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The big debate - Links vs Content

This seems to be a perennial discussion in the SEO community. Much the same as the "which came first - the chicken or the egg" question, the Links vs Content debate has champions on both sides.

It might sound like I'm sitting on the fence but I think you need to do both well if you want to achieve good results in all the search engines. Let me explain why.

First, let's make sure we are all talking about the same things. The content of a site, in this context, is all the words that are included on the pages of a site, the titles, meta tags, links, headings, alt text on images and the main text. While you might see text in images, or generated by flash scripts or javascripts, this text is largely hidden from the search engines and is usually irrelevant to the success of the site.

While links can refer to internal (connecting one page to another with your site) or outbound (connecting your site to an external site), for most websites the most important link type for search engine success is the inbound link (connecting an external site to your site). To be valuable a link must be constructed as an anchor tag (A HREF in HTML) and must be able to be followed i.e. it shouldn't be on a page with a robots instruction of NOFOLLOW. (Also see our discussion about the robots.txt file called Robots are coming.)

What do we know about all the current crop of search engines? You use words for the search string, they parse this string, look up their index and give you back a list of pages that match these words and include a small section or several small sections of words from those pages. Words (the building blocks of content) play a huge role in the way the search engines work. A page will only be displayed in a search result when the words in the search string are found on the page. It stands to reason, the more relevant words on a page the more chance the page has of being included in the search results.

What else do we know about search engines? As far as links are concerned we know a couple of things:

  • Search Engines can find a new site by following links that point to it.
  • Search Engines (using a complex algorithm) assign a value to a page based on the number of links to the page and the value of the page on which the link is displayed. The higher the value of a page, the higher it will be displayed in the result set (all other things being equal).

Both sides of this debate have merit. Ignore either at your peril. So to summarise how to get a good listing for your page follow these steps:

  • First, get your site found by the search engines [Inbound link from a quality site is a great way to start this].
  • Second, get words on your pages that match the search strings used by your potential customers [Content pays dividends].
  • Third, give the search engines a way to find all your content [never ignore internal links].
  • And finally, give the search engines a reason to show your results ahead of your competitors [Inbound links give value to your pages].

Content vs Links :: Do both and do them well. Any questions please contact us and we'll do our best to help.

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