External Links (Links coming from other sites) was (*and still probably is) one of the major contributor of any Search Engine Optimization effort. Obviously links alone can’t help you to rank well in the Search Engines, but they do play a “major” role to push your ranking up to the top.
What is Link Building?
Link Building is basically the process of getting quality Web sites to link to your Web site, in order to improve search engine rankings.
Why is Link Building Important?
Link building is absolutely essential for your SEO campaigns because currently majority of the search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo etc.) uses link popularity as a metric to judge the quality of your website. An incoming link from a 3rd Party site works like a “vote” or “recommendation” towards your site. So say if 500 people are linking to you from their websites, you can look at it as — 500 people has recommended your site.
Are All Links Treated Equally?
This is a very common question among the Webmasters. Well, The answer is “No”. Each website has their own “reputation profile” that enables them recommend other websites. Now when a high profile website links to you, their link value is much higher compared to a low profile website who is probably new in the market and doesn’t have any reputation to spare for you. A perfect example of this would be, Suppose if CNN links to your website, that particular link would be more trusted and will be more valued by the search engines due to the fact that CNN is a authoritative website and their news/stories are trusted by everyone. So if CNN links to you it gives an indication to the Search Engine that your website is also of high quality and value.
Which Sites are Worth Getting a Link From?
CNN is not the only authoritative site on the Internet, the above was just an example. There are thousands of other quality sites that have high authority. Now you may ask – “How do I determine the quality of the site”. Well below are some of the easy metrics that you can use to determine a site’s quality:
- Age of the Website: The older it is, the better. Old sites are likely to be more Trusted by the Engines.
- Page Rank: Even though I pay very little attention to this myself, But it is some what a good metric to determine the quality of the site. The only Page Rank that is visible to public is the Google Toolbar PR. Its a number between 0 to 10 where 10 denotes the highest quality and 0 denotes the lowest. The Toolbar Page Rank is updated every 3-4 months and its just a partial representation of the Actual Page Rank (an proprietary algorithm of Google to determine a site’s quality & rank them accordingly).
- No. of Pages Indexed : This is another metric that I like to use to determine whether the site has a good search engine presence. If a site has thousands of pages indexed in Google, its an indication that the site has been in business for a long time and it some what trusted by Google. To find out how many pages are indexed, simply go to Google Search and type the following command – site:www.domain.com. This should show you all the pages of domain.com indexed in Google.
- No. of Incoming Links : Since “authority” & “trust” flows from one domain to another via links, its important to see who is linking to the domain that you are testing for authority. There are many tools out there that can help you to check the link profile of any domain. e.g. Yahoo Site Explorer, Backlink Watch etc. The easiest way would be to type link:http://www.domainname.com in Google or Yahoo and it will show you a list of websites that are linking to that domain. Do note that Google often shows a lot less links compared to Yahoo. So if the site has a lot of good quality incoming links, then its likely that a link from that site will give your website a lot value.
- Traffic: Traffic is often a good determinant of a quality website. To check how much traffic a site gets, you can use tools such as: Google Trends for Websites, Compete, Quancast, Alexa and so on. Remember, these tools are not 100% accurate and may not display the traffic information of all domains. (Websites below a certain traffic threshold is not being monitored by these services.)
- Others: There are many automated applications out there that can help you to determine a site’s quality/authority on the web. E.g- SEOmoz Trifecta Tool.
How Do I Get These Links?
There are basically two types of link building, the first type is Organic (a.k.a Natural Linkbuilding) & the other type is “Artificial Linkbuilding”.