers navigation around your website but they also help the Googlebot to spider to follow links to your other content.

Some experts will say that contextual links are no longer a signal to search engines. I’d tend to disagree. When used internally for navigation purposes, contextual links are still valuable. They reinforce what each page or post is about. They help both the website visitor and and search bots that are indexing the page.

You can’t “game” or beat the search engine algorithms, as an SEO specialist you wont last long. As someone who wants to optimise your own website you wont get far either. You may make short term gains but in the long run your website will disappear from the front page as quickly as it arrived.  At the risk of repeating myself. SEO is long term, and in order to get your website to page one and keep it there you have to keep that golden rule in mind when doing any on page or off page SEO

Google is committed to providing the most relevant search results as possible.

So in a nutshell, make your website relevant to your chosen subject and Google will learn to love you. That Ladies and Gentleman concludes this short lesson on contextual links. Please bear in mind that link building is only one of many tools used in Website SEO. Don’t get hung up on it as it really isn’t the be all of getting your site to rank well. Follow the guidelines and enjoy.

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