On the heels of a brilliant article that Cyrus Shepard put out about what is given value in the world of link building, I wanted to do my job and simplify things a little bit for the normal business owner. Those of us in the search industry salivate at the thought of ranking factor studies and data, but those that are just trying to get their site to rank are often confused or overwhelmed by how links work and what gives them value. Cyrus’s article does a nice job of explaining links and I recommend you go there for an even deeper understanding, but I wanted to give some headlines for some of the most important points here. Inbound links from other sites are still, arguably the most important ranking factor, as the combination of information that they tell Google about our site. Below is some important information on what links matter most to you and your business.
Links Are Like Votes For Your Site
Google views links to your site as votes in your favor. If another website is willing to send its visitors to your site, that is a vote in your favor. The more of these you have, the more valuable your site appears to be in the “eyes” of the Google algorithm. As Google has gotten smarter and more people have found ways to try to cheat the algorithm, links have become more nuanced, and each link has a different value based on some of the things I point out below. For more detail, again, go see Cyrus’s article mentioned above.
Links From More Popular Sites Count More
Google gives more value to a link to your site from a site that is more popular and reputable itself. Makes sense. Especially with all the cheating and fake links that came about due to the algorithm. It is harder to fake genuine respect and popularity, so Google gives you more value if your link comes from a site with a good reputation and popularity itself.
Content Links Count More Than Boilerplate Links
If your site is mentioned or linked to as an example in the actual site content, that is more valuable than being added in a footer or some other boilerplate piece of the site. Linking from site content shows an actual desire by the site owner or content creator to give you that link. Footer links are often added by website developers and marketing companies and don’t necessarily imply an endorsement by the actual site owner.
Links from New Domains Count More Than More Links from the Same Domain
Every site that links to you is like a unique relationship, so it naturally follows that getting another new relationship for vote for you would mean more to Google than the same site linking to you over and over. When you see a link report for your site, the unique linking domains is far more important than the actual total link count. Finding new relationships is more important than getting the same people to keep linking to you over and over.
Topic Relevance Boosts Your Own Topic Relevance
Links from sites that are respected in your industry tell Google a lot about your own content. If you are a local business and have links from local chambers of commerce or local little league, that tells Google you are active in your geographic area. If you have links from industry associations or groups, that also tells Google you are relevant in that topic area. Though the strongest sites overall tend to be general or news sites, getting links from topically relevant sites can give your site more topic relevance, which is very important in a time when Google views pages and sites as entities and tends to assign that entity topical scores. You want to become strong in your topical area and links tell Google a lot about that.
More Legitimate Links Means Higher Rankings
There are plenty more facts in the Moz article, getting into details like where on the page the link appears, etc, but I think I go the most important pieces of information that are relevant to the small business owner. Some of this stuff you don’t have as much control over, but you do have control over getting more and better relationships that you can turn into links. Getting links is hard and a big part of our SEO plans. My 13+ years in the industry have allowed me to create relationships for my clients to gain them link strength. If you need help, please give us a call.