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It seems that web surfer habits are going to play a bigger role in determining the value passed along through outgoing links. At least, if Google implements a process outlined in a patent granted to them recently. The king of patent analysis, Bill Slawski, has an interesting in-depth look at this new patent and comes up with some interesting theories and how this will all relate to search engine optimisation.

Although outbound links have always been considered equal by search engines, web designers and web site owners have known differently for a long time. If you want a link to get the maximum exposure and the most click-throughs, you would place it in of your page;s ‘hot zones’, often considered to be the top left of your page’s content – that’s why you frequently find Adsense ads in these positions.

Web site owners also know that links placed in the footer are generally internal, linking to pages devoted to disclosures, policies, and sitemaps; or links to web page designers and hosts. Links in sidebars such as those found in blogrolls are often links to associated web sites, or links to friends and family.

Bill Slawski takes it one step further, observing that:

a link with anchor text that is bigger than a certain size may have a higher probability of being selected than links with anchor text of a smaller size. Links positioned closer to the top of a page may also be more likely to be clicked upon. If the topic of the document being pointed to is related to the topic of the page the link appears upon, it may also have a higher probability of being selected by a visitor to the page.

Whether or not Google takes this on board is another matter. Of course, for all we know they may have already. You can bet there will be a lot of testing undertaken now to determine if it is in effect. In the future it seems that the best link on a page will be one that is a font size higher, perhaps bold, and links to a page that is closely associated to the current page. Place that link near the top left hand side of your page, within related content, and you may well have created the perfect link. It would be nice if it was that easy!

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