We know that on-the-page optimization will not get you top rankings by itself, unless it is enhanced with link popularity. This Article goes into the depth of Linking Strategies and reveals a Little Known Secret about selecting your best link partners.|
The Internet is growing everyday, and the work of the search engines is getting tougher. Search engines are constantly looking for innovative ways to serve the most accurate and relevant results to its visitors.
The search engines have incorporated popularity factors into their ranking algorithm in order to create better relevancy formulae. This does not mean that the on-the-page factors or the importance of content can be ignored. If there are two sites with equally optimized and attractive content, the site having more link popularity will attain a higher search engine position.
The main point is that on-the-page optimization will not get you top rankings by itself, unless it is enhanced with high-end link popularity.
The objective of the search engines is to serve those web sites which are recommended by many other web sites. Ranking the relevant web sites according to their popularity neutralizes the effects of search engine spams and manipulation of the on-the-page factors. Search engines like Google were able to provide outstanding search experiences for surfers by incorporating popularity factors into their ranking algorithm.
Link popularity of a web site is the total number of web sites linking to it. The search engine must index the web page that your link appears on. In the recent past, people believed that just the "Number" of sites pointing to your site determines the link popularity. The more sites linking to your site, the higher your ranking will be. This is just the first half of the popularity story.
Link analysis is closely related to link popularity, but with a twist. Link analysis (or link popularity analysis) is the number and quality of the inbound links that point to your site. It is beyond the number of links. Here, it is not the number of links that matter, but the quality of these links that is important.
The search engine software and the programmers who create them are not dumb. They are aware that many web masters create artificial links with the hope of boosting their ranks in the search engines. Because of this, search engines make use of link analysis rather than link popularity.
Analyzing and evaluating the number as well as the quality of links is actually link analysis. In this article, we'll look more closely at the other factors influencing link popularity (apart from the numbers of links) and how link analysis works.
How search engines use link analysis
Search engines use link analysis in their ranking algorithm, as it is very difficult to get quality links for a site if it is not worth it. In a link analysis system, only the most relevant and popular sites will attain a high search engine position. Link analysis is a very useful and foolproof way to determine which pages are good for particular keyphrases. It is a mathematical way to determine if others in your industry think that your site is important.
Quantity vs. quality of the links
In a link analysis system it is easy to filter out the spammers who set up several free sites and then make them link to their main web site. These days, search engines do not give importance to links from free web sites in their link popularity scores. They combine link popularity with link analysis and use it to assign a weighted link popularity score.
All links on the Internet are not of equal importance, as the crawlers analyze the quality of the web sites. In a pure link analysis system, it is important to get links from popular web sites which are related to the keywords you want to be found for. Getting only a few links from popular sites will be more useful than getting several links from unpopular web sites.
The other factors in a link analysis system are the context of the links, authority of the web sites, the number of outbound links from a web site, and the similarity in themes between the linking sites.
If you want to attain high search engine ranks in the search engines that use link analysis in their ranking algorithm, you have to be associated with reputed web sites. You also have to make sure those sites have keywords related to yours. It's also important to use targeted keywords throughout your site, and have relevant explanatory text around your keywords and links.
How to measure link popularity
Link popularity is determined and analyzed by each search engine in its own way. AltaVista may calculate a high link popularity for your site, whereas Google may calculate a low popularity for your site. This is because each search engine uses the popularity information in different ways, and it will depend on their specific algorithms.
Visit the homepage of the specific search engine and type the formulae we have mentioned in the search box and click on search. Notice that we have eliminated http://www. in the urls. While measuring link popularity, substitute your own web site name in the domain name. Do not forget to include the .com, .net or .org in the domain names.
Altavista & Infoseek
This will return the total number of sites linking to your domain.
As the web pages of a site sometimes link to each other, in this result, the web pages of noname.com itself which are linked to its index file will also be included. To eliminate the web pages of the same domain, the syntax is,
To find out the link popularity of a particular web page, type
There is no way to determine the link popularity of a web site in Direct Hit.
