Posted on Oct. 8, 2007
By now, we all know there’s a lot that goes into achieving high organic search engine rankings. In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of “SEO,” it refers to the art of modifying a web site’s properties in order for that site to appear in the top search engine results on Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN, for example.
Think of the search engine optimization (SEO) process as a puzzle made up of three distinct types of pieces: code, content, and last but definitely not least, incoming links. You need to put all the pieces together to see results; if you focus too much on one single aspect of SEO, you’ll have a third of the visibility and you’ll still be missing the rest of the pieces.
In this article, I’m going to talk specifically about link building, and how this tactic is a critical component to successful search engine optimization. For those unfamiliar with this tactic, link building is the process by which you get incoming links to a website. Link Building is initiated to get incoming links to a website from other websites. The whole purpose behind link building is to improve the link popularity of a website, or to improve the number of incoming links to a website.
The reason link building is so important to high organic positioning is that all the major search engines use link related variables in their ranking algorithms, the complex equations that evaluate a site on a myriad of factors and then use this data to determine which sites appear where on the results pages.
So what incoming link related variables do the search engine algorithms consider?
– Number of Links
- Quality/Origin of Links
- Relevance of Links
- Anchor Text Within Links
- Links Must Present Value to Users
Confused? Let me explain. Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask all consider the number, quality, and relevance of incoming links to your site when determining its rank. (Incoming links are those links that point to your web site). Google has a system called PageRank, and the other engines operate within similar frameworks. Google has stated, “PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual pages 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.’”
Thus, the sites with the most links, or votes, must naturally be the best pages for the information being searched for. Think of it as a digital form of never-ending natural selection; the sites with the best content are linked to more often, boosting their search engine positioning, which in turn, makes them more visible to searchers who will continue linking to them more often.
So, two sites that are both about web design are differentiated by the number of incoming links they’ve obtained. If site A has 135 incoming links, and site B only has three, site A will dominate site B in the search engine results. Yet not every link helps. Click here to read about link building strategies to avoid.
As you’ve read, links are an important aspect of SEO. But not just any links. In fact, the wrong links can hurt you, badly. At this point, I’ll now turn my attention to the quality and relevance of these links, in the process explaining why not every link is a good one, and how some can do far more harm than good.
As mentioned earlier, your links need to be from quality sites that share some degree of relevancy with yours. The major engines are all conscious of the origin of these links, and lately, they’ve been known to penalize sites that build massive networks of irrelevant links. This penalization stems from something known as link farms, which were created in the late 1990s for SEO purposes. Link farms would sell links to sites, but none of these links presented any real value to users. Now the major engines evaluate a site not only the number of links, but the quality, relevance and origin of these links. For example, a site supporting content about garages would be a great linking opportunity for a auto parts site, while a cat food site would most likely incur a penalty.
Lastly, the anchor text of your incoming links needs to be optimized in order for the search engines to know what kind of site this link directs a user to. Anchor text is the colored or underlined text that indicates the existence of a link.
For example, if you own a Japanese sushi restaurant in Denver, you don’t want links that point to your site to say something vague like “Denver restaurant.” While this is true, it won’t help you get ranked for the keyphrase you want to be ranked for.
Instead, have your links’ anchor text say “Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Restaurant in Denver.” Not only is this more specific and better for users, it allows the search engines to better determine the relationship between the content of your site and the links that point to it. After all, the strength of this relationship is surely one of the most important factors in achieving high organic positioning.
So now that you know what kind of links you need to acquire to achieve high organic search positioning, where do you start? Unfortunately, that’s a topic for another blog, but if you click here you can see how to acquire the links that will make a difference.
On a final note, remember to follow the philosophy of utility when conducting any link building campaign: Present users with links that connect them to useful, relevant information, and the search engines will reward you with high organic rankings.