Thursday, November 8, 2007
Inbound Links Part 1: The Factors
But building links is tough. In today's competitive market, you have to do something to get your site noticed. Once your site has been noticed, judgment will be made by the court of public opinion. If your site gives visitors something they find valuable, they will tell people and, occasionally, link to your site.
When it comes to inbound links, there are five main factors:
Anchor text is the actual words that make up the link. These words are very important. They should relate to your web site and, most important, should vary. A lot of links with the same anchor text gives them the appearance of not being natural links, but rather links that have been purchased, swapped for, or automatically generated.
To keep search engines from mistakenly (or correctly) classifying your inbound links as not natural, use as much variation as possible in the anchor text of those links. When a thousand inbound links to your site show up, all with the anchor text of "buy widgets here", it's pretty apparent to the search engines that these links aren't natural.
When I do link building by commissioning blog posts, my preference is to not make any anchor text recommendations at all. I like the blogger to check out my site and come up with his or her own anchor text. In cases where the blogger is insistent that I proved anchor text, I provide a list for him or her to choose from instead of giving the same links every time.
Where a link originates from is very important. A link from a popular, well-trafficked site that's been online for years and already ranks well in the search engines is worth a lot more than a link from your friend's new blog. A few 'quality' links will do a lot more for your rank than a bunch of links from newer, less established sites.
PageRank is factor link builders use to determine the 'quality' of a site. Other things to look at are how long has the site been around, how many pages does it have indexed, and how much traffic it gets.
Link volume is the number of inbound links. Generally, the more inbound links a site has, the more important it's determined to be, as long as it doesn't run afoul of the two factors mentioned above.
Time to Appear
There's discussion among webmaster about whether or not how quickly links appear is considered. If a few thousands back links to your site appear all of a sudden, all with the same or close to the same anchor text, it will probably send up a red flag.
Other factors come into play here as well: is it just a link? What's the content around the link? What the quality of the site it appeared on? How does the theme of the site it appeared on related to your site? Did the links show up all in a clump (over a day or two) and then nothing? These are all reasons why you have to be careful with any sort of automated link building approach because natural links tend to build up over time and typically don't come all at once.
How long a link has been around is also a factor. Links that are only there for a month or two will probably not help when it comes to enhancing your site's search engine position.
When most search engines discover a link, they'll keep an eye on it for a while before they give any credit too it. This is specifically to combat link buying, so that you can't buy a link on a highly ranked site and see an immediate result. There's no consensus on how old a link needs to be before it counts, but there is consensus that the longer the link has been there, the more value it has.
It's easy to find discussion on whether or not inbound links can hurt a site's ranking. The generally accepted theory is that they can't, since a web site owner has no control over who links to them. Personally, I'm not so sure. It never hurts to be careful, so before you purchase a link on any site, check the stats on it: Page Rank, Alexa Rank, number of pages indexed in Google, Yahoo and MSN and the number of back links showing in Google, Yahoo and MSN. I recommend staying away from sites that don't have good numbers.
Although ranking sites using inbound links as a factor on the surface seems democratic enough (the web community votes for what it likes by linking too it) it creates a catch 22: if you can't get your site ranked so people can see it then how can they link to it so it can rank?
Enter the process I'll discuss in Part 2, link building.....
Labels: Link Building
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