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July 17, 2008

Search Engines and Link Reputation: What’s Yours?

Since links are the fabric of the web and they allow us to move from page to page and site to site, they also play a crucial role in deciphering the context of your site when analyzed from outside sources (particularly from search engines).

Call it osmosis, link transference or what you like, the fact remains that “what other sites say about you” meaning “how they link to you” (or how you build links) matters.What percentage of inbound anchor text (the text in the link itself) variety does Google and other search engines deem as a significant percentage vs. your on page factors to assess the context of your site? Do they look at your content or your site reputation more when assessing where to rank your content?

For example, if you have a high concentration for a specific keyword on your pages and no external sites link to you with any of those keywords, your (on page and off page) link reputation has very little search engine street respect.

On the contrary, if you have one solid page of content intact with titles and tags within a site that is based on the topic and an authority site links to your site, there is enough link juice within that continuity that you can rank based on the relevance it creates from both the on page and off page synergy that results.

Considering that search engines, much like real life need someone to vouch for the character and quality of the target site ( especially if your site is new or virtually unknown).

Understanding this algorithmic premise, SEO’s understand that the fastest way to bypass this benchmark is to get links from sites who have already established trust and authority in that particular niche or from a compatible niche that has merit.

If a site has enough authority, it can transcend into other niche markets or keywords based on the strength of the content, site architecture and links. Anyone who has ever received a link from The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post or other notable sites such as these has experienced this first hand.

The analogy this scenario presents is the equivalent of getting first class VIP tickets to the forefront for their hard earned audience, not to mention to the top of search engines (who are also fans of authority).

In addition, depending on the keywords used in the link to link to the page will create their own ripple effect to create targeted search engine traffic or tons of visitors which click through out of curiosity (whichever comes first). The fact is, this aspect of link reputation can create instant credibility to the target audience, including search engines.

For each industry there is a different standard, for some industries it could be a trade publication that has authority, for other industries manufacturers or organizations could be the sites holding the cards to traffic, but the fact remains that trust is factored into the algorithm as a key metric for positioning.

For that very reason the ability to influence a market (and to maintain the quality of the index) is assigned to sites which have proven their value and relevance time and time again and have earned the trust of search engines to be a worthy aggregator of news, resources or online reputation.

The Anchor Text Metric: Link Reputation.

It is a known fact in SEO that links carry within them a blueprint (much like DNA) with the ability to bestow the matrix of that blueprint to another site. Link equity is one variation of this phenomenon.

As a result, one link from an authority site can stem like mitosis to unlock several semantically related variations on the target site based upon the anchor text (the text in the link) and where it is concentrated (a page, an entire folder, a landing page, etc.).

How to Influence Your Site’s Reputation and Your Rankings!

SEO is not as much a process of link building or content development as much as it is the practice of constant reputation development. If any one area of your site lacks coherence, the whole suffers (this is loosely called relevance score).

The more coherent your on page factors are, the more pages you have that are inter-related and the more inbound links with authority they garner, the more authority and rankings your site accrues as a result. Just like in real life, online reputation is based on your character and who you know.

By essentially controlling the anchor text in the backlink (the text in the link that connects any two pages) you can ensure that your off page SEO works in your favor and you don’t end up ranking for something like purflupalupolis or some obscure phrase because of your competitors was feeling frisky that day.

Search engines are rather keen at assessing the context and the reputation of the site providing the link as well as the site being linked to to determine relevance and continuity. There is definitely value in sticking to semantic or sites from related niches as your own industry when seeking to build authority in addition to just links.

This is not to say that links from off topic sites do not pass value (they do) but the tighter or closer to semantic variations that resemble information found on your own pages is known for producing a more dynamic impact on search engine rankings, which is the goal for most.

Essentially, the target page takes on characteristics (reputation) of site who endorses it, allowing that link weight to flow to the target site. By getting enough “link equity” from trusted domain names with the right “anchor text” pointing at your pages and the top 10 for multiple keywords will be nothing new for your content.

On a side-note, to prove this point, we ranked one of our pages from “just using one link from out own page” using the anchor text beat others to the punch in Google against 26,000,000 competing broad match pages (only 722 “in quotes”), even though the target page does not contain any variation of the phrase aside from the words “the, and & to”. To accomplish this for a competitive phrase, you simply require more anchor text and more links.

The bottom line is, link reputation matters and how you link to yourself or how others link to you is one of the key metrics for producing or defending your search engine position from either sliding off the page or rising to the top of the list regardless of the competition (even wikipedia).

Just like Adobe acrobat ranks #1 for “click here” out of 6 billion pages is an example of anchor text and link reputation gathered from the contextual assessment of the target site based on external links and the keywords used in the said anchor text.

The gravity of this topic is far too vast to cover in one post alone, at the expense of a 10,000 word thesis, so for now, we will simply curb this concept for a follow up post to elaborate even more of the nuances that reside within the link reputation matrix.

Jeffrey Smith is an active internet marketing optimization strategist, consultant and the founder of Seo Design Solutions Seo Company He has actively been involved in internet marketing since 1995 and brings a wealth of collective experiences and fresh marketing strategies to individuals involved in online business.