Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A simple guide to website ranking with links

One of the key factors influencing how your site is indexed, and ranked, in the search engines is that of inbound links.

These are hyperlinks to pages on your site from other sites on the web. The basic theory is that the more links you have, the higher the value of your own site. Why? Because the search engines will assume that, if all those other people think your site is interesting enough to link to, then it must be important.

That was the premise a few years back, but sadly that assumption was abused by the darker side of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). They set up thousands of sites that were just 'Link Farms'. Pages and pages of listings with links to other sites. The more links you had on these sites, the better value you appeared to have, thus skewing the listing results.

Google got smart to this idea and, in an attempt to reduce the effect, they introduced a system of ranking each page it indexed. It's ranking process included a host of factors but was mainly designed to weed out the Link Farms. In fact sites that were/are still found to be listed on these sites are often penalised heavily and their own indexing can be severely impaired making it difficult to appear in any of the results listings.

So let's go back to the beginning. Inbound links are important, but they have to be carefully chosen and prepared links.

Here are the three key factors you should consider:

1: What is the Page Rank (PR) of the page and site that will show the link? The higher the PR the better as it seen as an important site and it's outbound links are valued higher too. Not only that but it will 'feed' some of it's high ranking across to your page as a bonus.

2: Is the site relevant to yours? As an example let's say your site was about pet products. If you had a link on a site with heaps of information all about dogs - that would make sense to Google and be valued. A link on a dating site would be seen as totally irrelevant and virtually ignored.

3. Use good 'Anchor Text'. Having a hyperlink to your pet product site showing as on that dog information site is not so effective, and meaningful, as having the hyperlinked text saying 'Buy dog baskets, leads and dog food'. Google sees and understands the relationship between the wording on the information site, the anchor text and that of your site - so it will value the link higher.

So to summarise, links to your site are good, but not all links. Be careful about accepting offers of links, especially if they are asking you to pay. Take time to consider those key factors before you commit.

Finally there is the issue of reciprocal links - the 'You show me yours and I'll show you mine' of the internet world.

You may be offered a link to your site in return for a link to theirs. If you accept this and the link to them is shown on, for example, page 2 of your site and the link to you on their site also points to your page 2, it will easily seen as reciprocal and not a 'vote' of confidence in your or your website, therefore valued less.

Turn that around based on the 3 key factors earlier in this blog. If the link from them is on a page of information about dogs, the anchor text reflects that and the page on your site which it points to is about dogs that's good.

So in return, work something on the same principal but using different pages, perhaps about cats. That way the links are less likely to be seen as reciprocal.

I hope that all makes sense, but you can always talk to me about how to maximise your website profits at Alloy CRM, Sales & Marketing Strategists

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