By Titus Hoskins (c) 2008
One of the most problematic and confusing issues most webmasters have with Google concerns linking. How your links are ranked? How you should link out? How you should construct your internal links? How you should get more inbound links? How many links should you have on a page? And the líst of questions goes on...
Perhaps, the most annoying aspect for the struggling webmaster, has been Google's secrecy in how it actually ranks links and pages. Google's whole PageRank and Ranking Algorithm is so complex that no one can fully boast they understand how the whole system works.
Google's ranking secrecy and complexity has probably been well-planned mainly because there are millíons of webmasters who would like to "game" the Google Algorithm and achieve high keyword rankings through manipulation with so-called "black-hat" SEO techniques and reverse engineering.
Wouldn't it be ironic if this whole secrecy and complexity is more of a smokescreen rather than an actual deception on Google's part. What if the keys to the kingdom are actually yours for the taking? What if the solution is hiding in plain sight for everyone to see? What if the secret to high rankings in Google is not a secret at all? Wouldn't that be a hoot!
Actually, that's not a far-fetched assumption to make, mainly because many of Google's linking policies and recommendations are freely given by Google. Whether you can believe Google is actually giving you the goods is another issue that we'll put on the back-burner for another day; but for now, Google's advice on link building is rather generous and informative.
As a part of Links Week held recently, Google's Maile Ohye gave some pointers on what Google is looking for and how it does its index ranking. No big surprise that content and inbound links are the two most important factors. This is what most SEO experts have been saying for years.
A site's content is one of the main factors. Therefore, you should have a compelling site with interesting information and/or provide quality products, entertainment, opinions...
(Quoting Maile Ohye)
"One of the strongest ranking factors is my site's content. Additionally, perhaps my site is also linked from three sources -- however, one inbound link is from a spammy site. As far as Google is concerned, we want only the two quality inbound links to contribute to the PageRank signal in our ranking."
"Given the user's query, over 200 signals (including the analysis of the site's content and inbound links as mentioned above) are applied to return the most relevant results to the user."
"As many of you know, relevant, quality inbound links can affect your PageRank (one of many factors in our ranking algorithm). And quality links often come naturally to sites with compelling content or offering a unique service."
Then Maile Ohye explained further how to create unique and compelling content for your site:
(Quoting Maile Ohye)
SEO experts have been telling webmasters for years that creating valuable, unique, relevant useful content is one of the best ways to get your site and pages highly ranked in Google. If you create valuable content, then other sites will want to link to you naturally.
Linking out to other sites should be done in a "common sense" manner and it's a way of offering value to your visitor's experience. We expect helpful relevant links when we visit other sites since it's a natural way a good quality site should work; so be careful of linking out to spammy sites that only show pages of links with very little or no unique content.
There are several things every prudent webmaster should be checking like making sure your site hasn't been hacked and hidden links placed on your site without your knowledge; those with WordPress blogs should be installing the latest security measures and updates. Make sure you keep checking all your outbound links regularly since you may initially link out to a valuable resource, but over time this page may be closed or replaced with one of those spammy-links-holding pages. It can happen to the best of us.
What has confused things lately is all the "link buying" which Google greatly discourages and has shown its displeasure by de-ranking many paid directories. The size of your "wallet" shouldn't be the determining factor in how pages and content are ranked. If you're selling a link, it should have the "no-follow" tag so that it doesn't pass PageRank along and confuse the system. Policing or deciding what is or what is not a "paid link" has become a major problem for the search engines, including Google.
You should not have more than "100 links on a page" as this can overload the search engine robots that regularly crawl the web, indexing pages. Likewise, your site's "linking architecture" should be natural and easy for both your visitors and the robots to follow. Make sure your important pages are no more than a few clicks away from your homepage.
As to interior linking, the two main points being: Intuitive Navigation for your visitors and Crawlable Text Links for the search engine robots. Use descriptive anchor text links that explain your content to your visitors. The anchor text is the underlined clickable part of the link and many SEO experts suggest you place your keywords or variations of them in your anchor text.
Make sure your site is transparent. Do not use "link cloaking" on your site. Make sure what your visitor sees is what the robots are indexing. Use a 301 Redirect if you have permanently moved any webpages. Again, there is stressed the need for a sitemap as this can be very helpful for both your visitors and robots to see and find all your valuable content. Make sure you have a sitemap and all your important pages are listed on it.
One final note, many professional webmasters and marketers don't worry about PageRank as much as they are concerned with SERPs. Getting those top rankings for their sites in the search engine results is what really matters. Again, quality content and building quality links play an important role in achieving those top spots and maybe Google has already given you the formula for getting them. Maybe, maybe not.
About The Author
The author is a full-time online marketer who runs numerous web sites, including two sites on Internet marketing. For the latest web marketing tools try: www.bizwaremagic.com . Discover more about linking and ranking directly from Google here: googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com
2008 Titus Hoskins. This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.