Thursday, November 29, 2007

Link Popularity and Link Analysis

The majority of the major search engines use link popularity as an important factor in ranking relevancy. As search engines have become more sophisticated, so too has link popularity. Link popularity simply is the number of links from other websites that point to your website. This strategy has gained immense success due to the crawling nature of most search engines. Spiders crawl from link to link and store pages into their database. Link popularity is generally gained through reciprocal linking. Other websites would usually link to your website only if you have a link to their website from yours first. Years ago, the number of websites linking to your site gauged link popularity; little emphasis was placed on the "content relevancy" of the linking site. In an effort to gain more link popularity, "link farms" began sprouting up across the web. For a nominal fee, a website owner could join link farms and enjoy increased link popularity overnight.

Search engines caught onto this tactic and created better tools for detecting legitimate links. Websites that have links from websites with "similar" or "relevant" content score higher, thus earn better placement in search engines.

This being said, you should avoid joining "link farms" because most search engines consider them a form of spam. Many engines will actually penalize sites for maintaining an abundance of links from nonrelated websites. It is more important than ever to develop a solid "link-popularity" strategy. One excellent, although time consuming, method is to simply contact complimentary websites via email or telephone requesting a link exchange with the webmaster. Link analysis is somewhat different than measuring link popularity. While link popularity is generally used to measure the number of pages that link to a particular site, link analysis will go beyond this and analyze the popularity of the pages that link to your pages. In a way, link analysis is a chain analysis system that accords weighting to every page that links to the target site, with weights determined by the popularity of those pages. Search engines use link analysis in their page-ranking algorithm. Search engines also try to determine the context of those links, in other words, how closely those links relate to the search string. For example if the search string was “toys”, and if there were links from other sites that either had the word toys within the link or in close proximity of the link, the ranking algorithm determines that this is a higher priority link and ranks the page, that this is linked to, higher.

Reciprocal Links and Partner Sites

Keywords and AdWords aren’t the only way that search engines score relevancy; links to other similar sites are another important factor. Keywords have been so abused by some webmasters that links are winning much more relevancy points. Google is said to love them. It might sound strange to suggest that your users should check out your competitors, but they probably know about them anyway. If your competitors have a higher ranking than you, linking to them can often give you a higher relevancy score with the search engines and the subsequent increase in traffic will make it worth your while. Alternatively, you can link to your own site by creating a subdirectory. This is like building another web page, but the URL will include your keyword. So if you were selling stuffed toys, the new URL would be YourDomain.com/stuffed-toys/stuffed-toys.html. You
could then write a short paragraph on the home page, describing the new page and including a link. You’ll get big relevancy points for this

Reciprocal Links

Reciprocal linking means forming partnerships with other sites who place a link from their web pages to yours. You give them a similar link in return.

When you look for people to swap links with, make sure that you don’t reduce the quality or content of your own site. You don’t want users to click straight through without reading your content; you want them to buy first. One way to stop them from running away too quickly is to create a “Resources Page” and link to that page from your homepage. This doesn’t take away from the content on your homepage and the links are just one click away rather than being buried deep within the site, giving value to your partners. In any case, you want to be sure that your site is more than just a page full of links. If your site contains more links than content, it will not be attractive to webmasters, search engines or users.