The Road to Link Popularity

  |  September 26, 2001   |  Comments

More and more search engines are using link popularity as a ranking criterion. How do you determine your link popularity, and what can you do with that information to improve your rankings? Read on.

Author's note: The terrorist attack on New York City and Washington, D.C., was an attack on all of us, including all of the free world. My thoughts and prayers go out to those directly affected, and I feel grateful to all those involved in the rescue efforts and have tremendous respect for the courage and bravery of those first in who saved hundreds of lives. For ways we can get involved, please visit the American Liberty Partnership Web site.

More and more search engines are using link popularity as a ranking criterion. It all started with Google, and now other search engines, such as MSN, Inktomi, AltaVista, HotBot, Northern Light, and Excite, also use link popularity in their algorithms.

Your link popularity is based on the sites linking to your pages. The factors determining link popularity are the quality of sites linked to yours, the relevance of those sites to yours, the quality of the link's text, and in some cases even the number of links (but in most cases it's quality versus quantity).

How do you determine your link popularity, and what can you do with that information to improve your rankings? One way to find your site's link popularity is to download the Google Toolbar.

How It Works

The Google Toolbar, which installs in seconds, helps you find information from anywhere on the Web (at present it runs only on Windows OS and Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher). It appears just below your browser address box and can be used to search the Web from any page. It has a number of features, but the two concerning link popularity are the following:

  • PageRank. You can view Google's ranking of the current page on a scale of 1-10. For instance, Search Engine Watch has a rank of 8, very high, and no wonder... 10,500 sites point to the home page.

  • Page Info. You can access more information about the current page (Cached Snapshot, Similar Pages, and Backward Links). The most important of these is Backward Links. To demonstrate how it works, go to Search Engine Watch. From the Google Toolbar, click on Page Info, then select Backward Links. Google will conduct a backward links search on the site, telling you exactly how many other pages are linked to it. The information is on the blue line above the displayed links: "Searched for pages linking to http://searchenginewatch.com/. Results 1-10 of about 10,500."

Using Link Popularity for Better Rankings

Now that you know how to determine link popularity, you can use the Google Toolbar to see how your competitors rank. Then you try to beat those rankings by getting more links to your site.

Start by referring to your strategic keyword phrases. Let's say you sell antiques, and to get higher search engine rankings for that product page you want to boost link popularity for your Web page regarding your keyword phrase.

Search Google using your best keyword phrases; chances are good that your competitor will come up before you. Click the link to that site, and you'll see a PageRank between 1 and 10 on the Google Toolbar. Check Backward Links, and you'll find out how many sites linked to that site. Sites listed below the number-one listing will have fewer links.

Your job is to get more links than your competitor, increasing the odds of being listed above your competitor.

Getting lots of quality sites linked to yours is more important than lots of ho-hum sites. And remember that link popularity is only one of several criteria considered by search engines when indexing your site. Also important are Web site design (functionality, fast loading, easy navigation, proper link structure, etc.) and search engine optimization (SEO) both for content and for HTML codes (keyword-rich marketing copy, keywords in title, description, meta tags, etc.). Below are a few tips for improving your link popularity.

Tips for Improving Link Popularity

  • Get listed in directories. One of the best ways I know for improving link popularity in search engines is to get listed in the top directories. Start with Open Directory Project, which is free, but also include Yahoo Express and LookSmart Express Submit.

    If your site is relevant to a section in About.com, submit to that network. Search for industry-specific directories and topical search engines in Search Engine Guide's Search Engine Directory, and submit to relevant databases.

  • Build links. Search for the top key phrases you want to be found for, then review the sites that come up. Visit these sites and select those that are noncompetitive. Ask them to exchange links with your site, giving them reasons why your site is valuable and suggesting where a link to you might be appropriate. These are the best sites to be linked to for your search phrases because their high rankings will improve your link popularity, not to mention increase your traffic if their visitors click your link.

  • Redesign your site to promote linkability. Provide quality informational resources and outgoing links on your site, such as links to search engines, news portals, and industry professional organizations. Your outgoing links can be important, too.

  • Start a referral program. One of the best ways to get lots of links (and traffic) is to pay for them by offering a referral or affiliate program. You pay only when sales are made, which means the cost comes from your profits and you get links to your site. This may be easier said than done. Starting an affiliate program takes time, research, and planning; nevertheless, it's a very effective way to improve link popularity if such a program is appropriate for your Web site and products or services.

  • Generate content. Write articles in your area of expertise, post them on your site, and submit them to appropriate publications across the Web.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul J. Bruemmer

Paul J. Bruemmer is CEO of Web-Ignite Corporation, a search engine optimization (SEO) and positioning provider. Founded in 1995, Web-Ignite has helped promote over 15,000 Web sites and was recognized by ICONOCAST as one of the top 10 most reputable SEO firms. Services include optimization, submission, registration, positioning, monitoring, maintenance, paid-inclusion, and paid-placement management for fixed monthly fees. Recent client testimonials report search engine traffic increased from 150 to 500 percent.

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