It will return the number of web sites linking to the site noname.com. But there is no command to eliminate the web pages, which are linking to its own domain.
Hotbot and other Inktomi powered search engines like AOL, iWon and MSN
It returns the total number of web sites linking to the domain.
It returns the total number of web sites linking to the domain after eliminating the links from the same domain.
Returns the web pages linking to your domain.
The Little Known Secret
Generally, link from a higher PR site is more valuable, but if the higher PR site is linking to hundreds of other sites, a lower pr link may contribute more to your site. For instance, a link from a PR5 page with 10 links is generally more valueable than a link from a PR6 site with 100 links. To complicate maters further, the search engines have a concept of hubs and authorities, a link from a themed Authority with links to similar sites seems to be more valuable than a site with unrelated links. The secret that I am talking about will show you exactly which link partners are more valuable.
During the course of my link popularity experiments, I have discovered one secret that helps me to determine my best link partners. When you search for backlinks for any sites, the results are displayed in the order of relevance. We know that search engines always shows the best results first, the same holds true for backlinks also. That means that when you look for backlinks for any site, the first site in the result will be contributing more towards that sites ranking than the second site and so on. I call this the backlink relevance effect. To get maximum results for my efforts, I look for the first few back links of my competitors and try to exchange links with those sites rather than hundreds of sites.
Tools of the Trade
I use my linkchecker script to determine how many internal & external outgoing links any page has.
Then I use my Link Popularity Analysis script to determine the number of incomming links to the site.
Other online reports provided by SearchEngine-Tool.com and MarketLeap Link Popularity Check are also useful for monitoring the incomming links.
Link building strategies (and what they are worth)
The most difficult and time-consuming aspect of search engine optimization is building link popularity.
The days of link farms and bulk link exchange programs are over. If you implement those strategies today, you take the risk of getting kicked out of the search engines' index. At present, the search engine robots want links from authoritative and popular sites, or links from sites that share the same theme as your site. Wondering how many quality links do you need for your site? one more than your competition.
Search engines do not give importance to links from free web sites or artificial links in their link analysis system, so there are no easy ways to build link popularity. You have to work hard to establish yourself in the eyes of the search engines.
The secret behind the success of a web site in a pure link analysis system is content. Before you start your link building program, be sure that you have a content rich site. If your site is not one, make it. Add articles that will be of interest to the visitors of your site. This needs a lot of effort and time. If you are too busy, hire a professional copywriter to do it for you. However, doing it on your own will save you a lot of money. Do not do marketing for your web site in the articles, instead deliver useful information. Remember, in the long run the content of your site is your biggest asset.
Supposing that you have a content rich site, we describe a list of legitimate ways you can build link popularity for your site.
The oldest and best way of increasing link popularity is to ask for a link. In this process, you directly contact the owner of a site via email or other means asking for a link to your site. In your email you may briefly explain why you think the link will benefit their visitors. You would generally offer to link back to them in exchange for this courtesy.
Later in this article, we have discussed in detail the basics, how tos, do's and don'ts of requesting a link.
People generally link to those web sites that offer unique and useful information. So, start developing more content if your site is lacking it and become a content provider. Write articles and tutorials about subjects related to the keywords for which you want to be ranked and give the visitors a reason to link to your site. By offering useful information from your site you increase the chances of getting links.
A sure fire way to increase link popularity is to have a high quality newsletter or article section on your site. People will want to link to you to provide their visitors useful information.
Submit your web site in the appropriate categories of the major search directories, like Yahoo, ODP etc. Do not forget to optimize your title and description with your important keywords. Also submit to Netscape Open directory.
Search for "submit a link" AND "your most important keyword." You will get a list of sites that have link pages related to your keyword. Post links to them.
Submit your site to the thousands of specialty search engines and directories where your site may be relevant and might get into.
