SEO – Link Building Series: The importance of Linking

In the first chapter of this series we saw how robot.txt and sitemap.xml play big roles in exposing what all can be crawled on a site. The Search Engine (SE) bot may have reached your site during its frequent prawl or a visit via an inbound link (could be social media, your friends’ blogroll, directories etc) to your site but the important point here is that, linking your site from elsewhere improves its visibility – in the eyes of both humans and search engine bots.

Why linking is important?

linksOnce the SE bots reach your site or a particular page it would relish the opportunity of crawling pages with similar or relevant content linked from the current page. Linking plays an important role in helping the bots with this process of crawl-and-proceed within your site as well as to other sites.

A lot of us may have heard that link building is the key to obtain high page ranks and hence improved search visibility of our contents and so on. Unfortunately many of us were taught and told theories and stories about back linking alone (Other sites linking to you) and hence to build links always meant link exchanges and commenting like crazy.

In my opinion, effective linking involves the following:

  • Internal organizing of your own site
  • Visible entry points to the contents
  • Relevant links – forward, internal and backward

Internal organizing in this context is all about how you use your page level meta tags and how you link between your pages – index files, archives, tagged categories etc. Further, the nofollow flags should be used when required to avoid pages that are duplicate in nature to be indexed. The above mentioned aspects take care of guiding the bots the right way throughout their crawling process. The other aspect of internal organizing is the proper usage of HTML tags, categories, tags etc that I have talked about in the past.

ROBOTS meta tag or page level index control

Once the SE bot reaches on a page on your site, it checks if the links from that page is further ‘crawlable’. The page level setting of interest here is the ROBOTS meta tag in your page header. Depending on the value of this meta tag, the SE bot decides whether to further crawl the links originating from that page.

The following is the format of the ROBOTS meta tag:
< meta name="robots" content="index,follow" />

A content value of index,follow instructs the SE bots to index the current page and also to further crawl links from that page. A value of noindex would mean that the SE bots crawling job almost ends at this page for the current crawling chain. A setting of index,nofollow may not make sense at the moment but it has seems to have further implications that we shall discuss later, perhaps via comments here.

Link level control

While the page level index,follow tells the SE bots to follow all outbound links from a page, this can be overridden at each link level using the REL property or the anchor tag. The REL property of nofollow would tell the SE bots not to consider a particular link for further crawling and indexing.

The role of page and link level control over indexing and following is depicted in the following picture. The green (curved) path shows the route that an SE bot is allowed to crawl. The red arrows shows the link that would not follow and website-3 in the picture has only got noindex pages which is not an ideal setup.

how search engine bots follow links

A well connected web site has its main pages’ entry points defined at the sitemap. Further the internal connectivity of the pages is established via good quality internal linking This is because the search engines bots love to crawl from page A to B and from B to C and so on as long as relevant information and relationships can be picked on the fly. Your internal pages are just points (or nodes) of visit during its long journey that perhaps involves multiples sites. More internal linking would mean that more indexing opportunity of your own pages as long as relevant linking is done.

While backlinks bring in indexing opportunity (and priority) to your site or its pages, it’s also your duty to forward or direct the SE bots to crawl some of the relevant and good quality neighbourhood. This forward linking, if done via proper tagging/keywords (will talk about them in the next post) may not be a loss to you based on the credentials of the target pages.

Basically, in order to build a search engine friendly website, linking (inbound, outbound and within) is very important. In the coming posts we will talk about various link building mechanisms, keywords’ role in linking etc.

Part IV: The role of Keywords in Links & on page >>


  1. Another superb article. Its true… many bloggers feel scared to link to other relevant blogs/blog posts fearing it might hamper their PR. As you have mentioned, it doesn’t.

    Raju’s last blog post… How I Reduced Spam by 99.99% on my WordPress Blog?

  2. Ajith,

    This is a great post. It will help lot of ppl who may get confused between follow,index and nofollow and no index.

