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Links: Your questions answered

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What are links?

Links are the pathways created by website owners that lead from one website to another. The internet was built on this series of interconnections between sites. Links are seen on virtually every page on the internet, ready to be clicked by the mouse, and send the internet surfer to another page either on the same site, or to a different website entirely.

Are there different types of links?

Links appear on the internet in three basic forms. Link types include the outbound link that sends a visitor to another website, the inbound link that brings internet traffic from other outside websites, and internal site links that send visitors to different pages within the site itself.

Why are links important?

Links are important because they help internet users find interesting, informative, and useful content either on the site itself, or at other internet locations. Inbound links have special value to the search engines, including Google, Yahoo, MSN Search, and Ask Jeeves, as the number, duration of linking time, and quality are part of the search engine algorithms. As a general rule, the more incoming links that a web page and website receive, the better the site will rank in the search engines.

Do all links have equal value to the search engines?

While quantity of links is important, quality is even more important. Some inbound links are simply given more value than others by the search engine algorithms. Links from pages deemed to be more relevant, in terms of topic and theme, are given more weight. Also given more value are links that are labelled with more keyword rich anchor text, links from pages with higher Google PageRank, and links that originate within content pages rather than from the ubiquitous “links pages”. There is even some evidence that linking out to other web pages provides some benefit to the link sending page.

Are there any links that a website owner should avoid?

While not all links are created equal, or provide comparable benefit, search engines evaluate a site by the company it keeps. Because no website owner has control over who links to her site, links from sites under penalty, or even banned sites, are not held against the receiving page. The search engines do, however, take a dim view of links sent out to sites deemed to be “bad neighborhoods”. A website owner can control who receives a site’s links, and linking to sites under penalty or ban, can hurt the linking page’s search ranking dramatically.

What are “bad neighborhoods”?

Bad neighborhoods are specifically mentioned in Google’s published Webmaster Guidelines as a “linking scheme” designed to trick the search engines, and are therefore subject to penalties and possible banning. The most well known bad neighborhood is the so-called “link farm”. A link farm is a pseudo-directory that purports to send traffic, PageRank, and link popularity to its member sites. The usual requirement of linking to any and all member sites, whether theme relevant or not, announce the links are not natural, but are purely for gaining higher search engine rankings. As a result, even linking to a bad neighborhood, or a banned site, can result in a penalty or even an outright ban for the linking site.

Can any incoming links to a site do harm to the site’s ranking?

Incoming links are generally helpful to the receiving site, but there are exceptions. Sites and web pages are not penalized for incoming links as the search engines recognize that no one can control who links to their website. On the other hand, Google has placed a suspected filter on new incoming links, lowering their original passed along PageRank and link popularity. Purchased links are thought to not provide as much value as previously received. In general, however, incoming links benefit a site, while some incoming links including those from guest books provide almost no gain in the rankings, as they are usually ignored by the search engines.

Can some linking activities cause a search engine penalty?

Becoming involved in any linking scheme, solely designed to trick the search engines into providing higher rankings could result in a penalty, or even an outright ban. All such schemes should be avoided.

Do incoming links affect Google PageRank?

Incoming links usually pass along Google PageRank if they are clean html links. There is some thought that javascript links are now passing along PageRank, but the evidence is intermittent at best. The bottom line for adding PageRank to a web page is to attract more incoming links. Theme relevant links tend to pass along a higher percentage of the available PageRank than non-related links as well. Natural, one way, theme relevant links are the best links for PageRank transfer.

Are internal links within a site helpful?

Internal linking is an important part of any linking program. Internal links assist a page’s rankings in three major ways. One is the incoming link to the page itself. While not given extremely heavy weight in the search algorithm, all internal links to a page are helpful. Internal links add value if the link contains keyword rich link anchor text relevant to the receiving page. The internal linking also distributes Google PageRank to the various pages, where it might be required to assist in ranking. As a service to visitors, internal linking aids site navigation, and potentially improves sales.

What are the alleged new link filters in Google?

It’s thought by many search engine optimization experts that Google has placed a dampening filter on new incoming links. When the link is first added, it doesn’t pass along full Google PageRank or link popularity value to the receiving page. Over time, as the link ages, it passes along increasingly more linking power, until it reaches its full transfer potential. The purpose of the filter is thought to be for discouraging the purchases of large numbers of incoming links. The recently announced Google patent application appears to confirm that the filters do exist.

