When it comes to SEO, placing links on a web page is not simple. There are competing guidelines to consider.
The best links are keyword rich text links. Google uses the link text or anchor text as a signal of relevance. For example, if 100 pages link to http://examplesite.com/baseball with the anchor text baseball, then Google will expect that the target page is relevant for the word baseball.
Sometimes we cannot use a text link. As an example of this, often the first link to a site’s homepage is an image at the top of the page, in the header section. In this case we will place the keywords in the image alt attribute. It’s a fine substitute, but not as strong a signal as a plain text link. This is why SEO consultants usually want clients to change those beautiful image-based navigation bars into text links.
Location matters. Links in the header and content areas are more important than links in the sidebars. Links in the footer offer the least value for SEO.
Link order in HTML markup matters too. The first link on a page is more influential than the second link, the second link is more influential than the third link, and so on.
Already you can see that we have some conflict. If the 10th link on the page is in the main content is it more valuable than the 5th link located in the sidebar? It becomes even more complicated when you consider the rule of first links.
Google only counts each link once no matter how many times it appears on the page. And, Google only counts the first link in the HTML code. This means that you cannot bolster an image link in the header by placing a keyword rich text link to the same URL in the main content area.
In the above example you see several links to the website’s home page.
- The first link is an image link. It’s in the header, a good location, and let’s assume it has keyword rich alt text. Still, it’s not as good as a text link in the same spot.
- The second link, in the navigation, reads Home.That is not keyword rich anchor text. Right now the link does not matter, but if we remove the image link above then the Home link becomes the first link in the HTML and still renders the keyword rich links in the H1 and the main content useless.
- The side menu link also reads Home. Again this is not relevant anchor text. Let’s remove the image logo and the navigation links from the header. Now our side menu link is the first link in the HTML markup. Typically the left side menu appears before the rest of the page in HTML. It’s the easiest way to code a page. However, with some clever CSS DIV placement you can place the left sidebar below the main content in your HTML. That will make the keyword rich H1 link appear first in the HTML, before the side menu link.
- Obviously the link in the footer does not matter. But what if this was the only link on the page? What if that page is important and you want it to rank? Its location in the footer provides the least value possible so you should find a way to make the link appear sooner on the page and earlier in the HTML markup.
What would I do in this case? I might suggest a keyword text link to the home page at the very top of the page, above the logo. It may not be the perfect design aesthetic but it will provide maximum SEO value.