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[edited by: Xapti at 6:35 am (utc) on June 27, 2007]
For accessibility reasons, it's best not to have them empty as I said before though. A text description of the link enclosed in a container is a good idea. To prevent the text description from interfering with the background image, set the anchor to overflow:hidden, and the text container to something like margin-left:-900px.
The advantage imagemaps have over this type of method is that the anchors can be non-rectangular. This method requires your links to be rectangular, which shouldn't be an issue unless you're doing something quite advanced (or unless your picky with anchor shapes :P).
As far as I know, imagemaps are not as easily accessible though.
[edited by: Xapti at 11:25 pm (utc) on June 30, 2007]