Submit to as many as themed directories as possible.
Another way of getting a link from the top sites is to post an article in their ezine or content library section. Include a link to your site link and an attractive description in the signature of your article. This gives the site owner something that constitutes real value to the content of their web site. You also reach the audience of that web site in a way that is something more than a link request.
Write articles that are related to the keywords you want to be searched for and market those articles to online content providers. Do not forget to include your signature and a link to your site along with a optimized title and description of your site.
Start an awards program. This is one of the most successful ways to boost link popularity. The award is an image file that links back to your site and recognizes the site as the winner of your award program. This gives a strong incentive to the site that wins. The benefit is that another recognized site recognizes this site as a quality site.
Participate in many award programs which are conducted on others site. If you win, the award site will link to your site as a bonus. And you get to place that award on the site which in turn will increase your credibility.
Offer a small discount if a client agrees to link to your site from his site. This is probably not the most effective method but every small link helps.
Create a discussion board. Ask sites, which are related to the same keyphrase, to link to it.
Sometimes write a testimonial of a web site. Ask the site owner to post it in their site in exchange for a link to your site. But remember to write a testimonial to a worthy site only.
Ask for testimonials from other web sites. Remind him that you will also place a link to their site under their testimonial if they're willing to reciprocate.
Remind every web site that is related to you to link to your site. They can be the partners, resellers, etc.
Submit your site to all online industry and general business directories, yellow pages, white pages that you can find.
Submit your site to an appropriate category of About.com. The quality links within About.com will help to boost your link popularity.
You can submit links to your newsletter to online directories that is reserved exclusively for newsletters.
Most of the time, your direct competitors will not link to you. In such cases, brainstorm fields that are related to keywords but are not your competition. If yours is a shoe company, exchange links with associations connected with leather industry. You may earn a link from related publications or news sites.
A very effective way to earn good links is to authorize content from your site in exchange for a link back to you.
If you can, offer something for free, probably a useful script or a software program, or a downloadable report, and ask for a link back to your site. This works because you're giving something useful, and it is likely that they will reciprocate.
Make it easy for people to link back to your site. Make the html code that will create the link available to the visitors, so that they can copy and insert into their own web pages.
Dont's of link building strategies
There are certain things that the search engines considers to be spam, so be cautious not to use those methods even by mistake. Whatever your intentions, if the search engines find you using spam, they may penalize you.
Don't participate in link popularity farms or programs that send out e-mails soliciting people to swap links. They call it link spamming.
Do not make the mistake of placing a link on your own site for the sole purpose of trading links.
Do not approach the low quality web sites to link to you, as it will harm your site instead of increasing link popularity. It is advisable to link to high quality sites.
Maintain distance from the sites that are treated as "bad neighborhoods" by the search engines. Do not submit to Free for All sites.
Never send out an automated e-mail to many sites asking for a link. Make your e-mails personalized.
Do not entertain web sites that have their reciprocal link page so deeply buried in the site that a visitor will have difficulty finding it. If you humans face problems finding the links page, so will the spiders.
Inbound & outbounds links
When a web site links to your site, that link is an "inbound link" for your site. When you link to another web site, it is your "outbound link".
The search engines that use link analysis in their ranking algorithm make use of inbound links only. It is not a matter of concern for them whom you are linking to. They do not take into account the outbound links while deciding how your page should rank.
However, Inktomi helps a page with outbound links rank very slightly better, compared to pages without outbound links. Google gives lesser importance to the links from a site with many outbound links than those links from a site with a few outbound links.
Imagine two sites Site A and Site B which are of equal importance before the search engines. Site A links to 2 web sites and Site B links to 200 web sites. In that case getting a link from Site A is of more importance than a link from Site B.
Here's another way to think of it. If a property is divided into two shares, each person the share will receive a greater amount of wealth than if it was divided into two hundred shares.
