Because of persistent manipulation of on-page "optimization" search engines had to look to other ways of measuring site quality. Enter link algorithms. But links can be manipulated too so it became not just a battle of numbers but a battle of quality. Quality is much more difficult to achieve and requires a lot more work. Some of the best link building strategies you can employ are those involved in building quality content and improving your site for your visitors. These things alone can do wonders in getting people to link to you.
Below are some questions and statements presented to me regarding links. I have provided my thoughts and input that will hopefully give you additional input or confirmation of what you already believed to be correct.
The number of links to a page is important in determining search ranking.
The number of links is a factor, but certainly not the only, or even the most important factor. The PageRank algorithm was essentially built for calculating the number of links to a page and included measurements for valuing links based on the value of the site (as determined by the number of incoming links) doing the linking. But once that started being manipulated other factors had to come into play as well.
It's easy to go out and spam-generate thousands of links, but those are worthless to the visitor and are not a reflection of the quality of the site. So Google and other engines had to start putting quality metrics into the link algorithms to ensure that the quality of the link was more important than just a basic link count.
Links from authoritative sites are the best.
Yes. If you can secure a link from an "authoritative" site, that'll work more in your favor than a link from any other average site. But the location of the link, what page it is on, how it's used are also a factor. If you get a link from an authority site on a page that is deemed to be of little or no value that won't play much in your favor. If you get a site-wide footer link, or advertising link, those can be devalued completely by the search engines. If you get a textual link on a page that gets good traffic and the page itself has a good amount of incoming links, then you have a very valuable link pointing to your site.
Links form sites that are relevant to your site topic are better than irrelevant links.
This is absolutely right. If you can get an on-topic link from an on-topic sight or blog post this will provide much more value than a link that is on a completely irrelevant site. Links from unrelated sites generally won't serve much purpose to the site's visitors nor will they generate much traffic. You're always better off getting links from places where the link will generate traffic.
Anchor text should have your keywords in them.
Yes, but don't go out and get hundreds or thousands of links that all have the same anchor text. That's simply not natural. If you have control over the link text then mix it up a bit. You can say "red trucks," "trucks come in red," "red and yellow trucks," etc. If you were to get 100 links from 100 different sites via natural means, what are the odds that all of those links would read exactly the same?
Links on a page with many outgoing links are rated lower than links on a page with few.
The value of each link on a page diminishes based on the number of other outgoing links on that page. For the sake of simplicity, lets say that a page has a total of 100 points of link value it can pass. If there is one link on that page then all 100 points are transferred to the page its linking to. If two links are on the page then each link passes 50 points. If a page has 100 links, each link passes one point.
Links from older pages are better than links form new pages. (Does older mean the amount of time the page has been hosted or indexed?)
I'm not sure how much the age of the page has to do with the value of the link. It seems that in standard page content brand new links have to age (like wine) in order to reach full maturity in value. However, the opposite seems to be true with blog posts, where links in new blog posts seem to have much more value than older blog posts.
But what also factors in is the value of the page based on historical trends. If the linking page's value increases over time because people keep linking to it then that will increase the value of all links pointing off the page. However if that page remains stagnant with no new incoming links and relatively no traffic then the value of the link juice being passes will probably not improve.
The age of a page would start from the time the search engines found the page, not when it was first hosted.
Reciprocal links are ranked slightly lower than one way links.
Define a reciprocal link. Many sites (usually blogs) link back and forth not out of some quid pro quo but because of the value of the content being posted. Does this make these links reciprocal? Why would a search engine devalue those links just because they have linked to each other naturally like that?
On the other hand if you are building reciprocal link pages then yes, those will be devalued. Mostly because those pages provide little value to the visitors anyway and if the search engines can spot them they will take that into account.
Does it hurt or help my page to have outgoing links? Does it matter what those links are to?
Who you link to has a profound impact on your site. If you link to other sites of authority then you are telling the search engines that you know where the valuable content is related to your industry, and you want to provide your visitors access to that content. You're essentially associating yourself with that site.
That can also work against you. If you link to garbage sites, you're associating yourself with garbage. That will serve to decrease your site's value, especially if you continue to hold and/or build those junk associations.
Is any link better than no link? What about a link from a low ranking page whose topic is not relevant to mine and who liked to my page with bad anchor text? Is it better to not have it at all? Does it depend on anchor text? For example if it was a link from a low ranking irrelevant page but had good anchor text would that make the difference between it being worth having or not?
In some cases I would say that you're better off with no link. As much as you want to be careful about the sites you associate yourself with through linking, you also don't want to be associated with junk sites by them linking to you. In most circumstances, those sites linking to you will not hurt you. But if you are reciprocating then it most certainly will. If you have an opportunity to get a non-relevant link on a non-relevant page in a non-relevant site with very low rankings and bad anchor text, I'd pass. The time it takes to say "please link to me" is costing you ROI. Now if you get that link through no effort of your own, then just don't worry about it.
Is it ever worth having a link with bad anchor text?
Any link will pass value . The anchor text uses is an added bonus that will let the search engines see what people are saying about your site. If you get a thousand links that say "your site sucks" you just gained 1000 links that will in all likelihood work in your favor. At least in terms of the value measured by the search engines. They'll work against you with the visitors.
All links are not created equal. Some can work against you (bad outgoing links) and others will work for you a little or a lot. You can't always control what happens outside of your site or manage who links to you and how, but you can manage your own site. This makes linking out extremely crucial to your link building efforts. Don't engage in pointless reciprocal linking or link to sites that you wouldn't want to visit yourself. If you make it attractive and compelling then you're more than halfway to your goal on creating an effective link building strategy that will pay off.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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