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Link Popularity and its Importance to Ranking

Link Popularity and its Importance to Ranking

What is Link Popularity? Link Popularity refers to the number of links pointing to your site, from other sites on the web. The Search Engines consider your site important and rank it higher if several other sites link to your site. You can search for this on Google by typing in the following command:

Link: www.yourdomain.com

The above command gives you a selective list of links, usually from PR4+ link pages. For a more extensive list, you may search the following syntax -

“yourdomain.com” -site:www.yourdomain.com

There are also tools available, such as SEOElite, that will provide more analytical information about your links.

History behind Link Popularity and Google PageRank

The web, by its very nature, is based on hyperlinks, where sites link to other prominent sites. If you take the logic that you would tend to link to sites that you consider important, in essence, you are casting a vote in favour of the sites that you link to. When hundreds or thousands of sites link to a site, it is logical to assume that such a site would be good and important.

Taking this logic further the Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page formulated a Search Engine algorithm that shifted the ranking weight to off-page factors. They evolved a formula called PageRank (named after its founder Larry Page ) where the algorithm would count the number of sites that link to a page and assign it an importance score on a scale of 1-10. More the number of sites that link to a page, higher its PageRank.

Google’s PageRank is important because it is one of the primary off-the-page factors that influences your page’s ranking in the search engine result pages.

PageRank in Google’s own Words

Google explains PageRank as follows ( http://www.google.com/technology/):

PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”

Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don’t match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it’s a good match for your query.

For more information on Google PageRank, go to

http://www.google.com/technology/

http://www.google.com/webmasters/4.html

Benefits of Building Link Popularity

Building Link Popularity is one of the most important and critical aspects of any effective Search Engine Optimization campaign today. The ‘off-page’ factors such as link popularity, PageRank and Anchor Text in incoming links play a major role in your site’s ranking in the search engine results pages (SERP).

Search Engines consider your site more important if more links point to your site. Building link popularity improves the PageRank of your web pages (Read more about PageRank). The higher the PageRank of your website, the higher its importance for search engines and higher it gets ranked in the search engine result pages. Search engines also take into account the PageRank of the pages that link to your site and its industry relevance to your own industry. Links from higher PageRank pages and industry relevant sites give your site a higher value.

Types of Links

There are two types of links you can establish on the web. One way is to trade links (Link Exchange), where you give a link from the links Page on your site to the partner sites. The second method is to establish ‘only-incoming’ links also called ‘one-way links’ or ‘Non-Reciprocal links’.

Only-Incoming Links

Only incoming links are the links established on the other websites where you do not need to link back to them. There are various compelling reasons and methods to establish such one-way links which include linking back from a different website that you may own, publishing articles on sites, content syndication, listing in trade directories and giving out press releases in news networks.

Link Exchange

Link exchange is an easier way to establish links from other websites to your website. In link exchange process, you trade links with prospective partner sites by offering a link to their site from your own site. This method is a fast way to establish several hundred links to your website. However, it may not get you great benefits.

Only Incoming Links vs. Link Exchange

Google developed the PageRank algorithm to provide authentic and quality information while making it difficult for webmasters and site owners to contaminate the search results by artificially inflating their PageRank.

The new algorithm came into effect with the launch of Google in 1998. Google’s PageRank was based on the logic that more the number of sites that link to a page, higher its PageRank.

As webmasters realized the importance of PageRank, they found ways to artificially inflate their PageRank by manipulating direct link exchanges. This defeated the very essence on which the Google PageRank algorithm was build. To counter this, Google has constantly been fine-tuning and updating its algorithms.

The search engines are aware that a large number of sites are deploying link exchange campaigns to boost their site’s PR. Search engines are working towards fine-tuning their algos to discount direct link exchanges in order to preserve the effect of their link popularity related algorithms and rationalize artificially inflated links popularity of sites.

While the algos are yet to reflect this change, I believe that it may happen soon enough. In the long run, I recommend investing your resources in an ‘ only-incoming links ‘campaign for your website which is likely to benefit your site more as opposed to a direct link exchange campaign.

Important Parameters to Consider while Building Link Popularity

Some of the important parameters that you need to consider while establishing links with any website are discussed below:

PageRank or PR of the Linking Page

PR of the linking page is one of the most important factors. PR of the linking page determines how much value of importance is passed on to your page. Higher the PR of the linking page, higher the value you get. The home page PR is not as important, but it is an indicator of how much PR a linking page may jump to, in due course of time. For instance, if the PR of the site’s link page is 0, but the home page PR is 6, then, there is a bright possibility that in a month or two, the link page PR may also jump to a PR of 4 or even 5 due to the internal linking structure of the partner site. While sites would be happy to give out links from a PR 0 page, you can estimate that in two months time, this link page can jump to a high PR, giving you great value in the future.

