Wednesday, March 29th, 2006...1:25 pm

Site Evaluation – Part 2: Link Evaluation

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As we have seen in the first part of our series, not all links are created equal because of the quality of sites they sit on. Now, let’s look closer at the links themselves to discover other things that make them differ in quality.

(When looking at links, we need to look at the source code – and Firefox is my best friend in this case – I can simply select any portion of a page, right click it and view the source code for this selected area only – so much easier than in IE!)

Compare the following link examples:

< a xhref="" mce_href="" >some text< /a > - a normal link

< a xhref=”” mce_href=”” target=”_BLANK” > some text < /a > – a normal link that opens in a new window

< a xhref=”” mce_href=”” rel=”external” >some text< /a > – a normal link that is marked as external – this is just an indication that it leads to a different site, no more no less

< a xhref=”” mce_href=”” rel=”nofollow” >some text< /a > – a link that is not supposed to be taken into account by the spiders (however, Yahoo ignores “nofollow”)

< a xhref=”” mce_href=”” rel=”external nofollow” >some text< /a > – a link marked as external that is not supposed to be taken into account by the spiders

< a xhref=”” mce_href=”” class=”external text” >The Internet Archive< /a > – a normal link

< a xhref=”” mce_href=”” isdata=”true” >Web Developer’s Virtual Library< /a > – a link with a simple redirect

< a class=”yschttl” xhref=”;_ylu=X3oDMTE2YTlpczVrBGNvbG8DZQRsA1dTMQRwb3MDMQRzZWMDc3IEdnRpZANTTkdZMl8x/SIG=119qeehko/EXP=1143215805/**http%3a//” mce_href=”;_ylu=X3oDMTE2YTlpczVrBGNvbG8DZQRsA1dTMQRwb3MDMQRzZWMDc3IEdnRpZANTTkdZMl8x/SIG=119qeehko/EXP=1143215805/**http%3a//” >Alexa Web Search< /a > – a link with an encoded redirect

< a xhref=”” mce_href=”” target=”_blank” >some text< /a > – a link with a redirect, the target URL is reversed

< a xhref=”/weblink?MGWLPN=CATA&MGWAPP=g&id=778073″ mce_href=”/weblink?MGWLPN=CATA&MGWAPP=g&id=778073″ class=”link” onmouseover=”window.status=’’; return true;” onmouseout=’window.status=””;’ target=”_blank” >Association of Commonwealth Universities< /a > – a masked redirect aimed at misleading those looking at the link on the page – when you mouse over the link the status bar displays the target URL but the actual URL in the href is encoded and redirected

So, while for traffic all these links would be pretty much equally good if sitting on a really good and targeted site, for the search engines they would all hav ea different value. While you want normal regular links, you might want to avoid those with all kinds of redirects and “nofollow”. It is argued whether or not the search engines can and will pay any attention to target=”_blank”  and style class names such as “external”, but this sum up should give you an idea.

Other people’s posts on this topic:

Michael Martinez at SEOMoz on link quality

Andy Hagans on what’s a link worth

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