Link popularity is defined as the number of web sites or web pages pointing to a site. It is a measuring factor used by many search engines in determining the relevancy and popularity of a web page. Google uses link popularity as the single most important factor for a site to achieve top search engine rankings. Content is the next most important factor Google uses to rank a web site.
Role of Link popularity in search engine optimization
In the past, search engines ranked a web page based on the meta content the page offers considering the keywords, key phrases, titles and description tags. The principal factor in rating a web page, were the keywords and key phrases. As time passed, many web sites cleverly utilized this factor by spamming a page with unnecessary and irrelevant keywords and phrases. The search engines faced difficulty in analyzing these spammed and irrelevant pages resulting in improper ranking of these pages. Search engine specialists and research developers after months of thorough study and analysis discovered that a page could be best ranked on the basis of its popularity. The popularity of the website was determined by the number of other websites which had links pointing to the home website. They also considered the popularity of the websites that pointed to the home website. This strategy proved to be effective and paved way to the concept of link popularity. This technique is very safe as it is quite difficult for a website to get into the eyes of many similar websites leading to top search engine rankings. There are no easy means for website owners or spam experts to easily manipulate the pointers to their site in any way and increase their site popularity. Google was the first search engine to implement link popularity as a part of its search engine ranking strategy. Later, almost all the search engines followed suit thus establishing a very strong base for link popularity as a primary decision factor in search engine optimization strategy and achieving top search engine rankings.
How to achieve Link popularity?
We have just seen that Link popularity holds the key in determining and ranking a web page. It is also evident that search engines accord top search engine rankings by looking at the number of sites pointing to it. However it is not simple to achieve link popularity for a site.
Any website links to our site if and only if useful and meaningful content is present thus evoking interest in the visitors mind to introduce a pointer to our website. So, primarily good content is the first and foremost aspect a site should provide in order to increase link popularity. Content always forms a fundamental feature in search engine optimization.
The second aspect is usage of reciprocal links or link exchange programs wherein two website owners include a link pointing to the others. In this way, both the sites are assured of a link from the other side. One can also submit to Free for All Pages (FFA), which automatically ensure links to your site. FFA pages place the site URL in a common page consisting the URLs of many other sites. It is really a painstaking exercise to really submit and monitor FFA pages. Sometimes you would have to submit on a weekly or daily basis and if you are really fortunate enough, all these links stayed tuned to your site for a period of time. Banner Exchanges is another means by which one can achieve pointers to their site. But all these methods are considered as spamming techniques by search engines.
Link popularity is not just a measure the number of links to a site but more than that. The following factors are useful in measuring link popularity.
Number of Links - The more the number of links pointing to our site (Inbound links), the higher the Link popularity is.
Relevance - Link popularity is based on the relevance of the inbound link. The incoming link should share the same subject of that of the current site as search engines detain irrelevant links.
Link text - The text in the links also can affect the ranking of your site. Search engine spiders see if any text in the links pointing to our site is relevant to the context. So if websites use keywords or phrases that coincide with that of our website, there are greater chances of a site achieving top search engine rankings.
Search engines merely do not consider the quantitative aspect of link popularity but also the quality of inbound links. In other words, it is of no use if hundreds of irrelevant links point to your site. Few quality links, which are relevant to the subject and theme, will go a long way in ensuring top search engine rankings.
Search for similar sites, which share the same content that of yours. Study the site and send an email requesting to link back to your site, clearly explaining the purpose of the link and the site. It is a good idea to send the link text that you want to have in the other website including the html code. Recommend including the keywords and phrases in the link text. Also explain where to position the link in their site, whether in the home page or secondary page etc.
Each search engine has a different approach towards implementing link popularity of a site. For instance, one search engine may show that a site has 200 links pointing to it, but another may display only 50 links are pointing to it. A site will get a boost in ranking if the sites linking to it are already indexed by search engines and directories. So, ensure and crosscheck whether the site, which is linking to your site, is submitted to the search engines. All sites linking to your site should be indexed by that particular search engine. Incorporating outbound links to relevant sites may also add to link popularity. Ensure that no dead or broken links exist in your site.
Finally, here is a brief do's and don'ts about how to achieve good link popularity.
- Study the links of your competitors and contact them
- Use quality links, rich with keywords
- Link to relevant sites only
- Place the link in the home page if possible as it boosts your ranking
- Check for broken and dead links
- Ensure that all sites linking to your site are indexed by the search engines
- Submit pages with new links to search engines on a timely basis
- Do not use FFA pages
- Do not use exchange programs
- Do not use banner exchanges
- Avoid using images as links
The reasons being the above factors are considered as spamming techniques and artificial link popularity by popular search engines.
Analyzing the above factors, it is clearly visible how link popularity forms a basis for search engines to rank web pages and the importance of link popularity in formulating an effective search engine optimization strategy.