Google Lightning Talks are short versions of presentations that might have been shared at Google Webmaster Conferences around the world.
Given that in-person events are cancelled for the foreseeable future, Google is adapting its conference content for the web.
Videos in the Google Lightning Talks series are scheduled to be published throughout the year.
Splitt dedicates the first installment of Lightning Talks to discussing “everyone’s favorite” topic: links.
Splitt goes over the important role links play for both users and search engine crawlers.
Links Matter to Humans and Bots
Links serve the obvious purpose of letting users navigate between pieces of content.
But site owners must be mindful of the role links play for bots and search engines as well.
First and foremost – links allow crawlers to find other pages of a website.
Crawlers discover and index other pages of a website by following links from one page to another.
By following links, the crawler gains an understanding of site structure and information architecture.
This is helpful for understanding what pages might be relevant for a given topic.
Creating a link is not as straightforward as you might think, cautions Martin Splitt.
Here’s what Splitt recommends.
Do: Keep it Straightforward
The most straightforward way to put a link on a site is to use an ahref tag.
Don’t: Leave out the ahref attribute
“That’s not a good idea,” Splitt says.
Don’t: Use Psuedo URLs
It also doesn’t help to add an ahref attribute without a useful URL, or with a “pseudo URL” like in the example below:
The result is the same as a link without an ahref attribute, which means it’s not a good idea.
Don’t: Use Buttons
Using a button may seem like a viable option for adding a link to a page, but that’s not a good idea either.
The rule of thumb is – if a link triggers something to happen on the current page it should probably be a button.
On the other hand, if a link takes a user to another piece of content that wasn’t on the page before, then it should be a standard link.
Don’t: Rely on click handlers
This breaks the built-in accessibility features and isn’t a good idea.
Do: Use Semantic HTML
The bottom line to all of this is – use semantic HTML markup and point your link to a proper URL.
What’s a proper URL? That’s explained in the next section.
Using “Proper” URLs
These URLs are typical examples of what is considered a “proper URL”:
Those are proper URLs because they contain the following attributes:
- A protocol
- A host
- A path to a specific piece of content
- A fragment identifier (optional)
Beware of Fragment Identifiers
Given that fragment identifiers are optional, and point to locations within the same piece of content, crawlers ignore them.
That’s especially important to note if you build a single page application with links full of fragment identifiers.
Crawlers will not follow the links, so they will not be able to understand the web app.
Here are your key takeaways from the first installment of Google Lightning Talks:
- Use proper link markup.
- Do not use fragments to load different content in single page apps.