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Link Building A-Z Guide – Definitions & Terms

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link-building-termsWhen those of us in search marketing talk and write about link building, we tend to use terms that we think are very commonly understood. We bandy around phrases like "CTR on page 1 of the SERPs is better than on page 2" and "god help me if my content gets deindexed."

However, for the new guys and gals out there (and that includes people who are both learning about building links and clients who seek link services) this link building guide will help define and explain some of the more common link building terms, from A to Z.

A – AC Rank, Actual PageRank, Anchor Text

AC Rank [A Citation Rank]

Majestic SEO's measure of a page's importance, on a scale of 0 to 15. It can be considered an alternative to Google's PageRank and is used in various link tool programs. The AC Rank stands for A Citation Rank.

The Actual PageRank

Google's value for your page, and it's not what you see on a tool or your toolbar, as that isn't updated frequently enough to reflect the true value.

Anchor text

The content inside of the anchor element ( < a>anchor text < /a>) and is designed to give you an idea of what the content you are pointing to is about. The anchor element contains an href attribute where the target of the link is designated. The anchor element is, many times, called an anchor tag.

B – Backlink Profile, Bait, Bing, Blekko, Blog Network, Broken Links

Backlink profile

A term used to describe the links coming into a site from sources other than the site itself.

Bait [link bait]

Content that is specifically designed in order to naturally attract links.

Bing

The most popular alternative to Google's search engine at the current time, owned by Microsoft.

Blekko

Also a great alternative to Google and prides itself on being a spam-free search engine. It has some great features that can help you when link building.

Blog networks

Exactly what they sound like: networked blogs. Their importance in link building has recently been compromised as several high-profile and large networks (e.g., BuildMyRank) have been devalued.

Broken link building

The process of finding links that hit 404 pages on other sites, contacting the sites with those links, and asking to have the link pointed to your own resource.

C – Content, Conversion, CTR

Content

The subject matter, in text and images, of your site and its pages. Content is also used to describe anything that your brand produces, whether it's a guest post on another site, an article that you distribute, a press release, or an infographic.

Conversion

A term used to describe an event where a user performs a certain action that is valuable to you as a site owner. Some webmasters view a contact email as a conversion, for example, while others simply view an actual sale as one.

CTR [click-through rate]

A term associated with PPC but becoming more popular in the general SEO vernacular as some speculate that it may become more important in ranking. Your CTR is the number of times your listing is clicked upon (clicks) divided by the number of times it's shown (triggered by a search and referred to as impressions with PPC), calculated as a percentage.

D – Deep Link Ratio, Deindexed, Directories, Drain Rank, Disavow Links

Deep link ratio

The percentage of links that go to your subpages vs. just your home page. Many different views abound about what number is ideal.

Deindexed

Refers to being thrown out of a search engine and removed from their database.

Directories

One of the most consistent ways that people have built links throughout the years. There are paid and free versions, directories that accept all submissions and many that are quite picky about what they'll accept, and while they have fallen out of fashion somewhat recently, they are still a valid source of traffic.

Disavow Links Tool

Use this to tell Google or Bing which links you want them to ignore in your backlink profile. This tool came about after an outcry from webmasters who were punished for incoming links that hurt them but that they could not control.

Drain rank

This refers to the idea that linking out to other sites drains your PageRank. 

E – Equity, External Link

Equity

The group of links pointing to your site at a point in time.

External links

Links that go from your site to someone else's site. Some people nofollow them in order to prevent them from receiving any link juice.

F – Followed Link, Footer Link, Footprint

Followed links

Links that are allowed to send link juice to their targets. For ranking purposes, these are the kind of links that you want. A link without a rel=nofollow is a followed link.

Footer links

Links that appear in the footer of a site, generally on every page. These were originally so abused that many SEOs now consider a footer link to be very poor. However, there are still legitimate footer links.

