In terms of search engines, links are the bridges that connect web pages. Search engines recognize links as the fundamental cohesive agents between pages that are logically related or mutually useful. Using advanced protocols, search engines can determine the relatedness of web pages to one another and also establish the paradigms of relationships that exist between them. There used to be a time when webmasters had to submit their pages and content to search engines to be indexed and thereafter be displayed on results. This led to an overwhelming number of cases where spam was involved and therefore left a bitter taste in just about every internet user.
Subsequently, search engines were designed to be more discerning and one way in which they were made to accomplish this was though links. Links are a potent means, for a search engine, to identify the popularity, importance and in many cases, the inherent trustworthiness of a website, through links. The use of link data itself has progressed into an advanced field wherein complex algorithms are used by search engines to arrive at nuanced information about sites and pages.
Studying links offers search engines a means to unearth valuable information about a site: for instance, the sort of site it is, the type of information or service that it provides or even identifying possibly related websites. The number of web pages linking to a particular webpage can say a lot about it. Moreover, important metrics such as trust and authority are established because it is only obvious that trustworthy and reliable sites will carry links to other such reliable websites and the malicious ones are more likely to carry other malicious and suspicious links. Therefore, links are a very valuable part of optimizing one’s website.
As mentioned earlier in a slightly different context, social media has had a significant role to play in this trend. They are being used very widely to send and receive links. While it may be argued that this is solely communication, it is also known that these monitor/analyze the links and the content they lead to, as well. it is indeed a very well know scenario that most of us have been in when facebook prevents us from sending a link on a chat or message because it leads to questionable content. .
There are three basic types of link acquisition:
1. Natural: This is when an existing web page wants to link their users over to yours. This is usually done by placing your URL or a link to a specific page of yours on their site. This requires no effort from one’s part
2. Manual/Outreach link building: This is when you reach out to fellow bloggers, other websites to provide links to your page on theirs or even approach listings to do the same, for payment.
3. Self Created: These are the links that can be created through many websites that offer one the option of creating one’s own links. This can be done by filling out forms or guestbook entries. It can otherwise be done by posting comments on another’s blog or on any other virtual avenue.
Link building is a highly challenging and fastidious task. It can however be broken down to include the following essentials which are a broad set of guidelines:
1. It pays to filter out your relevant search terms and assess the rankings of these terms. For example, if you are seeking to rank for the term “banana pie”, getting links from pages that already rank for this phrase would help considerably.
2. By looking at the backlinks of a website that already ranks well for your targeted keyword term, you can get to know about the links that help them achieve this ranking. Using tools like Open Site Explorer, SEOs can discover these links and target these domains in their own link building campaigns.
3. The number of links on a page is also very important and ought to be paid attention to. It has been documented that the value of having a link listed on a page goes down considerably if there are also other links which are being listed on the same page. The reduction in value is exponential as well. So, it is important to keep the number of links in a page to a bare minimum.
4. It has to be understood clearly that link building isn’t just about boosting popularity in the eyes of search engines: they can potentially be very important sources of traffic thanks to people arriving at your site through some other domains on which a link to yours has been found. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that these forums/domains/avenues pertain to the sort of demographic that is targeted by your web page/product and try to refine your potential traffic.
This is something you can calculate based on the numbers of visits/page views according to site analytics tools. If you don’t have access to these tools, services like Google Trends for Websites can give you an approximate idea of at least domain-wide traffic, although these estimates are known to be grossly inaccurate sometimes.