For this reason a link from the FFA pages or link farms are of no importance. You're having to share whatever importance the page has (and it probably has very little) with many hundreds or sometimes thousands of people.
The common theme
Let's say that John's Shoe Shop web site has a link to Marie's Bakery web site. This will not help John's link popularity for the keyword "shoe shops". But if John's web site could get a link from a news portal related to footwear fashion, that could have helped a lot.
However, if both John's Shoe Shop web site and Marie's Bakery web site are both located in the same city, and people are searching for shoe shops in that city, may have just gone up a little because of the common thread between the sites - their city. It probably won't help for those people simply searching for shoe shops, but may help if they're searching specifically for shoe shops in that city.
A higher quality link for John, however, would be one from a shoe manufacturer that lists shoe shops that can be found on the Internet. That is exactly the kind of link that the search engines would credit toward link analysis. The key is in having that common theme between the linking and linked sites.
The context of a link is given importance in link analysis systems. The text around or on the links is the context of the links. In a link analysis system, the context of the links are examined to decide the relevance of the page which is linked.
If a link says "great shop for shoes" and points to John's shoe shop web site, then the usage of link context would understand that John's web site is relevant to the keyword "shoe shops".
Consider a web page on the news portal related to footwear fashion that has a paragraph which says,
These are great shops for buying shoes of latest fashion:
John's shoe shop
Abc shoe store
Notice how the terms shoes and shops appears near the links to the sites listed. Because of this, both the sites will be treated relevant for the words "shoe shops".
Another web page from a manufacturer of shoes reads:
This is a great shop for quality shoes.
Here, the link leads to John's shoe shop. The text of the alt tag of the link contains the words shop and shoes, so John's site will be treated as relevant for those words.
Link quality and authority
Search engines give a page more points in the link analysis system depending upon the number of pages linking to it. Suppose there are two pages. one page has got two inbound links and the other page has got ten inbound links. The second page will be deemed to be more important as it has got more inbound links than the former one. The second page is sometimes described as the "authority" page as more pages are pointing to it.
Also, as the second page is more authoritative, it is able to transmit that importance along its outbound links. An outbound link from the second page will be deemed more important than an outbound link from the first page. However, please remember this will happen only when both the pages have equal number of outbound links, as an increased number of outbound links will lead to their importance getting divided.
Each search engine has got its own way to measure link quality. The main points remain the same. All links are not equal. A few links from important web pages is of more use than links from hundreds of low quality web sites. If a web master is using link spamming, he is taking the risk of getting banned from the search engine's indexes any moment.
Final analysis of the links
Link analysis makes use of both link quality and context. Please remember that though all major search engines make use of link popularity in their ranking algorithm, they do not depend on it entirely. They still use on-the-page factors in their algorithm. So, to achieve a high ranking, you have to optimize your web pages for the keywords related to your business as well as has to build a high link analysis score.
Content is again The King
The most interesting thing is that if your site is well written and provides a lot of useful information, you won't have to ask for links at all. If yours is a content rich site, other sites will link to yours of their own wish.
How to find those good links
How will you find good web pages that share similar context and that are deemed as high quality pages?
Who knows better than anyone else what the search engines consider to be important pages, than the search engines themselves. Use them.
Visit any major search engine and search for the most important keywords, for which you want to be found for. The sites listed in the first two or three pages are the web sites which the search engines themselves feel to be the most relevant to the keywords, and the most popular ones too. Also, as these pages are top ranked, then they receive many visitors. So, if you can make them link to you, you not only increase your popularity but also get the chance of drawing some of the visitors that they receive, into your site.
Now contact the site owners of those sites and request them to link to you.
Where to place your links
Every page you come across in the attempt to build link popularity, may not have an appropriate place to place link to your site.
If they do not have, you have to make out something out of the existing sections. You have to visit the homepage of those sites and follow the links from it in order to find the place where you will request the site owner to place your link. Sections which say "Resources", "Links", "Related links" etc. are good places to place your link.
