By Phil Craven
A wander around the various search engine optimization forums reveals that people are divided into two groups as to how search engines rank web pages. One group insists that “content is king”, and the other insists that “link text is king”. The ‘content’ group recommend adding good quality, on-topic, optimized, content pages to the site and the rankings will come. The ‘link text’ group recommend adding links to pages, with the targeted search terms in the link text, and the rankings will come.
So which group is right?
Certainly, the ‘content’ people are right in that good quality, optimized, content pages will get some top rankings, but only if the targeted search terms are not being competed over very much.
Page content is what search engines ranked pages on in the old days, and they still do to some extent. But that began to change when a couple of engines introduced “link popularity” (linkpop) into the equation. The more links that a page had pointing to it, the better it did in the rankings. Even so, content was still the king.
Then along came Google with a new idea. Instead of using links to a page as simply an additional ranking factor, they based their whole engine on them, to the extent that they called their engine a “Hypertextual Web Search Engine” – “hyper” as in hyperlink (clickable link), and “textual” as in the link text that is clicked on. The Google search engine was, and is, based on links and link text (sometimes called “anchor text”). Google’s idea was that a link from one page to another page is a vote by one page for the other page, thus making the recipient page more important. They also decided that the clickable link text is likely to provide an honest and condensed idea of what the recipient page is about.
With their new idea, the relevancy of Google’s search results far surpassed that of the other engines, and Google grew to become the #-1 search engine of them all. The other engines had no choice but to follow suit. Page content still plays a part in the rankings, but the biggest single ranking factor of all is link text. Links to a page, with targeted link text, can push the page to the top of the rankings. As an example, type “miserable failure” (without quotes) into Google and look at the #-1 result.
An even better example is a search on Google for “computers” (without quotes). Look at the source code of the #2 result (Apple). The word “computers” doesn’t appear anywhere in the page, and yet “computers” is a very competitive search term. Google’s cache of the page states that “These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: computers”. It is the link text in the links pointing to that page that has pushed it into the #2 position for a very competitive search term.
Those are examples of the ranking power of link text. The reason it happens is that Google stores each word on a page in what they call “barrels”. But they have two groups of barrels. The small group contains words that occured in URLs, Titles, and link text. The large group of barrels contains words that occured anywhere. When processing a search query, the Google engine first tries to find enough results (about 40,000) from the small group of barrels that contains link text words. If they can compile enough results from there, they don’t even look in the group that contains the rest of the words on a page. The group of word barrels that contain link text is the first place that Google looks for results to a search query. That’s why link text is such a powerful ranking factor, and it’s why link text alone can push the recipient page to the top of the rankings for competitive search terms.
Do All Links Count?
There is some discussion around the seo forums as to whether or not some links count less than others. One idea is that multiple links from the same site, whether internal or from external sites, are devalued. Another idea is that internal links count less than external links. There may be some truth in the ideas, but they are just ideas and nobody outside Google really knows, so it is best to assume that all links to a page count.
Acquiring links can be time-consuming and tedious. There are a number of ways to get them, some being easier than others. Wherever you get them, make sure that their link text is the search term that you are targeting, and that each link points to the page you are promoting for the particular search term. Pointing all the links to your home page, with various target search terms, won’t achieve the same as pointing targeted links at specific pages within the site.
Join forums and place links to your site(s) in your signature line. Use your main search terms as the link text. But before spending time writing lots of posts with your signature line in each post, make sure that the forum is spiderable by checking the robots.txt file, and make sure that non-members don’t have session IDs in the URLs (some engines won’t spider URLs with session IDs in them). Also make sure that links in signature lines are not hidden from spiders (view the source code to make sure that signature links are in plain HTML and point directly to the site).
Link Exchange Centers
Find and join frëe link exchange centers like LinkPartners.com. There you can find a categorized directory of websites that also want to exchange links. Be careful not to sign up with FFA (Free-For-All) sites because they are mostly email address gatherers and you can expect a sudden increase in email sp@m soon after you sign up. Also, only sign up with centers where you can approach other sites personally, and where they can approach you personally.
Do not join any link farms!! Link farms, such as LinksToYou.com, sound excellent, but search engines (Google in particular) disapprove of them as blatant attempts to manipulate the rankings and they will penalize sites that use them. Once a site has been penalized, it is very difficult to get the penalty lifted, so avoid all link farms.
(a) Search on Google for your main search terms and find the websites that are competing with you. Then find which sites link to them by searching “link:www.competitor-domain.com”. Email them and ask for a link exchange.
(b) Search on Google for websites that are related to your site’s topic, but not direct competitors, and ask them for a link exchange.
There are websites that want to sell links, and often the link will be placed on multiple pages, or all pages within the site. It’s possible to approach individual sites where you would like your links to appear, but it is much quicker, easier and more reliable to use a middle-man service (or broker).
Link brokers offer links for sale on behalf of other websites (you could use the service to sell links on your site!). With these services, it is usual to be able to choose the topic of the website(s) where you want to place your links. One such reputable broker is TextLinkBrokerage.com.
There are even links for sale by public auction, such as the one at LinkAdage Auctions.
Inbound links are important for websites that want to move up the rankings. Inbound links, with the right link text, are essential for achieving top rankings when there is any competition for the search terms.
Most websites do not naturally attract links, and link acquisition can be time-consuming, tedious, and frustrating. Many websites that are approached by email will say no, but some will say yes. For top rankings, it is a almost essential to take the time and get many inbound links. It should be treated as an ongoing task.
About The AuthorPhil Craven is a well-known SEO and author of many widely read search engine optimization articles. His top-ranked Seo Forum, helps many novices and webmasters to learn and improve their search engine optimization skills.
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