You May Be Screwing Yourself With Hyperlinked Headers

Posted on October 9th, 2007 at 11:22 am by Michael VanDeMar under coding, Google, SEO, web design

If you are like me, then you probably link your header images to your homepage. It is natural behavior these days to click on the header of a page and expect to be taken back to the beginning. However, a recent experiment I conducted over on SEO Refugee, and a comment by Wit, has me rethinking that particular habit.

Let me first state that it looks like I am not the first to test this (Jocelyn reports that seo-guy and Relaxzoolander tested this several years ago, but I don’t know exactly where that one is). However, I have seen speculation about this from time to time on the various forums, and since I had never seen a test for myself, and due to another test (showing that Google does in fact use meta description to help determine relevancy) making this possible to do easily, I went ahead and set this one up.

What I simply did was to add into a page a couple of non-interfering made up words in the meta description, and then used that page as the target of two links on the same source page, with one of the made up words in each of the anchor texts. Merely mentioning a phrase in the meta description (even a zero competition made up one) is not enough for Google to list that page in a search for that phrase, nor is a single link using that phrase as an anchor text (although the page the link appears on will show up, since on page text is plenty to have something appear in the results). However, combining the two (link + meta description) works just fine. As the test demonstrated, the site does indeed show up for the phrase used in the first link (cached), yet is nowhere to be found for the phrase used in the second one (cached). I have provided links to the cached versions of the searches, since of course anyone further linking to the page beyond what I have done may indeed through off the balance of the test.

Now, it is generally believed (and if someone knows of a test demonstrating this, please let me know) that links with keyword rich anchor text will carry more weight than links that gain their keywords via the alt attribute of an <img> tag. Therefore, if you do go through the trouble of using meaningful anchor text in the homepage link of your sitewide navigation, then you could in fact be negating that benefit by also linking your logo using a flat <a> tag. My suggestion in those cases would be to consider instead linking the logo via the onclick method, retaining the functionality without losing the SEO benefit of navigational links with specific anchor text. Of course, if your sitewide navigation simply uses the phrase “Home”, then I wouldn’t bother with worrying about this at all.

On a final note, this also of course affects anywhere else having multiple links on the same source page all pointing to the same target. One instance I have seen that comes to mind is paid reviews that offer multiple links in the same review. If all of those links point to the same page, then offering that to a customer as an “added bonus” is in fact doing them a bit of a disservice, since nothing is in fact added, and not enough thought might be given to the first anchor text, thinking that the ones that follow would have weight as well.

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14 Responses to “You May Be Screwing Yourself With Hyperlinked Headers”

  1. WBW (Worldwide Blog Wrestling) Presents… » Single Source Page Link Test Using Multiple Links With Varying Anchor Text - Part Two Says:

    […] on October 9th, I blogged about a test I performed that demonstrated only the first link on a given page will count as far as ranking purposes go. In the thread where the test originated, pops (of […]

  2. Gab "SEO ROI" Goldenberg Says:

    Mike, my understanding of onclick is not that it kills the link’s value, in the same way as a link generated by javascript. The reason being that there’s still a <a tag there…
    Am I missing something?

  3. Michael VanDeMar Says:

    Gab, I was suggesting that an alternative would be to ditch the <a tag altogether in the header. You can put an onclick event in any tag you like, it doesn’t have to be an anchor tag. You can make the H1 or header image itself clickable if you want.

    However, of course, an even better solution is to use css image replacement, as I am doing with the new theme here. The anchor tag still exists functionally, but visually it is off to the side.

  4. ??SEO????? - ???SEO?????????????? Says:



  5. Interview with Aaron Wall on Linkbuilding Says:

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  6. How Does Google Approach Anchor Text? « Internet Marketing Blog by NoonanNight Says:

    […] in October of 2007, Smackdown! made a post which was titled You May Be Screwing Yourself With Hyperlinked Headers. The basis of this post was that Google only takes into consideration the anchor text of the first […]

  7. Google counting only the first link to a domain - rebunked | SEO Scientist - Applying the scientific method to SEO Says:

    […] that Google will count only one link to a URL from any given page. This is a phenomenon that was originally noticed by Michael VanDeMar but many an eyebrow was risen at both posts. That particular facial hair […]

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  9. PPC Blog » Google Still Not Treating Underscores As Word Seperators Says:

    […] (Yahoo and ASK give them some weight), while keywords used within a meta description alone are not enough for Google to retrieve the page under search (only with the use of anchor text aswell). So this gives us some idea of the weight keywords in a […]

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    […] You May Be Screwing Yourself With Hyperlinked Headers […]

  11. Does The Second Link From A Page Pass Value? – SEO FAQ « widaca Says:

    […] link debate, and contributes some original research himself. Other relevant posts come from Rand, Mike van de Mar, Dave Eaves and Michael Martinez. Some partial information was also provided by Matt Cutts to Debra […]

  12. Three 2010 SEO Trends to Look Out For: Social Media, Onpage SEO & Link Diversity | Internet Marketing Inc. Says:

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  13. Jordan Says:

    Sometimes site designs limit the number of characters in the main navigation if the site uses tabs. In this case would it actually be better to use images with keywords in the alt tag rather than simple/generic words such as “Home”, “Insurance” etc?

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