When it comes to SEO & link building, there are so many factors to equate that it’s difficult to communicate with clients the direct impact of how a link will be measured after indexing.
Links come in many shapes and sizes, internal, one way, reciprocal, editorial or contextual, etc. Not that we are laying claim to specifics here, however, based on trial, error and observation, here are a few factors to consider when building links.
- Link Quality
- Link Quantity
- Link Proximity
- Link Velocity and Link Clusters
- Link Chronology & Trust
Link Quality: We know that PageRank (based on the original Back Rub algorithm) developed by Larry Page and Sergio Brin originally had less filters, conditional checks and balances and formulations to avoid falsely assigning relevance.
As a result of abuse from spam, search engineers started adding additional criteria to judge the quality of a link and just how much value it passes from Site A to Site B.
Needless to say, search engines were retooled to decipher the fact that quantity is not co-efficient with quality. The days of the wild wild west of link building (where quantity equated to popularity) are long-gone and have been replaced with scrutiny from search engines (where links are essentially interrogated) by impartial algorithms.
As a result of the shake down, the underlying message is to focus on quality editorial links, meaning links contextually surrounded by quality content sustained by a healthy site architecture (to ensure they receive suitable link weight).
Anything less is limited to shifts in probability and volatility by a Markov Chain like effect. If Suzie links to Johny and Johny’s site is hit with a penalty, then Suzie’s site gets a blemish / penalty for endorsement which thus affects all of the other sites she links out too. If you are one of them, your rankings could take a dip.
Some speculate the site housing the link gets the penalty, other incur that both will be relegated to bad neighborhoods, the fact is, if your strategy is that dependent on external links, then it’s time to rethink your strategy to hedge your SEO and create relevance and authority internally.
Link Quantity: We know that capping outbound links (to a set limit on each page) determines how much of the quality is transferred by link osmosis. We also know that the level of trust assigns just how much relevance and authority that the domain carries. Thus, a page rank 3 site with fewer links and trust will trump a link from page rank 5 site with questionable content, or a large number of outbound links.
Many links have a limited shelf life, or only pass a sliver of link juice.The quandary occurs when people equate punches in bunches (dozens, hundreds or thousands of links) with a knock-out blockbuster like link that has major juice and simply is not the case.
The difference between volume and quality becomes apparent if the link is on topic, the anchor text has a synergy with the target page and has relevance. One ranks and the other tanks because it just does have enough gas to give your pages vertical mobility in the SERPs (search engine result pages).
Links have cycles that rise and fall, the peak of your SERP position may in fact be the culmination of months or years of links aging, or on the contrary as a result of new links reaching their plateau.
The fact is, you need to (a) keep what link flow you have shoring up the right pages and (2) always look for new opportunities to reach a broader audience and develop a quality link profile. However, less is more spread over time with the new and improved algorithm.
Link Proximity: The first link on a page and the last link on a page have different values of link weight. The closer to the top of body content (in a block segment of the website that is unique) has a higher percentage of link flow. If a link is buried in the footer, it does have SEO value, but much less than a link debuting higher in the copy surrounded by supporting modifiers or contextual keywords.
Link Velocity and Link Clusters: Link velocity is nothing more than how fast you gain or lose links. If you have a surge of links appear or disappear within a short time-frame, you chance initiating a penalty if the footprint is unnatural.
Unnatural like all having the same anchor text, being on the same IP address (10 links from the same IP eventually degrade to the profile of one link) which is why diversity is of the utmost importance.
Link clusters appearing within a time-line (typically measured in six week segments when search engines update their cache) leave a trail and are essentially like footprints in the sand.
If you have any control whatsoever over the process, make sure you don’t go to the well to many times to preserve integrity of your link profile. Things like using article marketing from the same sources to often, going overboard on one social bookmark site, etc. Avoid excessive clusters whenever possible if longevity is your goal.
Link Chronology and Trust: Obviously those who have a a jump on you have a distinct advantage. However, metrics change, with aged SERP results or pages who started months or years in advance, it is the trust and authority of the domain you have to contend with.
Search engine heavyweights with an on topic URL, aged links and great content ensure that your quest for the top 10 includes links from the same (similar or stronger sites to outrank them).
Just as large sites have strength, they also can have many weaknesses on trying to hold down the micro and the macro simultaneously. Wikipedia for example can be bumped from the SERPs, but you really have to dial in the ideal on-page and off-page SEO factors in order to take their position or other authority sites who have chronology on their side.
While employing link building, for competitive keywords, you have to start months in advance targeting s specific phrase with a specific tactic. Eventually, you will hit a threshold and even the most competitive keywords fall into place.