Just about everyone who uses a computer for Internet purposes has a basic understanding of what a hypertext or web link is and what its basic function serves; it simply links web pages together. However, for search engines, hypertext links serve as much more than a convenient way to link different online documents together; they also serve as an indication of value. The theory of a web link holding value was actually the initial difference between Google and other search engines, as Google was the first to use links as a signal of importance.
About twenty years ago when other search engines such as HotBot.com, Yahoo.com and Altavista.com where the most popular search engines, web links were used as way for search engine crawlers to find content from following one pages links to other pages - that was it. These, at the time popular search engines, would rank web pages in search based on what they found on the pages and they would use links only to find new pages to include in search.
When Google hit the scene in 1996 is was the beginning of a different type of search engine as Google would not only take into account the content it found on the pages, it would also measure a web pages backlinks. At the time, Google, which was created by Stamford students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, was named BackRub for its programing that analyzed "back links" to understand how important a website was. This was the beginning of a new game-chaning technology of measuring importance and it’s what contributed to Google fast becoming the most popular search engine as their results were vastly different than any other serarch engine, not to mention much higher quality.
The science and process of measuring website links, or backlinks, is still very much in use today, although it has become extremely more sophisticated. It has gone from simply counting the number of backlinks that a site has, to complex computer algorithms that assign a rating system to each and every single link that points to a web site. Doing so creates a unique and influential scoring system that allows a computer system to assign a value to a web page based on how many links a website has pointing to it, what types of sites are providing those links, and how authoritative those sites are - effectively creating and assigning a total value to a particular websites backlink profile and thus, combined with many other computer algorithmic processes, determines its ranking.
All of this creates a situation where each individual link that points to a website can play a critical role into how a website ranks in search engines, or how a particular page comes up in search, and for what search terms and why. There are many ways to link to a website, however, a hypertext link contains letters and characters and are also used to determine the webpages context and purpose of the referrer, so the actual spelling of a text link, by itself, is influential in its own way. For this reason you will see sites use "Click Here" less often, and tend to accurately define their links with words, such us "Search Engine Optimization", sometimes even leading to excessive uses of hypertext links when optimization tactics are overused. These highly defined keyword rich web links are referred to as "anchor text" and when used to manipulate search engines, are frowned upon. Google explains its position on excessive use and the minipulation of anchor text in their webmaaster guidelines section on Link schemes. So it remains to this day important to build links, but even more important to build the right types of links, ones that will not get your site penalized for link schemes.
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