Identifying Total Number of Links on the Link Page

The value your web page gets from a linking page is equal to the total PR value of that page divided by the total number of outgoing links on that page. Getting a link from a PR4 page that has only 20 outgoing links is much better than getting a link from a PR4 page that has 60 outgoing links. With the same philosophy, it is better to get a link from a PR2 link page that has only 10 outgoing links than getting a link from a PR4 page that has over 100 outgoing links. It is therefore as important to evaluate the total number of outgoing links on a links page, as it is, to evaluate the PR of the linking page. This is where many people often falter, as they usually insist on getting a link from a high PR page, but if that page has 100 outgoing links, your page would only get 1/100th of that value.

Industry Relevance

Search engines give high importance to links pointing to your site from your own industry segment as opposed to those from an un-related industry. For instance, a hotels and reservations website is likely to benefit more from links pointing from a related industry site like travel, vacation packages or cruises, than those from an unrelated industry like a drug site.

Industry relevance also needs to be given a high weight while creating resource directories. For example, if you have a site related to hotels, then you can create a resource directory related to your business that could be pertaining to travel, tourism, cruises, vacation rentals, vacation packages, car rentals, food and beverages etc.

Page Relevance

Most sites offering links have several categories listed on their sites. Try and get a link from a category that closely matches your own industry. For instance, if you have a site related to hotels, then, on your partner site, a tickets site for example, try and identify a resource directory pertaining to hotels, resorts, reservations, vacation packages, travel, tourism, food and beverages etc. If the concerned site has a directory on hotels, you should request a link in that category, as a link from that page would be relevant to a hotels site, thus getting you more benefits. An algorithm called “Applied Semantics” determines the industry relevance of a page within a site. Applied Semantics algorithm studies various keywords on a web page and tries to determine the industry or business segment of each page. Applied Semantics estimates the industry segments that are relevant to a particular page. If the link to your page is coming from your business specific segment, then you are likely to draw more benefit.

Anchor Text

Anchor Text is the visible hyperlinked text on a web page. Since anchor text is very important, make sure that your most important keywords appear in anchor text from the link pointing to your site. You should try and work with at-least 10-20 keyword and link text options. If you are creating a large number of links using only one standard link text, then the search engines are likely to detect a pattern. It is possible that future algo updates may do away with all repetitive and similar looking links to your site. You can also refer to our article on Anchor Text Optimization for more details.

Link Page Title

As well as the anchor text of the link back to your site, the page title is also taken into account. We have already discussed the importance of the title tag in your own on-the-page SEO campaign, and this also counts when linking back to your domain. Where possible, try to gain links from pages that have your keywords in their title too. This also helps with the page relevance.

Pre-Indexed Pages

Try and find link partners in Search Engines like Google and Yahoo, and check if the links page is already indexed in the search engines. Search Engines frequently re-index the pages in its database. They are likely to detect your link faster on a page already existing in their database as compared to a ‘yet-to-be indexed’ page. The safest way to check is to copy the prospective link page URL and paste it into Google Search. If the page is indexed, Google would show a result in response to your search, otherwise it would respond with a ‘no result found’.

The robots.txt File

robots.txt is an exclusion file that contains specific instructions for search engine robots regarding the content they are not allowed to index. Links placed on a page that the search engines robots are not allowed to index, would not benefit your site. Considering the importance of robots.txt file, it is a good idea to study a site’s robots.txt file to identify the excluded pages before approaching a site for establishing links with your site. Read our article on Working with robots.txt file.

Dynamic Link Pages

You should also watch out for any link pages that are generated dynamically. Chances are that such pages would not get indexed soon enough, which means that a link from such a page would not benefit you. Some dynamic link pages are intentionally generated in such a way so as to prevent them from getting indexed. Some unscrupulous webmasters do this to trick you to prevent any PageRank leaking from their site to yours. Links from such pages therefore do not give you any benefit.

Java Script Link Pages

It is also important to identify pages that are generated through Flash or a Java Script, as Search Engines cannot read flash pages or the links embedded within flash. These are some of the tricks unethical webmasters use. While a site can claim to have placed a link to your web page, in effect they are not giving you any benefit.

Re-Directed Links

A link that is first re-directed to another page within your partner site before pointing to your site is a re-directed link. You should watch out for such links, as search engines do not give weight to re-directed links. It is very unlikely that your site would draw any benefit from a re-directed link.

Frame Sites

Avoid getting links from framed sites as search engines cannot read texts within frames. A link placed on a frame site would not get your site any benefit, as search engines would not be able to recognize such a link.

Directory Depth

It is important to evaluate the depth of the directory of the linking page. Avoid getting links from pages that are embedded in a very deep directory or pages that are more than two directories deep (e.g. www.domain.com/dir1/dir2/dir3/linkpage.php is not a good link page). Deep directories seldom earn high PR. They are also slow in getting indexed, if at all.

Building Link Popularity is a great way to help your site gain competitive PR. Links from other sites also sends direct human traffic to your site. Observing a little care in developing links will go a long way in getting your site rank high in search engines. 

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