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Link Popularity and Your Site's Success
By Andrew Gerhart - August 08, 2001

As we discuss in the Link Popularity section of our site, link popularity has become an important factor in the search engine ranking of your website. A few of the search engines that use link popularity in their algorithms are Google, Alta Vista, Inktomi, and Infoseek. As these search engines combine to produce a great deal of traffic for a site, it is important to have a good link popularity campaign for your website, and take your time when building your link popularity. There are many ways that people are going about building link popularity, and many tools and programs being used, but the fact of the matter is there is only one real way of building link popularity. Below we will discuss some of the methods to watch out for, and then the proper way.

As the importance of link popularity grew there were people that came out with methods to improve it without much effort. This method worked for a little while, but as more people started to use the search engines, the search engines began to get smarter and not fall for these tricks. One of these methods is joining link exchanges, or using link exchange programs. Link exchanges are programs that certain websites run that will allow you to submit your URL on their site, and will then submit the URL to numerous sites in an effort to build your link popularity. This sounds like an easy and effective way to take care of link popularity, and this is the mistake that some webmasters and people in the search engine optimization industry are making. The search engines have begun to penalize sites that partake in any of the link exchange programs. Usually when the program submits your URL to the link exchange it will be posted on sites that are known as "link farms". Link farms are sites that contain nothing but links, and are created for the sole purpose of building link popularity. Another defect of these programs is that they will submit your URL to sites that are completely irrelevant to your site. You may be thinking, "So What?" Well, the search engines have now begun to rank sites higher that have links coming from sites within the same theme and reduce the emphasis on sheer-numbers. They have also begun to place more weight on links coming from other sites, but we will discuss that later. Sometimes your site will be put onto these link farms or link exchange sites without your knowledge. The best way to take care of this is either to ban the robots that take your URL with a robots.txt, or to run a check to find them periodically. If you do find that your URL has been posted on one of these sites, the way to take care of this is to send the Webmaster an email asking for your URL to be removed. Sometimes they will not reply or remove it, but this is the best way to deal with the problem.

Another method of building link popularity that some people have been using is sending an email to the Webmaster of every single website on the Internet, regardless of theme, and asking them to post a link to your site. Some people write these "your site is incredible, please link to mine" emails, and some simply submit their URL on every site that has the field box to submit. This method of building your link popularity, while somewhat effective, is not strategic and will no longer help your site. As mentioned earlier, the search engines have added to their algorithms for ranking websites that inbound links are more important when coming from a site that is within the same theme or category. For example, it is more beneficial to have a link to your baseball website from another baseball website, than it is to have ten links from car websites.

So we have mentioned that themed-links are more search engine friendly than those that are not. What else do the search engines look for when weighing the link popularity of a site? One thing that search engines tend to prefer is when the inbound link is a text link that uses your page's keyword as the link. Another thing that the search engines like is when the link is from government sites. This means that the site linking to you has the extension .gov. Another extension that the search engines tend to prefer is the .edu extension. These links can amount to more weight than thirty links from sites that are not theme specific. These are all things to consider when planning out your link popularity campaign.

This brings us to the proper way to plan and build your link popularity. You probably expect to hear some golden new secret that would get your link popularity perfect and boost your rankings…sorry. To build your link popularity successfully and to have a positive impact on your site, you must use strategy and adhere to some rules.

One rule is to do everything by hand. If you use an automated system two things will happen. First, there is a very good chance that no one will link to you, as it is easy to tell that the emails are automated. Second, when you try to email them again to link to you, they will delete it right away thinking it is the same automated email, or spam. By building link popularity manually you will not only be able to keep better records, you will be able to establish a relationship between the two websites.

Another rule is to do everything strategically. By this we mean to think of every link that you receive or place going out as something that could boost not only your link popularity, but also your ranking. Before asking another Webmaster to link to you, ask yourself if this link will benefit you in any way. Does this site get good rankings? Is the site within your theme? These, and more, are things to consider when building link popularity.

No matter what industry you are in, there is always a company or individual claiming that they will improve this or that magically and for free. On the Internet especially, there are scams like this everywhere. Link popularity is an important factor in your website success within the search engines, and something that can always be improved upon. The best advice is to take your time and plan your campaign.