    I would like to ask one more thing. what if we have posts and has recursive linking. for ex:
    Post A -> Post B -> Post C -> Post A

    What will then Search Bot do?

    Please correct the spelling on the third line. prawl to crawl.

    Nihar’s last blog post… How to Download Videos From MegaVideo

  3. Another useful post. I would Like to stress the importance of internal linking, especially to old posts. The bots usually crawl the first 300 (or 100 or all depending what SE) links and therefore internal linking is useful for re crawling older relevant posts that usually get a small boost out of it.

  4. Wow, very good demonstration of the Importance of Linking, Thanks I am learning a lot about Seo Stuffs here easily, Looking forward for rest of the series 🙂

  5. I wonder if when will be the next Google Page Rank update, I hope my site will level up! Hehe .. 🙂

    qarla’s last blog post… Joe Jonas – New Outfit! Ugly!

  6. @Raju, right. If you stop liking becaus you are scared of the loosing of (public) page rank, your blog could become an island in the blogosphere.

    @Nihar, Any circular linking or three way linking is not going to confuse the spiders 🙂 In fact, if your pages participate in three way linking it’s supposed to have double the benefit (though I don’t know how to prove it).

    And I used prawl intentionally 🙂

    @Donace, rightly said…internal linking is definitely going to help older posts as well 🙂 – both for bots as well as new readers…

    @Nicholas, thanks buddy. Btw, I enrolled for your blog contest.

    @qarla, No idea… Though my guess would be that somewhere around mid of March you should have it. Good luck 🙂

  7. You should also go BACK over old posts once in a while and see what you can link to and from new posts as you continue blogging…..every 10-20 new posts or so.

  8. @Dennis, very important point… I must admit that I am not all that good at it 🙂 Recently when I took a look at some of my older posts, I felt that some of them really deserve better visibility.

  9. I like Dennis’ idea of checking older posts every 10-20 posts. When I’m writing a post I’m good at linking back to older ones but I never think about linking the older ones forward.

    Great job on these articles!

    Kim Woodbridge’s last blog post… Adding WordPress 2.7 Threaded Comments to your Theme

  10. Outbound links are as relevant to your SEO campaign as inbound links. If your outbound links go to irrelevant pages (not related to your niche in any way), SEs might deduce it as a paid or “favour” link. Do not stuff your pages with so many outbound links that it becomes a link farm. SE spiders hate that!

    I follow Angela Edwards link building campaigns (check Warrior Forums) and it helps me getting high quality back links (not necessarily always do -follow). Of course, a no-follow link is better than no link at all, what say? 😉

  11. @Kim, yep linking to older posts is something that I need to do more often. As you may have noticed, I do forward linking (from old to new) only if it’s a series of posts like the current one. From the footer though I am linking as high as 10 posts for SEO and marketing purpose. But linking from posts will make sure that, beyond SEO, it is visible in the feed as well.

    @Richael, you are right. Relevant outbound links – especially to popular blogs – will only increase your visibility because you are in the good neighbourhood. As for the forums backlinks, well they are good but you need huge number of them….

  12. @Richael, I checked out the Angela link building thingie. What you said is right. Her strategy is not always getting high PR backlinks or always dofollow links but to get backlinks from internal pages of those domains with very high PRs. Let me give it a try!

  13. Wow, I didn’t know there was so much thought behind the whole linking structure of a blog or a site. I mostly organize links by type, as “family links”, “online buddies”, “previous posts”, etc. I hope that’s useful too. Anyway, thanks for the tips!

  14. Some months ago I’ve seen the SeoMoz webinar with Matt Cuts, explaining the importance of external linking. the main idea was: linking-out is better then not linking at all. Linking to the authority websites means engagement into the particular issues, which is more natural than keeping the blog/website reluctant to link out.

    But of course this should not be understood as “giving a go” for link-farming, which is obviously not so good from SEO point of view.


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