It would have been more useful for you to get linked from the original page since, that's the place most visitors from the search engines will come to. That page would have provided you more link importance than these other pages. But these pages also have got some degree of importance as the search engines makes use of internal linkage.
Suppose you are an SEO company. You visit another web site which is also in some way related to SEO. You find that in their related links page, there is no section in which you can put a link to your homepage (assuming that your homepage is stuffed with your service/product information or is a marketing copy of your services). They have separate sections on popular SEO newsletters, message boards, a section on useful articles. In such a situation, if you have a newsletter, you can request a link from that section to your newsletter page. Or, you could request a link from the articles section to your article page. Though you could not manage to request a link to your homepage, but a link to your internal pages also might help.
Your goal should be to build links to one particular web page. But it's still useful to get links to any part of your site. These might help draw visitors, also you might find that some internal pages of your site start to rank well for certain terms.
Link Exchange Directories and WhatEver Works
Some sites have had sucess by participating in or using one of the following programs. I do not recommend that you join any of these programs, I just want to give an idea of the legimate programs that I have seen people using and being successful. A word of caution when using these programs, a single bad link from your site to a site that is black listed can kill you. Carefully moniter the PR of the sites that you are linking to and if any of them are banned (get a PR0) remove their link from your site !
- LinkPartners.com : A Themed Directory of websites willing to exchange links. You can search their directory freely but you should have a link back to them if you want them to list your site for free. The real power of their free service becomes visible when you couple their directory with their parent site linksmanager.com
- LinksManager.com - this service is 19.95 $ a month with the first month free but they have a restriction of a maximum 250 link swaps for free members. Their service is very powerful including auto emailing, reciprocal link checking and ftp upload of linked pages. All aspects are customisable and they have neat features. Coupled with LinkPartners.com it becomes even more powerful, Just click a Button on the LinkPartner results and the site gets automatically added to your linksManager pages and request email to the webmaster is automatically sent.
- Arelis - This is a software that runs on your computer and gets trained to spider the internet searching for linkpartners that have a theme similar to your site. It helps to get started of building a links directory of themed websites.
- Bulk Link Exchanges - Some corporations run several websites and you can obtain a link from all their sites by linking to all of their sites. SEOs and Website Designers can help all their clients by undertaking links exchanges for all of them. Some examples of bulk exchanges can be found at Travel1, Travel2, Links.
How to request a link
After you have figured out the appropriate place the next thing you have to find out the contact information of the person who handles link requests.
How do you find the contact information of that person? Sometimes, it is provided in the sections where links can be placed. If unavailable, check out the 'contact us' or the 'about us' page. Now you have the contact information of the people associated with this web site. Your should send your link request to the most appropriate person. If there is only one email address, you do not have any other way but to use that. But if the contact information of more than one person is available, e.g. an email address for their editorial staff, their technical staff and their advertising staff, then for a link request, it is the editorial staff you should contact. Emailing the technical staff might cause your link request to be ignored.
Make the process of linking to you as easy as possible for them. Within your email, provide the code for linking so that he can just cut and paste the code into his web page. Also provide a title and description for your web site along with the url. Do not forget to optimize the description with your most important keywords to help influence link context factor. Mostly they will take it the way you have given them, if you do not use marketing statements within your description.
Provide them the exact url of their site where you would want your site to be linked. Remember that the site owner will only link to you if he feels it will benefit his site and the site's visitors. Provide the exact reason for which your site should be there. This will save them time and make it easier for them to decide about your request. If you have a reciprocal links page, add a link to their site and tell them that you've added their site details in your web site. If you have not created a reciprocal link page yet, create one now!
In case you have made a request and your first attempt to get a link is unsuccessful, you need to follow up at least once more. Wait for sometime before you followup, such as three or four weeks. The follow up should be very polite. Ask again whether a link request will be considered and provide them with the information you had provided earlier. However, be sure that the follow-up doesn't turn into annoyance. Keep your follow up requests spaced well apart. Also, be sure to note the dates of when you send messages.
