We often talk about it, especially when we refer to off-page optimization strategies, but so far we have never focused on basic definitions: Today instead we take a step back towards the basics of SEO and computer science explaining what a link is and why links are a central element for the Web Network.

The origins of the Web

Let’s start with the definition of the World Wide Web: as we told a few months ago, on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary, the operation of what would become the main Internet service was described for the first time by Tim Berners-Lee, who spoke of a wide area of hypermedial information that offers universal access to documents.

Sharing information and documents

According to various sources, this idea was born at CERN in Geneva and there is a pinch of Italy: the English researcher noticed some Italian colleagues who transmitted information via telephone line from one floor to the other of the prestigious Swiss laboratory displaying video information. From this point of view, Berners-Lee and his colleague Robert Cailliau devised a software to share scientific documentation in electronic format regardless of the computer platform used, to improve communication and collaboration between the institute’s researchers.

To make the idea concrete, the definition of standards and protocols for exchanging documents over computer networks, which would then generate the HTML language and the first HTTP network protocol, also started. All of this was first realized on August 6, 1991, when Tim Berners-Lee published the first website, which waited 17 days for the first visit by an external user to the research center, with a click arrived on the following August 23.

Links are the Network’s knots

Going back to our topic, even on the Wikipedia page dedicated to the WWW we read that the “main feature of the Web network is that the nodes that compose it are connected to each other through the so-called links (hyperlinks), forming a huge hypertext, and its services can be made available by the Internet users themselves”.

The links are therefore a fundamental element to make the project of the Web possible because they represent the link that allows you to take advantage of this global hypertext made up of all the worldwide sites that can be consulted by everyone.

Link between sites, but not only

Thanks to the links, abbreviation of hyperlinks, it is possible to connect web pages in a non sequential way, even if they belong to different sites, download particular content, access specific features and, in summary, use each junction of the Network.

So, the links are the spine of the Web, or better still its central nervous system, and they can serve as the main means of navigation, information quote tool, a trust symbol, promotion method and so on, and we talked about it a lot in the topics on link building, link juice and ranking factors.

What a link is

Coming to the technical aspects, a link is an HTML object that allows you to switch to a new position when the user clicks or touches the portion on the touch displays; These links can be found in almost all Web pages and are, as mentioned, the easiest way to browse the Web pages.

How links are

Links can be attached to text, images or other HTML elements; in most cases the links are blue (as in Google’s SERPs), which is the standard color of Web browsers, but you can customize this setting using HTML or CSS styles. In the early stages of the Network the links were underlined by default, while today this choice is less common. Even images can contain a link, becoming in turn a clickable object and a link to another resource.

What does an HTML link look like? This is the string that identifies an internal link of text type: <a href=”/blog/events”>Events</a>, which refers to the Events section of our blog. This is a relative link, because it does not include the domain name, and since the link starts with a slash it refers to the main directory (otherwise it would be related to the current URL).

A link on <href=” https://www.seozoom.it”> <img src=”https://www.seozoom.it/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/test-google.jpg” alt=”Google search, how the new feature works”> is instead an absolute link because it includes the domain name, necessary for external links, which they direct to another website.

What href means

It is also interesting to discover the meaning of the tag a href: the “a” is the initial of “anchor“, because the first hypertext documents linked to anchors (or markers) inside the same page, rather than to other pages. Instead, “href” is the abbreviation of hypertext reference.

Before concluding, we quickly remember what are the attributes that you can use on the links, or title (the text description of the link, which is displayed when the mouse passes over the link), target (setting to indicate where to open the link, for example in a new tab using _blank) and href, which signals the destination of the link.