Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Link Importance

What criteria determine what links can really help you? Here is my understanding of what links matter, in some order of importance....

Weight - Very roughly, the importance of a link is derived by looking at the page and calculating the page's incoming links minus its outgoing links. There are free tools (note tools 5 & 6) that will give you a count of the incoming and outgoing links. Of course, its the Importance (see this article) of the incoming links, not the raw amount that matters. And outgoing links to Junk sites count very negatively whereas links to authority sites actually don't hurt or count positively. Page rank is an extremely rough estimate of incoming links.

The relevance of the page that links to you. After much searching, I've found an article on relevance on Jim Boykin's amazingly informative SEO blog. He has much to teach including the fact that google itself is the Great Free SEO tool. For instance, want to understand google's concept of relevance, do a search on google and then look at the similar pages link that google provides. Puzzle - Is relevance done on a per page or per domain basis?

.edu and .gov sites count more than .coms. They are "trusted" or "authority" sites. And, oddly, outgoing links to them can also help your page. Any articles / sources / or research on this?

Placement on the page. Google prefers in body content links to blatant advertisements. How they determine it is a mystery.

Summary - To understand broadly what google is looking for in terms of distinguishing quality links, put yourself in their shoes....

How would you tell what sites are very popular by looking at links?

Would you allow a page to do well if they had a hundred links but they call come from the same page? No you wouldn't. What if all the links came from the same domain? Again, you would count that as maybe more than one link but not as 100 links if they all came from the same domain? Would you discount the links if they all came from the same hosting company? Or if they all came from articles which all read the same or had identical anchor text? Google has seen all of these patterns and is screening for it so they are not fooled.

They are also screening for suspicious patterns of new links - too many too fast means you are either a hot fad or spending alot on advertising, I'm sure they have an alogrithm for distinguishing between them.

Google is screening for common ownership of sites in different domains. (again, see Jim Boykins' blog).

My assumption is that google is smarter than me and has systems in place or coming online to spot any short cuts I take to getting popular. I need to build links as organically as possible and any short-cuts that I take, I do at my own risk.

Google is actually pretty open about their plan. Its in their patent filings. Read all about it.

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