Link Popularity - Does It Really Matter?
Link Popularity is becoming a very popular subject these days. What is it? How does it affect one's web site rankings?
Link Popularity Defined
Link Popularity is a score that can be given to a web site based on how many external and internal links are pointing or linking to any particular web page or URL. External links would include those that come from any other web site other than your own whereas internal links would be those that come from within the same domain name. Link Popularity is also based not only on the "quantity" of links but the "quality" of those links as well. Therefore to have a good Link Popularity score, it is not necessarily required to have a large number of links pointing to your site but rather a good number of quality links.
What Defines a Quality Link
In measuring Link Popularity, search engines have decided that the more people who link to any particular site, the more popular it must be. It is almost as if they are voting in favor of that site. On the other hand, few people will link to a poor site. Therefore in attempting to rank sites according to relevancy, not only are title tags, meta tags, actual content on a page, etc., etc., taken into consideration, but a search engine will measure Link Popularity or in other words try to determine how people have voted for a site.
What would determine a quality link or vote then? A quality link would be either from a site that already has a good Link Popularity score or a site that is related to your own in some way. For instance, a link from Yahoo, Open Directory or Looksmart would constitute a very high quality link because these sites are extremely popular and many people have already linked to them. Secondly, if you have a site about bass fishing and another site about bass fishing or even fishing in general links to your site, that would constitute a quality link.
By being able to either score a link based upon a linking site's popularity or related subject matter, search engines have thwarted the efforts of those who would try to abuse the Link Popularity system by participating in link farms, FFA (free for all) sites and the like. It is actually a very clever way to produce relevant results to a search audience because a.) they are presenting pages that have relevant content to what one was searching for and b.) people have voted in favor of it.
How To Measure My Link Popularity
How can you measure your own Link Popularity you might wonder. The best way is to download the Google Toolbar. This is an awesome addition to your browser which sits just below your URL address bar. It has many functions, the best of which is a PageRank scoring indicator. With this meter-like display, you can actually see how Google has scored any particular web page. Google will score it on a 1-10 level with 10 being the highest. The toolbar also has a "Backwards Links" function. Click on this when viewing any web page and Google will show you all the links pointing to it, both internal and external. Why is Google's scoring of your site important? Because Google is the pioneer of taking a site's Link Popularity into consideration when scoring relevancy and now many other search engines are following their lead. It is one of the reasons why Google is able to present such relevant search results.
There are other tools out there that allow you to check your links on other sites. Two such tools can be found at http://www.ineedhits.com/free/popularity/ or http://www.linkpopularitycheck.com/. Type in the URL you wish to check and these tools will check multiple sites for you.Z
Building Link Popularity
Ensuring you have a good Link Popularity score can be a tedious and ongoing project but most certainly can and should be done. First and foremost you should make sure your site is listed in all the major directories such as Yahoo, Open Directory, Looksmart and even Business.com. Links from these top directories will increase your Link Popularity score tremendously because they already have a great Link Popularity score themselves.
Secondly you should make sure your own site is inter-linked well. Each one of your pages should support a navigational structure whereby you can access all of your sub pages or at least the main sub sections of your site. Also make sure all of your sub pages have a link that points back to your home page. Basically this means all of the pages in your web site are linking to one another. This is not only important for Link Popularity purposes but so that your site presents an easy-to-use experience for the end user as well.
Thirdly, seek out links from similar non-competing sites. Industry related directories or portals are great sites to get links from. This can be a tenacious project but well worthwhile.
Finally, have great content! It can be assumed that if you have a great site that offers valuable content that people will naturally link to it. We own and operate such a site. It is called The Jesus Site and is a Christian resource site for sermon and study material as well as containing a variety of other useful information. We find that without any effort whatsoever on our part, people will link to it just because they find it resourceful. People will automatically link to yours as well if they find it a useful and enjoyable site. "But my site does not have a lot of good content," you say. Then fix it! Not only will you increase your Link Popularity by having good useful content, you will also create a positive user experience and if you are selling or promoting a product or service, will naturally generate more sales leads. We are always amazed here at SearchRank how many people initially call or email and are already "sold" on us because they have visited our site, read through all of the content we offer and were able to make a decision.
How Much "Link Popularity" Do I Need?
One might begin to inquire as to how many links pointing to their site they actually need to rise to the top of the search engines. The answer to that is fairly simple - just a little more than your competition. If you are in a highly competitive business such as telecom, you are going to need a good level of high quality links pointing at your site to come out on top. On the other hand if you are landscaper baser in Arizona, then you have a lot less competition and therefore will not need as many links pointing to your site. All you need is a little more and a little better quality links than your competition and you have a good chance to come out on top. This of course does not negate the responsibility to have good content and to make sure your site is optimized well to reflect your relevant keywords. A site that has great content, is properly optimized but doesn't have great Link Popularity can still beat out a site that maybe has better Link Popularity but poor content and optimization. The two go hand in hand.
Article written by David Wallace (May 2002; updated August 2003)
About the Author:
David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm providing keyword analysis, organic search engine optimization, link popularity enhancement, pay per click management, search engine friendly web design and ongoing campaign maintenance.