No single element is more important to a Web page’s Google ranking than the perceived quality of the links that point to the page — the so-called back links. It is crucial to understand that Google cares less about the quantity of the back links than about the quality of each individual link. The link quality is determined by reviewing the importance of the site that contains the link.
Google does not disclose the specifics of its ranking algorithm to the public. However, the Google Web site states the following:
PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the Web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.” Thus: As you get more quality links pointing to your site, your PageRank will increase.
The bottom line is that effective link building is critical to gaining an opportune Google ranking. Convincing a number of “important,” topic-similar Web sites to link to yours ultimately will prove more useful than any other technique to optimize your site. The tricky part, of course, is to figure out which sites you would like to link to yours and, more important, how to convince their owners to do so.
Effective link building requires patience and persistence. Lots of it. The first step in the link building process is to find out which links are currently pointing to your site. To do so:
Go to the Google Web site.
Type in “link:”+ your Web site URL.
Click “Google Search.
Google will list your Web site’s back links.
If you are using the Google browser toolbar, you can check the back links by pointing your browser to your Web site; then select the “Backward Links” option from the site information drop-down menu.
You should then visit and review the content and PageRank of some of the sites that point to yours. That will enable you to determine whether or not the current back links are beneficial to your site’s Google ranking.
The next step in the link building process is to build more of them. To do so, put together a list of Web sites you’d like to link to yours. The best way to compile such a list is to peruse a number of Web sites with somewhat similar content to that of your site. You can locate such sites by typing into Google a search phrase that ideally would return your site as a high-ranking result. The returned list of matches will provide you with a number of sites that you can review. Generally, the best-ranked matches are the ones that are most likely to generate the most effective links to your site. Having perused the results, the next step is to visit the sites and convince their administrators to provide the desired links.
There is, of course, no guarantee that a particular Web site will add a link to your site. There may be many reasons why a Web site owner might decline to do so. For example, the site might refuse to link to an obviously competing online location. Or, the site’s owner may not be interested in being affiliated with other sites. Another reason could be that the site is already providing several outbound links and is not interested in adding to the count. In such cases you will have to request links from someplace else.
To request a link from another site you should compose and send a formal request to the targeted Web site’s owner or administrator and explain why providing a link would be mutually beneficial. If applicable, reciprocal linking can be offered as an incentive. In fact, you might promote your case by linking to the targeted site before requesting a link the other way. That way, you will prove to the Web site owner that you are serious about exchanging links. Still, if your request is turned down it is better to move on to the next Web site on the list and request a link from there instead.
There is no exact way to determine how many back links one should actively pursue. The quality and link text of the obtained links largely determine when you have reached your target. The fact that a page has a higher PageRank does not necessarily mean that it has more inbound links than a page with a lower PageRank. In fact, the higher-ranking may have fewer back links than the lower-ranking one. The impact of the back links depends on the PageRank of their originating pages. Thus, a small number of links from high-ranking pages might prove more effective than a higher number of links from lower-ranking pages.
Keep in mind that Google optimization will be an ongoing project for your Web site. Thus, you do not necessarily have to obtain all of your desired links at once. In fact, as quality back links are added to your site, the site will improve its visibility on the Web and you will be in a still stronger position to gain favorable linking.
In addition to the PageRank of the originating site of a back link, Google will review the link text of each back link: Back links tell Google how important a page is; inbound link text might tell Google why the linking page considers the receiving page important. In essence: If a given search phrase appears in a back link’s text, then that back link will tend to prove more helpful to the receiving page’s ranking.
Although link building can be a lengthy process you should not give in to the temptation of joining a link farm or any other similar type of link-generating activity. The obtained links will account for little, if anything, in Google’s assessment as their originating sites are unlikely to rank high or mirror the topic/theme of your site. Furthermore, Google might go as far as penalizing sites that appear to be engaged in link-farming activities. In short: Your time will be better spent trying to build quality links from quality sites.
As for the outbound links you place on your Web site, Google will pay little to them — unless those links point to something Google finds objectionable — when determining a page’s ranking. Still, you should make sure to arrange those links in a clear, logical manner so that visitors can easily find them. Also, if you have made reciprocal-linking agreements with other Web site owners, then those owners will appreciate that your links to their sites are displayed nicely and prominently on your site. It is recommended that the number of links on a given page does not exceed 100.