Do the new link filters affect PageRank transfer?

The new link dampening filters apparently withhold transfer of available Google PageRank, and gradually increase the PageRank transfer over time as the link ages.

Are reciprocal links bad?

Reciprocal links are not as bad as thought by many people. If link exchanges are made between sites, sharing similar themes and topics, the exchange is beneficial to both sites. The problem arises with sites that are unrelated to one another in any way, and the exchange is only designed to gain link popularity and PageRank transfer. There is no problem with finding link partners sharing a similar theme.

Who are the best link exchange partners for a site?

The best link exchange partners are other sites sharing a similar or complimentary theme and topics to your site. Avoid sites that have no theme or topic relevance to your own site, as they will provide little in the way of link popularity or inbound traffic.

Will link exchanges from lower PageRank pages hurt my PageRank or ranking?

Link exchanges should never be made with only PageRank in mind. Whether exchanged with higher or lower PageRank sites, those sharing similar themes will enhance one another, and not be hurt. Each page sends to the other, based on available PageRank, the amount available for transfer. Lower PageRank pages do not lower the receiving page’s PageRank. They enhance it, but only to a lower extent. Over time, their available PageRank can increase. Keep in mind that the amount of green shown on the Google toolbar is not an accurate level of a page’s real PageRank. The actual amount could be entirely different.

What is a natural link?

A natural link is a one way inbound link placed voluntarily by another webmaster to the content of a web page. Natural links are almost always theme relevant, and are therefore given the most importance, by the various search engines. The way to attract natural links is to provide good website content.

Should all inbound links be pointed to the website home page?

Inbound links should be pointed to the most relevant pages. In natural one way linking, the linking web page will link to the page of their own choosing. Receiving inbound links to internal pages helps those pages to rank higher, and often they are more relevant to the search terms than the home page. In that case, a link to the home page would be less powerful.

What is link anchor text?

Link anchor text is the wording that is found on the clickable link. Sometimes it’s the site URL, many times it’s the site title or business name, and occasionally it’s the receiving page’s most important keywords.

Why is link anchor text important?

Link anchor text is given heavy weighting importance in the search engines, despite recent attempts to downgrade its value in the Google algorithm. The link anchor text is designed to be theme relevant to the web page, and will boost that page very high in the search rankings. Anchor text should be themed to the page being linked, and not repeated with every incoming link, to prevent being filtered as spam.

Are links from blogs helpful?

Inbound links from blogs are very powerful. Because blog writers, called bloggers, are very generous linkers, they are very likely to link naturally to interesting and informative content. The blog will be highly theme relevant to your site as bloggers tend to stay within their main areas of interest. If the link is placed within a blog post or article, powerful link anchor text might also be included. Blogs also contain a links list, referred to as a blogroll, and those links are usually placed on the blog’s high PageRank home page.

Are blog comment links good for search engine rankings?

Blog comment links are now treated in much the same way as guest book links. Google is even suggesting a robots.txt coding to prevent any link popularity or PageRank transfer from blog comments to prevent spamming. It’s important to note that blog comments are very different from blog links themselves. The two link types should not be confused, as they are similar to a website relationship to its guest book. Instead of spending time spamming blog comments, a blogger or website owner would be better advised to create quality, informative content, and attract natural inbound links.

Are links from guest books valuable to obtain?

Guest book links are usually ignored by the search engine algorithms. Possible rare exceptions are from theme related sites to the guest book site. Even then, the value to link popularity is extremely low, if they provide any value at all. As with comment spam, the time spent is better employed on content development.

Are internet directory links helpful to a site’s search engine ranking?

Inclusion of a website in all legitimate internet directories is good for adding PageRank and theme relevant links to a website. Prestigious links, such as those in The Open Directory Project , better known as DMOZ, are especially valuable. Other secondary directories are also important link as well. Blogs have their own unique blog and RSS feed directories. Bloggers are well advised to submit their blog to all of them.

Is the Google toolbar inbound link total and PageRank accurate?

The PageRank displayed on the Google toolbar is thought to be several months out of date. Google says the green line display is “for entertainment purposes only”, and not to be given too much importance. The inbound link total is only a sampling of the total inbound links and not all incoming links.

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Wayne Hurlbert provides insigtful information about marketing, promotions, search engine optimization and public relations for websites and business blogs on the popular Blog Business World.

Check out Blog Business World for yourself.

Links: Your questions answered
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  • Guest

    shut up i already know dough