Over 80 % of site traffic is generated through search engines. Of the search engines, no-one is bigger than Google – who hold over 50% of
the market. It is obvious why companies are going to huge effort to increase their position in Google’s listings.
In days gone by, search engine optimisation was all about hidden keywords and the density of certain words on your page. While these things “referred to as on-page factors” can still influence your position, of far more importance is “off-page factors” or link popularity.
Link popularity is the word for the number of sites linking to yours. Google uses this as a measure of how important your site is. As a quick
test you can log into Google and put the words link:[your site here] and it will list some of the sites linking to yours (not it doesn’t list all of them).
If you want to increase your position in Google you need to increase the amount of sites linking to yours. Some websites have thousands or even millions of sites linking to them, while others might have only a few. However it is the people competing for your particular keywords that you need to beat. Obviously some terms are more competitive than others.
The actual number of links to your site is not the only variable used to calculate your link popularity. The search engines also examine the
relevance of the links to the subject matter of your site. For example, if a website that sells vitamins has 4,000 inbound links, but the source of most of the links are websites that have nothing to do with vitamins, then the algorithm that search engines use to determine link popularity will take that into account, and the link popularity score will not be very good.
Quality not Quantity
It is possible for a website with a relatively small number of quality inbound links to be ranked higher than a site with a bunch of irrelevant or insignificant links. This is because Google will consider the relevance of the site to yours. For example Google will give a higher score to a link if it comes from a page that has actual content that relates to your keywords.If I have a website that offers vitamins, and I have 800 quality inbound links from vendors, suppliers, customers, competitors, associations, news sources etc, then I might receive a much higher search engine ranking than another vitamin site that has 3,000 links that stem from link farms or Free For All (FFA) pages.
Don’t forget Anchor Text
Also, they give an even higher score to a link if it contains anchor text that matches one of the keywords that describes your site. For example, if I have a site that sells lawnmowers, and a blog about lawnmowers has posted a link to my site, it helps my score even more if the link text (also known as anchor text) is “lawnmowers”.
Keyword variety counts
Another factor used by Google to score your link popularity is the diversity of keywords contained on sites linking to you. For example, if you have a site that sells handbags, and all the links to your site are from other sites that contain nothing but the keyword “handbags”, Google considers that to be abnormal. To get a higher score, you need to have links coming from sites that contain a variety of keywords related to handbags, such as “buy handbags”, “leather handbags”, etc.
It is difficult to increase your link popularity, but now that you understand how your score is calculated, you can devise a plan to improve your score. With this knowledge you can now get to work at having other site’s linking to yours, being sure to focus on getting the right sites to link to yours and use relevant and varied keywords.
Written by Dan Norris, Director of Gold Coast Web Design agency Web Circle on 25 March 2008.