Footprints

Ways of identifying patterns that you're using to build links. For example, if 75 percent of your links come from non-U.S.-hosted sites and are all on blogrolls, that's a big footprint. A "natural" backlink profile should not have many obvious footprints due to its organic nature, therefore having easily identifiable footprints is a potential bad sign for your site. However, you can have a good footprint too (such as if you had a lot of great and authoritative links from respected news sources because your site was constantly being cited there.)

G – Google, Guest Posting, Graph

Google

So powerful, it's now a verb. No matter what anyone says, almost all of us market to what Google wants.

Graph [link graph]

Generally speaking, the link graph is a representation of links for sites. It can be thought of as being the "normal" for a niche of sites but may also refer to links for a certain market sector/keyword/locality/etc. You can use a link graph for competitive research to define what everyone else is doing and see where you stand in relation to that. A complicated thing to define, as it's not a discrete concept. 

Guest posting

A popular way of building links and creating new content. Many sites actively recruit for new guest posters and some are amenable to the idea when contacted. The whole idea of a guest post is to raise exposure for a brand on another site, but it's quickly becoming a spammy and abused method. However, when done correctly, guest posts can bring you some fantastic traffic.

H – Hashtag, Hidden Link, Href

Hashtags

Widely used on social network platforms in order to associate a tweet/comment with something. They begin with #. On Twitter, hashtags are used to help trend certain ideas. For link building purposes, hashtag searches on Twitter are useful for finding good potential link targets.

Hidden link

A link that is intentionally coded in order to not appear as a link. It can be hidden using a text color that is the same as the background, placed inside an irrelevant image, font size 0, etc. These are viewed as manipulative and deceptive and can cause Google to remove your site from their index.

href

An HTML attribute that lists the target of a link. An example is < a href="http://www.w3schools.com">Visit W3Schools < /a>.

I – Image Link, Internal Link, Inbound Link

Image link

An image that is linked to a target. Image links are part of a natural link profile and can pass link juice, but they do not include anchor text as regular text links do. Instead, they use an alt text (which is also used by screenreaders) to give information about the link target.

Inbound links

Links coming to your site from a site other than your own. The anchor text of an inbound link supposedly tells the search engines what your page is about, thus helping you rank for that term.

Internal Link

A link from one page of your site to another page on your site.

J – Juice

Juice

A term used to describe the benefit received from a link, also referred to as link juice.

K – Keyword

Keywords

Words or phrases for which you want to rank in the search engines. They should be present in your copy and in links pointing to your site.

L – Link Profile

Link profile

The collective group of sites that link to you.

M – MozRank

MozRank

A method of measuring the link popularity of a webpage by SEO software provider Moz. Becoming a more important metric by the day, almost akin to PageRank.

N – Nofollowed Link

nofollowed link

These are indicated by placing a rel="nofollow" into the link code. A nofollow is designed to tell Google that the link should not pass value to the target. Nofollows are also used internally for PageRank sculpting and to indicate that a link is sponsored/paid. Nofollow links are not good for ranking purposes but they can be good for traffic.

O – Outbound Linking

Outbound linking

The practice of linking from your site to another. Many people nofollow these links in an effort to conserve link juice, but that practice is becoming a bit more frowned upon recently.

P – PageRank, Paid Links, Panda, Penguin

PageRank

Google's measure of a page's importance. There's a difference in what you can see as your PageRank and what Google thinks it is.

Paid links

Refers to links that are bought and placed on a website, with the intention of helping the buyer's website rank better. When not indicated as such, are a violation of Google's guidelines and are a risky tactic. Paid links can be problematic both for the site selling them and for the webmaster buying them as both practices can get you penalized. If a link has been purchased, it should be indicated as such with a nofollow according to Google.

Panda

A Google algorithm update that can make grown men cry. It first struck fear into our hearts in February 2011 and was an effort to force higher quality sites higher up in the SERPs. After the first update, we've seen several more. There's way, way too much to go into here but you can read all the SEW articles about it here.

