Inbound Links

Sep
2012
29

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What Are Inbound Links?

Inbound links are links coming to your site from another site. In essence they act as “votes” and thus if there are no inbound links then the search engines will assume your website has nothing of value (i.e. nobody has voted for it).

Inbound Links

Is effective SEO (search engine optimization) possible without your website having other websites linking to it? In other words can you achieve high ranking without having inbound links?

No. Period.

Imagine or a moment, you see a web page you like and want to send it to your friends. Unless there is an automated way of sending the link you probably copy and paste the URL into an email message or post it on a social networking site. Once that link is on another website, Facebook for example, it is an inbound link to your site. In other words it’s a “vote” for your website. Using this quick example you can see how important off page SEO is.

What Is Off Page SEO?

Not all links are equal and ranking well for a particular word or phrase is only partially about the “on page” elements of your site. Ever since Google was granted United States Patent: 6285999 on September 4, 2001 for the process commonly known as PageRank the value of having other websites link to you has been the most important factor for ranking.

Google’s PageRank algorithm (along with other associated algorithms) factor in the “value” of a link. What goes on behind the scenes is rather complicated but if you’re feeling up to it have a peek at s more detailed of PageRank:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank

Years ago each link’s value was determined by the amount of PageRank being passed to it. This value was reached by the amount of inbound links coming to the page where the inbound link originates from. Not all this PageRank from the page is passed through the link to your website however. The total amount of PageRank that any single page can pass on is divided between all outbound links leaving the page. Confused? What all that means is that PageRank judges the importance of a web page based on the quantity and quality of its incoming links.

Off Page SEO

However, PageRank alone is not the only factor involved. It is unknown how many different algorithms Google uses or what factors each algorithm uses to rank your site. On page SEO is still a factor but following Google’s Panda update there is a definite downside to doing too much to improve your on page SEO. Over optimization is now a huge concern especially with keyword and anchor text spamming, though paying attention to proper structural elements of your website is still wise. In essence what Google wants to see is a “natural” looking website with natural looking, organic inbound links. Google sees each of these inbound links as a “vote” for your site. Thus the more inbound links you have the more relevant your site is for the given search term or phrase.

Now before you start thinking that to have simply go finding inbound links to your site, remember that not just any link will do. Today’s off page SEO campaign involves finding pages with similar content to yours and having that page link back to you.

Links, Dissected

Not all links are created equally. You can look at each hyperlink as containing elements that combined together determine its value in the eyes of Google:

  • The link’s anchor text or lack thereof.
  • The trust of the domain that the link originates from.
  • The relevance of the content surrounding the link.
  • The placement of the inbound link on its page.
  • The amount of outbound links on the page where the inbound link in question resides.

Links Dissected

Link Anchor Text

A hyperlink’s anchor text is what resides within an < a > tag, for example:

Search Engine Optimization

Link Anchor Text

As you will notice the anchor text is the phrase (or simply and URL) that your see linked on a web page. As Google grew past the reliance on PageRank the value of optimizing anchor text was paramount. Recently however Google, in its desire to rank “natural” pages, has devalued anchor text. More importantly over optimization penalty for anchor text seems to be in place.

Domain Trust

The trust assigned to an inbound link is based on the trust the inbound link’s domain has already received. For example, if a link is coming to one of your pages from a website that in turn has been linked from an authoritative source (i.e. Wikipedia, CNN, etc.) then Google will see this inbound link to you as being more trustworthy.

Content Relevance

Google will assign a higher value to a link coming from a source with relevant content. What Google determines relevant content is simply text that is similar in nature to the text you have. An example of this would be a link coming from Cisco to one of your pages that contain material about Cisco routers or networking in general. Having a link from a page containing celebrity gossip would not be seen as trustworthy. This makes sense given that if a page about brooms is linking to your page about routers Google will judge the inbound link to be of low value. To paraphrase a Google employee, if you’re being set up on a blind date the value of a recommendation is much greater if the recommendation (or inbound link) is from a trusted source.

Content Relevance

Link Placement

As has been mentioned earlier PageRank is an evolutionarily primitive metric for grading links given its purpose was to assign the same initial value to each link on a page and thus pass on identical PageRank. Now the placement of the link, not only within the content, but also on other parts of the page will dictate the link’s value. For example a link that’s contained within the page’s main content is always given priority over a link that’s in the footer or navigation bar.

Link Placement

Outbound Links

One aspect of PageRank that is still used is it’s monitoring of the outbound link count on a page. Since PageRank distributes value equally among all links then the more links a page contains then the lower the value each of those links will receive.

Authority Sites and Their Benefits

Authority is somewhat of a tricky concept since Google (for obvious reasons) does not share the details of its various algorithms or how they are applied. That said there is consensus on what an authority website is. Authority is seen as a measure of a site’s age and the relevance of its content relative to the links it’s receiving. The more links a website has from other sites that share similar content then the more authoritative it is seen for that topic. At times though Google has chosen authority simply by the TLD (top level domain) it’s using such as .gov or .edu. When searching for information regarding government programs .gov pages are delivered and when searching for information on post-secondary institutions .edu results are given. We may never know exactly what all constitutes an authority site but in general they are usually popular, receive inbound links based on merit rather than having to request them, and are linked to from other sites that are considered authorities.

Website Authority

Ever since Google rolled out its “freshness” algorithm called Caffeine web indexing system mid 2010 the value of being an authority site or being linked from an authority site has never been more important. With this update Google is indexing new content in small chunks continuously and devotes 35% of its search results to the most recent information. For example, if you searched for “Olympics” earlier in 2012 results containing information about the London 2012 games were given the top positions rather than showing results containing previous Olympic Games. With this update you will notice that merely being an authority on the Olympics isn’t enough you have to be current. This is important if you have an e-commerce website with a constantly changing product catalog. Being linked to from sites that contain information about your new products will greatly boost your search engine rankings and give you preferential indexing visits from search engines.

With this preferred treatment you will start to rank better for more specific searches such as those that you have not specifically optimized your site for. Examples of this are particular product pages rather than just a product category. Having a web page link back to you that contains relevant text about a product you are offering or a topic you are discussing will then enhance your page’s “reputation” and which will foster long term gains in ranking.

When embarking on a search engine optimization campaign always remember that not only is content King but keeping this content fresh and having the right inbound links is important also. Becoming an authoritative source involves a combination of on page SEO along with most importantly, off page optimization.

If you have found yourself thinking that you have done more than enough with regards to creating your content and optimizing your site you best think again. Search engine optimization involves exhaustive keyword research to make sure you will rank for the widest range of searches along with ensuring these keywords/phrases are found in your content appropriately. With this in mind you do not want to fall victim to an over optimization penalty and we are here to make sure you don’t.

Your content needs to be optimized for not only popular searches but also have variation in semantics so as to appear more natural and rank for a wider range of searches. Always remember, spamming keywords throughout your text is not only terrible for your visitors to read but grammatically incorrect text will throw up a red flag to Google.

2 comments

  1. silver price
  2. bob

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