Link Building & Determining Link Quality

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In an era where Search Engines place very high importance in links and popularity for their search algorithms, we can look at different types of links to determine the best factors to use to make an educated decision on quality link building selections.

This tutorial will focus on the selection of links by types of links. In doing this we will determine a high quality link vs. a low quality link. While some experts will like all links from any source, we will focus on specific factors. Some opinions will be expressed here based on experience. Since we do not own any of the Search Engines and they only publicly release certain information, we have to make decisions based on experience rather then defined facts.

First off lets make it clear, we are talking about building links to increase rankings. We are not factoring mathematics for PageRank (PR). PR is not our concern. Rankings will be our concern.

We will discuss several factors of getting links that will include buying links, trading links, trading services for links, earning links, article links, Press Release links, resource page links, reciprocal links and content links.

We do like broadly built campaigns that include a little of everything over a campaign that focuses on one method. So just syndicating links via articles and press releases is simply not enough. I am basing this on personal experiences of successfully ranking websites on all Search Engines for extremely competitive terms and via my methodologies. In SEO many different approaches can work and each individual will have his or her own unique ideas.

One aspect that we will consider is numbers. Simply stated I hate numbers and trying to build based on numbers is wrong if not even ridiculous. To state 10 or 25 links per month is simply an amateur approach.

We build based on competitors and where they are and how they rank and more importantly “how long” they have ranked for. Sites with recent rankings are not always the best choices to model or base a campaign on as certain SEO methodologies used may not pass the test of time as the Search Engines more accurately access the linking and popularity systems used to rank the site.

We also base on the industry and what specific factors of links are being used by each individual industry. So view all competitors backlinks via Yahoo Site Explorer and see if you can target those. We also do not build in high volume, but rather for high quality which effects take time to show their best impact.

Types of links and the methodical thinking to use when considering each type of link…

Buying Links

Buying links for search ranking goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It seems acceptable if you are a large company that has large advertising budgets in paid search and natural search.

The extent of Google’s penalties on sites selling and buying links is unknown. Google has ruthlessly penalized sites for buying links in the past and in some cases never released the penalties or locked them into certain positions called the -30 penalty and -950 penalty on WebmasterWorld. It seems absurd to penalize for something you sell and acting even handed in penalties would be wise, but it is believed to not be the case.

Links are currently bought and sold daily through brokers and privately through site owners in blogrolls, sponsored link sections and even in content and blog posts.

Buying links still has powerful ranking effects for sites that are authority domains. If we look at terms like promotional products and notice that 6 or 7 of the top 10 ranking sites, they are all purchasing the same network link. Google ranks these 7 sites extremely well despite the known network of links they are on. This tells you, that if 6 or 7 of these sites are buying a link, that you have a 30% chance of getting to page one without buying the ad, or at least that is one common sense way to look at it.

Buying links can be based on competitors, keep in mind that if Google devalues the paid links for your competitor, they will also be degrading them for your site. So use with caution!

We like to believe that Google is just not-counting these links, but we fear that they tend to be heavy handed with link buying and are more inclined to penalize a site in specific industries, so again, be cautious and take it from the perspective that a Search Engine may ban you without warning and is more inclined to ban a site then forgive a site. With that kind of thinking, you should make the right decisions on link buying.

Remember Google is the only Search Engine that does not like link buying especially when it is obviously used for PageRank instead of traffic (that is becoming more difficult to determine). There is nothing morally wrong with buying a link for traffic and exposure, in fact I highly recommend those, and that is where I will tell you to ignore any Search Engines gripe with paid ads, and do what creates traffic!

BLOG : Better Listings On Google

Face it, Google is made up of bloggers and blog lovers, they place high importance on them in the current algorithm. Sidebar or BlogRoll links, blog posts which lend a content-based link are all heavily valued. Yahoo also likes blogs, but not to the extent of Google. MSN seems to be very even handed in its link value of blogs vs a more traditional site.

Blogs offer the Industry Popularity value, as they are generally written by related industry bloggers. They are also vastly becoming a portal for spam and copyright infringement. There is even the blackhat method of trying to duplicate-out competitors by reproducing the content of numerous blogs, these are usually the free blogs which, unfortunately, Google values them (might have something to do with the fact that they own them). A smart algorithm, would play down the free blog sites the same way it devalued the free webhosting sites like geocities.

Blog links are highly recommended and should be part of every SEO campaign. Some SEO firms are actually creating networks of blog sites for syndication – avoid these types of made for paid posting blogs and focus on ones that the writers care about and are not duplicated across hundreds of sites.

Web Directories

Many people will not like my opinion here, but I feel these are being devalued by Google because everyone and their mother owns a directory now. (Hey! Don’t they also own a blog?)

Don’t take this the wrong way there are a few good directories worth being listed in (future tutorial perhaps), but because there are literally millions of php directories popping up every day, and these directories all have heavy sponsorship on them, I feel that they are simply spammed-out (a pun on burnt out).

If you can weed out the few good web directories from the millions of spammy ones, then a link or two from these types of sites is really a plus.

Keep in mind, when only the home page has PR it’s a takeover site, which means the history does not match the current focus of the site. Check the Archive.org’s Wayback Time Machine to really tell what the site used to be. These types of sites by nature take longer to achieve rankings and generally have less value for a few months to even a few years if the site is not remarketed properly.

To Be Continued….

Alan Rabinowitz is the CEO of SEO Image, a New York based SEO and Internet Marketing company which focuses on corporate branding and positioning in search engines.

Alan Rabinowitz
Alan Rabinowitz is the CEO of SEO Image, a New York based SEO and Internet Marketing company which focuses on corporate branding and positioning in... Read Full Bio
Alan Rabinowitz
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