Penguin

A new search algorithm designed to detect, and boot out, spam. Like Panda, it made us cry and several sites were "accidentally" affected by it, so badly that there's actually a form to fill out if you think you're one of those accidental cases. Again, there's too much to go into so read about it here.

Q – Query

Query

Simply a question that you ask a search engine or a database, whether or not it's in the form of a question. We refer to queries in terms of how many times someone searches for a keyphrase, and in manners related to seeing where you rank in an engine.

R – Rank, Reciprocal Links, Referrer, Rel, Robots, Rot

Rank

Where you show up on the SERPs.

Reciprocal linking

The process of linking to someone who links to you. It's a common way of requesting a link (i.e., I'll link to you if you will link to me).

Referrer

In link terms, a referrer is something that sent a visitor to your site. That could be a search engine or a link from a website. It's the previous place a user was before they hit your site.

Rel

An element that gives the role of a link. Current uses critical for link building are to say whether a link should be followed (the default) or nofollowed (rel=nofollow).

Robots

Search engine bots, but robots can be slang for the robots.txt file, which gives instructions to engines about what to do with your site. If you don't want certain pages to be indexed, you block them in the robots file. There are also meta robots tags ( < META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">) A robots.txt file is also found at url.com/robots.txt.

Rot

A term used to describe what happens when there are links pointing to pages that are no longer available and not properly redirected or handled.

S – SERPs, Sitewides, Social Signals, Spam

SERPs [search engine results pages]

The pages Google, Bing, and others show you after you've performed a search.

Sitewide links

Links that are on every page of a site. You commonly see them in sidebars and footers, and while they once were a pretty easy way to get good rankings quickly, they're no longer viewed so positively. You do tend to find them in almost any backlink profile though, as they are part of a natural profile.

Social signals

Signs that your site/post/article is doing well socially, on the main social network platforms. Social signals are thought to be an ever-increasing method of measuring importance in the search engines and may become a bigger part of algorithms.

Spam

Jokingly referred to as being "sites positioned above mine", but is defined as being anything that clutters the web and makes for a poor user experience. Spam links are considered to be links that are irrelevant and low-quality but pursued simply to improve rankings.

T – Toolbar Pagerank, Twitter

Toolbar PageRank [TBPR]

The number from 0 to 10 that you can see that reflects the most recently updated idea of how important your site is to Google. It is not Google's true value of your site.

Twitter

A social media platform where users communicate through 140 characters or less. It's becoming more and more useful for finding good information as it happens.

U - Underline, Unnatural Links, URL

Underline

To signify most links, the linked keywords will be underlined. Links are commonly coded with underlining; style manipulations that do not underline a link can be considered to be a hidden link.

Unnatural link warnings 

Like lice, nobody wants to see them. They are messages received in Google's Webmaster Tools that indicate that some potentially unnatural links have been detected for your site.

URL [Uniform Resource Locator]

URLs have several elements that are important for SEO purposes. The domain name can give clues about the theme of your site and your brand and should be chosen carefully, as overly-optimized domain names were supposedly downgraded in the EMD update. File names should also be named carefully so that your URLs are SEO-friendly.

V – Velocity

Velocity

Your link growth speed. It can be measured with Link Research Tools.

W – Webmaster Tools

Webmaster Tools

Top search engines Google and Bing offer a free platform that you can use to keep an eye on your site. It can be a first line of defense when you notice any negative changes with rankings and traffic.

X – Xenu

Xenu's Link Sleuth 

One of those old-school things that anyone who's been involved in SEO for more than a few years probably loves. Xenu's Link Sleuth identifies broken links on sites.

Y – Yahoo

Yahoo

The other search engine. Many link builders will refer to being listed in the Yahoo Directory, which used to be one of those things that we all recommended. Today, Bing provides the search results you see on Yahoo.

Z – Zzzzz

Zzzzz

Sleep, which you definitely need if you're going to link build. It's tiring work!


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