All links are created equal right? That is a misconception that many novice webmasters have when establishing their link building strategy. Without regard for the quality of the link and for the type of content contained on a site, many new webmasters who have realized the importance of link building, seek out links from many different sources.
Examining the motives for obtaining the link reveals that some webmasters fail to understand the reasoning behind building links, confusing the change in a proprietary ranking system established by Google known as the PageRank, as being a recognition of online success. What these webmasters fail to realize is that Page Rank is only associated with Google and for all intensive purposes does very little to impact the success of an online business. Concentrating on Page Rank means neglecting other more important aspects of search engine optimization.
Link building is an important part of establishing a website and building traffic. I’m not saying that seeking out links is wrong. What I am saying is that webmasters have to concentrate on building quality, one-way links from sites with relevant content. Webmasters must realize that search engines now look beyond the quantity of links when determining ranking, their search algorithms have matured to a point where deep analytics into the types and quality of links play an important role in ranking.
The major search engines, especially Google, have started using semantic analysis, to determine the meaning of links, and have started associating this with ranking. This allows the search engine ensure that a website is focused on a given topic and that the links to this website are indeed from legitimate, relevant sources.
How does this impact webmasters? It’s simple. A webmaster must not only ensure that a website contains relevant keyword rich content for the topic at hand, but that inbound links are also relevant, a task that can be extremely difficult given that controlling off-site linking is generally outside the control of the webmaster.
This is the reason that the linking strategies of many new webmasters dabbling in SEO must be concerned about more things than obtaining a link. For successful long term strategies, linking strategies have to look beyond the basic principle of obtaining a link with relevant keywords as anchor text, but focus upon a linking strategy built around relevant and trusted resources. Securing multiple links from unrelated areas may work at increasing the page rank of a website, but have little affect on the ranking of a particular page for certain keywords. Thus, the quantity of links has no real impact on ranking for a particular keyword or keyword phrase.
Why has Google taken an action to devalue its own Page Rank?
It has become blatently obvious that webmasters were using page rank to inflate the page rank of other websites they owned. In developing this ranking system, Google created an environment that allowed high ranking websites to profit from the sale of links. This inflation of page rank for sites that could afford to buy their ranking meant that searches were becoming less and less relevant. In moving towards a system that looked beyond a popularity and focused on link reputation, Google could present users with sites more likely to contain information being sought.
The ability to now analyze the relevancy of links and devalue less relevant links, Google has made a move to protect the integrity of its search index. In devaluing links that are coming from irrelevant sites with irrelevant content, Google is ensuring that search results are more likely to display relevant results. Obtaining a link from a site that has no reputation for a keyword means that little relevancy is placed on this link when determining ranking, and that overall topic relevance is becoming more prevelant.
Webmasters and SEOs must realize that Google and the other search engines collect massive amounts of data as they crawl through websites. In ranking the content throughout these sites for their keywords, and examining the links, it means that it has already collected an enormous amount of data regarding the reputation of websites. It therefore knows that a link obtained from a site on computers, from another site about computers is more relevant than a link obtained from a site about flowers.
While the page rank value seen in the Google toolbar may never fully disappear, webmasters and SEOs must realize that there are many other factors that go into determining ranking, and that a higher value is being placed on topic relevant links. Understanding the importance of link reputation will mean greater successes in the long run.
We have witnessed this more recently as new filtering mechanisms are built into the Google search engine. In several updates many webmasters have seen a drop in their page rank, while the number of links they have increased. What has happened is Google simply applied a topical filter to those links deemed irrelevant because of their reputation and relevance for the keyword anchors used.
This can also shed some light on why some sites rank and display a high Google page rank with on several links. Google has obviously examined the link reputation of those links, and deemed them to be more relevant. If those sites rank well within the search results, it means that those links, and the sources of those links are trusted more than a site with thousands of links from unrelated sites.
As I have said many times, it may be difficult to build links when a linking strategy concentrates on acquiring one-way links from relevant sites, but the advantages for ranking and for reputation are enormous. This approach is built around more solid SEO principles and while not the quick-win that many novice webmasters are look for and is more sustainable.
What does this mean in for the future of SEO and link building strategies? As link reputation becomes more and more embedded into the search algorithms, websites with stronger links will see their results increase.