Almost any major search engine guide will highlight the importance of best practices in link building. It is common for Internet marketers to understand where links should go and where they should not go. It is also common to analyze domain authority and social metrics obsessively. Marketers focus on sidebars, author box placements, and click-through rates. However, some important areas are routinely overlooked…
It is widely known that link building is essential to gaining visibility online, yet the following is infrequently addressed:
How do links physically look to the end user?
Links should enhance user experience, but simple formatting issues can prompt the user to ignore links altogether or otherwise find a different site to browse.
Back to Basics: Formatting 101
Links were easy to identify a decade ago. There was blue text that was underlined. It was a link. That was that.
Today, links in anchor text can be somewhat cryptic to the end user. Different hover effects and pop-up boxes can easily confuse even savvy Internet users. Some sites do not bother to add any additional formatting to a link. It is important to remember that your job is to help site visitors easily navigate to your links. A different color or take on the traditional link with underlined text can work. Link building that is perhaps too creative can also be too confusing. It is also important to remember that users have almost every reason to click the back button and find a new site to browse. Do not give users a reason to look elsewhere.
Research Suggests Keep it Clean, Simple, and Easy to Understand
The end user does not owe it to a designer, marketer, or the entire field of web development to figure out how to navigate a cryptic website. Multiple studies suggest that users prefer things that are simple and predictable. Users want to be able to quickly identify what represents a link. Conversely, users want to be able to quickly identify what does not represent a link.
A growing body of research suggests that users want an experience that is highly relevant and accessible. The links you include should not only be relevant to your business; links should be relevant to a target audience. The right links can improve the user experience directly on a website or throughout the duration of a social media marketing campaign. It is important to take a step back from theory and take a step closer to the end user. An important question to ask yourself is: “Is there content I can include that will enhance site visitors understanding of the information I am trying to convey?”
User Experience and Major Search Engines
SEO for major search engines has arguably become much simpler over the years. Content-based marketing and content that is engaging and accessible to the end user leads to higher organic rankings and superior conversion rates. Different technical nuances involved in online marketing will likely always exist, such as the recent movement towards responsive web design. However, the core of marketing online will likely continue to rely heavily on the experience of the end user.