A few more words of concern
The search engines run link analysis on per url basis. Each url of your site has got its own popularity score in a link analysis system. This makes it important to build links to only one page, as much as possible. This way you can use all your inbound links to build that page into an authority. When we say link analysis is on a per url basis, we means exact urls. Each exact url will have its own link popularity.
Sometimes, the same page can be reached via more than one url. e.g. the homepage of this site can be reached via the following urls:
Though all these four urls finally take you to the same page, i.e. the homepage, but they will be deemed as four completely different pages in link analysis systems.
Assuming that there are four web site who have agreed to link to us. Each of them links to one of the different urls, instead of linking to any one of the urls. Then all the urls have a link popularity value of 1. When any of these url are competing with our competitors who have more link popularity than one, we will lose before them. Instead, if we had concentrated on just one of the urls, say http://biz-whiz.com, our link popularity would have increased four times.
However, you do not have much control over which pages will people link to. They can link to any part of it. The only thing you can do about it is to use any one of these urls in your link requests. We see no use for the www in our link and always request webmasters to remove it in their links if they include it.
Another important aspect to consider with your incomming links is the keywords used in the links. The words used in the link establishes the theme of your site, when people search for those specific keywords, you site has a better chance of showing in the results if the incomming links to you contain the same keywords. For example, I always insist that my link partners use the keywords work from home when linking to me as those are the keywords that I am targeting.
If you want to get something, many times you also have to give something in return. If you are going to ask for links, you have to give links. So, if you do not have a reciprocal links page yet, create one. You can name it as 'related links', 'resources' etc. However, if you link to quality sites of your related keywords, you might actually turn your links page into a destination.
Another advantage of having a reciprocal links page is that, assuming that you have already told the contact web master that their site has been added to your own links page, there is a good chance they might feel guilty if they do not link back. This will make the web master take your request more seriously.
Link spamming is the technique of artificially increasing the link popularity of a web site in order to influence its ranking in the search engines.
As soon as the search engines include a new system in their ranking algorithm in order produce the most relevant and high quality content and eliminate the low quality web pages, energetic webmasters try to invent tricks to spam those algorithm. But the search engines which use link analysis systems have proven fairly resilient to these attacks. Some common techniques used by the web masters are described below.
Posting messages to various message boards and guest books is a very common practice that a web master implements. They visit hundreds of them and post messages with links to their sites. But search engines are easily able to detect this sort of spam.
Though the definition of link popularity says that it is the number of web sites linking to a web site that is important, yet it is not the number or quality of link that matters. Quality of the links means the context of the links as well the quality of the linking sites. However, it is very difficult to artificially get quality links.
Another common method by which spammers try to influence the link popularity of web sites is by joining link farms. A link farm is a network of web pages, which are heavily cross-linked with each other. These web pages may be present in one or more than one domain or in more than one server. In order to influence the link popularity, when a web site joins such link farms, it gets a link from each of these pages and in turn it also has to link back to each of those pages. But search engines can detect the link farms as well as the web sites participating in the link farms very easily. If you plan to participate in a link farm, remember you are inviting chances of getting banned from the search engine index.
Disadvantages of the link analysis system
In a pure link analysis system, new sites will find it very difficult to rank well in the search results. This will happen even if it has the deepest and highest quality content than any of its competitors. The only links it can be assured of are the ones it pays for or the ones in the major directories e.g. Yahoo!, LookSmart, NBCi, Inktomi or ODP. The rest it has to make happen. This proves why links are both a weak metric to use as an indicator of quality of a page and why they prejudice against new sites.
Another disadvantage of the link analysis system is that most search engines index only web pages in the top two levels of your site, as the search engine spiders have difficulty reading deep level web pages.
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