Link popularity is one of the many factors that can alter your position in search engine results pages. The basic assumption by search engines is that if more sites are linking to your site, then it must be good. This is essentially why Google, MSN, Hotbot, Altavista, Inktomi and other search engines use link popularity as a factor in their ranking algorithms.
Links are like votes. The search engines treat a link from one site to another as a recommendation that the second site is worthwhile and of interest to web surfers. When search engines are not trying to increase their income with paid results, their goal is still to actually provide users with the most relevant results. Search engines will take all the help they can get in determining which sites are the most relevant. Therefore, if many webmasters in your industry link to your site, search engines take notice, and use those links as votes towards increasing your search engine rank.
Keep in mind that search engines are becoming very sophisticated in their ranking algorithms. For example, they not only factor in the quantity of incoming links, but also the quality of those links. Below are the main factors that determine a quality link, followed by a step-by-step guide to increase your link popularity.
A link to your site from an “authorative site” is worth more than a link from a site with less “authority.” An ” authoritative site” is one with a clear and focused theme, with many visitors, and with many incoming links from other sites. The search engines factor in both the relevance and the popularity of the site that is linking to you.
If a friend tells you “this is my favorite movie” or “this movie is among my top one hundred favorites” which statement makes a stronger recommendation for the film? The first one of course, because the film is a clear winner.
Search engines use the same logic. Basically, if a site has one outgoing link, that vote will be worth more than if it is one among a hundred other outgoing links on the same page. In fact, on Free-For-All (FFA) links pages and link farms, the link to your site is so diluted with other links that it is worthless. This is one of the reasons why you should avoid using such services. Another is that search engines try their best to exclude such pages from their databases.
Besides, you will never get a qualified visitor who discovers your site from such a page.
For a link to count, search engines have to know it exists. Consequently, only links from pages that are in search engine databases increase your link popularity. A link from a site that the search engines do not know about, may still be advantageous however, because you may get actual visitors who discover your site via that link, and because search engines may find and index the site in the future.
It is easier to secure incoming links from sites that are less popular than your own if you are willing to do a link exchange, because the recipient will benefit more than you will. My advice is to choose sites that are relevant to your site, and then solicit them all regardless of their popularity.
If you offer good resources and useful content on your site, people will visit it and other sites will endorse it by linking to it.
Use the reverse link search feature in search engines to discover other sites that have linked to yours. Most search engines have instructions in their “advanced search” or “search tips” pages.
If there are many links to a site using a specific keyword in the hyperlink, it will raise that site’s ranking for the keyword. This is how keyword rich domain names can make a difference, because sites often use the domain name as the link button. Keep this in mind when providing others with text links to your site.
Apart from link popularity, you should also keep in mind that following links is a common way in which websites are found. By getting more incoming links to your site, you will be directly increasing your traffic from visitors clicking on those links.
Suggested process for a link popularity campaign
- Make sure that your site has useful and original content. Give people a good reason to link to your site based on the content you provide. Create credibility with quality content and writing.
- Create an outgoing “links” page. One way to get incoming links is to offer reciprocal link exchanges.
- Create a “link instructions” page on your site. Provide instructions to other webmasters on how to link to your site. Provide URLs, banners, text links and code to link to the most relevant pages on your site. Also provide the means and linking criteria for other sites to submit a request for a reciprocal link.
- Submit your site to search engines and directories. A link from a directory category can make a big difference in your traffic and link popularity because such sites have “authority.”
- Create lists of sites that are relevant to the theme or subject of your site but are not in direct competition with your business. Search for your keyphrases then pick out sites to add to your list. Keep track of the URL, keyphrase, phone number and email address on a spreadsheet.
- Include the people you already know. This includes professional organizations, industry partners, suppliers and customers who can also link to your site.
- See who is linking to your competitors. Use the reverse link search feature with your competitors’ URLs then add those sites to your list of companies to contact.
- Contact the person who is in charge of online marketing. For small companies it will be the webmaster. For larger companies it will be the marketing director.
- Avoid form letters. You can write them, but others do not like to receive them. So start with a base letter that you personalize and send separately to each company.
- Each letter should include:
- the URL of the page that you are requesting the link from,
- the text for the link (it should fit within the context of the site),
- your URL,
- your contact information,
- a concise reason why they should link to you. This reason should be related to the content of your site or to some other benefit that you are offering. Be creative yet realistic.
- Make it easy for them to link to you. You may know how to add a link on your site, but you cannot assume that everyone whom you contact has the authority and skills to add a link on theirs. Provide code, be available for calls, be patient and be convincing.
- Follow up. Do not be discouraged if no one responds to your initial e-mail. Remember that it is unsolicited, and that most people throw out unsolicited e-mail. It is essential to follow up with another e-mail one or two weeks later, as well as additional phone calls. Do not risk ruining an existing or potentially important relationship by being too bothersome.
- Document the process. Keep track of when and how each company was contacted and keep close track of responses. Also note the name of the contact person whom you are dealing with. I recommend adding this information to the same spreadsheet as your original list of sites.
- Follow up on the follow up. Getting quality incoming links is an ongoing task.
- Keep adding sites to your list.
- Thank others for linking to your site.
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Jason Campbell is the co-founder and President at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.