Link Popularity Considerations
by Mark Nelson

Link popularity is the term used to indicate how many other web pages link to your web page and is calculated by counting the number of links coming into a particular page. This includes pages linking from within your site as well as from pages on other sites. Most search engines measure the link popularity of an individual web page as opposed to your entire web site. Often times you hear people talk about the link popularity of a site and this tends to lead to confusion about what it is and how it is actually measured.

The most popular search engines, including Google and Yahoo, have built in indicators on their tool bars that will give you a visual indication of the link popularity of a page. With that said, you should take caution not to focus too much on the particular link popularity measure from the search engine tool bars, but instead, use it as a general guide.

There are many in depth articles available that concentrate on the intricate details of link popularity for each search engine. however, we will focus here more on considerations in building link popularity as part of your overall optimization efforts and suggest a simple and effective strategy in increasing the link popularity of your pages in a way that will help maximize your keyword rankings.

There are at least four questions many people ask when first learning about link popularity and its impact on keyword rankings:

1. How important is link popularity?
2. How can link popularity be improved?
3. Are all links created equal?
4. Which sites should be considered when exchanging links?

How important is link popularity?
The importance of link popularity to your site's overall visibility is usually about 30% of all factors affecting your keyword rankings. This percentage varies according to the particular search engine's emphasis on link popularity.

The value of link popularity cannot be ignored as part of your overall optimization efforts and a percentage of your time should be spent considering the linking structure of both pages within your site as well as the links on the pages of other sites that link to your pages. There are two components of link popularity. The first has to do with the linking structure within your site, while the second has to do with how many pages from external sites are linking to the pages on your site. It is best to focus on your internal linking structure first, then focus on increasing the number of links from external sites.

How can link popularity be improved?
The first and best approach to building external link popularity is to build compelling and unique content that others will link to on their own, based on the intrinsic value of your product, service or message. When you take this rather obvious approach, you will be rewarded with highly relevant visitor traffic genuinely interested in the content you offer.

You will also be following the intent of the search engines that consider link popularity in their rules by providing unique and relevant content to search engine users.

Are all links created equal?
In other words, is it only the number of incoming links that determines the impact to your keyword rankings? The answer is NO, definitely NOT. Many WebPosition users already know the reason for this and it has to do with the theme of your content. This is also where many people get into trouble when developing and implementing their linking strategy. The name of the link and the content on both the linking page and destination page play an important role in determining the relevancy of the keywords on the destination page. Let's illustrate this by walking though a simple example many of us have probably experienced.

Let's say you're looking for travel destinations in the Caribbean and reading a page that talks about the Caribbean and various vacation options in the region. You notice a link called "Cheap Widgets". You might think "ok, I just might buy one of these widgets while on vacation in the Caribbean". You click on the link only to end up on a page that talks about inexpensive ski equipment. Since it is unlikely you are going to go skiing while in the Caribbean and the link gave no indication of it pertaining to ski equipment, clicking on the link has probably been a waste of your time.

Many search engines will take the same view. Search engines will usually give more weight and higher rankings to keywords where the content on the origin page, destination page and the link itself are closely related. When you have a choice, always make sure the links coming into as well as going out from your page are related to the content on your page and the name of the link itself. Not only can this improve your keyword rankings, but it also helps to create a better experience for your visitors.

Which sites should be considered when exchanging links?
Many sites will not simply exchange links anymore, but will want you to pay for a link from them based on their link popularity, as your site will most likely benefit from their link popularity. The subject of choosing which sites and pages to exchange links with (or pay for) is full of potential benefits and pitfalls. I will be covering this subject more in depth in the near future, so stay tuned.

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