The web is constantly re-inventing itself and now maybe it’s time that the humble hyperlink came under scrutiny. How will the links on your site change in the next few years, and what does this mean for Google and the wider web?
Webmasters and bloggers spend an awful lot of time worrying about their inbound links and generally work very hard to ensure that they have as many links coming into their site as possible.
However while inbound links are certainly important, it’s important not to forget the other kinds of links on your site – outbound ones.
Thought they didn’t matter? Outbound links are not only crucial for you to decide when and how people leave your site – they’re also crucial for indexing the web, and a potentially lucrative source of income. So the question is – could you be doing more with your outbound links? And what might the future have in store for them?
Many sites have taken it upon themselves then to employ methods that utilize outbound links more effectively as a way to monetize sites. These include services such as Kontera that actually insert advertisers’ links into the content of websites and blogs in the form of hyperlinks.
So if you wrote ‘The other day I went shopping and bought a sponge’ you might find the word shopping gets turned into a hyperlink linking to a big shopping center somewhere, and the word ‘sponge’ turns into a link to a sponge company (I’m sure exclusively sponge orientated companies do exist…). You then get paid per-click just like AdSense but without the potentially intrusive ads.
VigLink provides something similar but different linking instead to affiliate schemes allowing you to sell from your site and potentially make more profit. At the same time VigLink offers smarter linking too by assessing various cookies and other information on the users’ computer – thereby enabling the most relevant links to appear – so if someone happens to live in Bournemouth, England, then the shopping center link would be to one in Bournemouth. It’s a fairly smart tool and one that essentially makes creating affiliate links a bit easier and hopefully more effective.
But Kontera and VigLink aren’t the only ways we can improve the effectiveness of our links; if we opt simply to learn from them and emulate some of their better ideas, we can implement ‘smarter’ hyperlinks ourselves.
For instance, if you have decided you want to implement affiliate links into your site then what’s to stop you just using a ‘search and replace’ tool in Dreamweaver or Super Notepad in order to search the word ‘bodybuilding’ and replace it with ‘<link to your affiliate scheme>bodybuilding</a>’? If you want to get smarter still, then what’s to stop you from writing a PHP program to do this?
And what’s to stop you from including your own PHP and Java code in your web design, so that you choose whether or not to show links based on the cookies and stats of the user? If your whole site was in PHP (so your HTML was in ‘echo’) you could have things like ‘IF Cookie beenherebefore = 0 then echo ‘<a href = a relevant page on your site>Hey this is your first visit – click here to learn more about the website!</a>’. You could even try to find out the cookies some other programs leave (like various websites and even Kontera/Infolinks themselves) and then use this to learn what your visitors’ preferences are.
And of course you can use this to create your own affiliate links too, and to make sure that the adverts on your site are tailored for the person visiting. There are many ways you can make your hyperlinks smarter – so apply some thought to it.
What Does This Mean for Google?
Whether you adopt these smarter links or not, there is clearly a trend and a desire to improve the way they work. But the question is, how will sites like Google then cope?
If every site has text links that are pointing to affiliates then of course this is going to give those pages false authority in the eyes of Google. That’s easy enough for Google to fix, and it would be easy for Google to de-index those sites.
But if all links started to become ‘smarter’ and to alter depending on factors like cookies, then this would eventually make it difficult for spiders and bots to ‘read’ them and they might not even show up at all. This would result in Google needing to make some serious changes in order to adapt, and at least temporarily it could lead to some interesting results on the SERPs.
For all that Google forces change among webmasters and designers, sometimes it’s the other way around and this might be just one example…
Image Credit: Eminent SEO