Obviously the obsession for most is off page SEO (building or getting links from other websites)…Well, I have a little secret for you, authority trumps it all. An authority site can rank using less backlinks, pages or keywords that any other type of website; so, doesn’t this indicate where you should apply your focus?
By definition an authority site is a popular website frequented often by the virtue of the content/information or experience it provides. Considering the potential to create real value by providing a product, unique angle, news, cool tools, widgets or a service that is phenomenal, that website can be deemed an authority.
One way that they make the initial impact is (a) to do something worthy of being linked to or (b) by linking to enough authority sites that it tips the scales of relevance in the site providing the forward links. In essence, linking to authority sites can expedite the process for your website developing authority. What you do with it after that is up to you.
The reason why linking out is important is, authority sites often link to other authority sites and they is how they preserve the purity of the link graph online. The mark or seal of approval a site gets when it gets a heavy link from a real player can do one of two things immediately.
First, it can toggle a barrage of traffic, which also indicates that your website is a target from a referrer (with authority). Can you see how Google and other search engines might measure this in tandem with popularity?
The second thing it provides is a solid backlink to your website if they provided a do follow link. If you were to appear in a local newspaper, a national story or anything syndicated (even if it is an RSS feed) you can expect for someone, somewhere to latch on to the content and (1) reference it (2) scrape or reproduce it or (3) hopefully just provide a link back (as their way of saying thanks)…
Even if it is scraped, Google and other search engines are smart enough to know who the original source was, so eventually, your site will get credit for starting the ripple effect across the web.
Just like a grappling hook, if you link to the #1 website that ranks for that keyword you are targeting, have relevant titles, strong internal links and additional backlinks pointing at your page, the synergy can provide search engines with a robust array of information to feed their algorithm.
Considering that most would never uplink (since they feel that is supporting the competition) which is what keeps most websites stuck in a certain plateau. Authority sites are generous (if the quality is present), yet other sites that greedily horde the link flow within their own website, only isolates themselves from the rest of the web.
If you are isolated and emanating another signal entirely than what search engines have identified as the prime cluster of websites returning relevant hits for the main keywords for any given root phrase, can you see how this would leave your pages out in the cold.
Shameless self promotion can only catapult your rankings so far, and if your website is always a destination and never a path to another more relevant or equally relevant source for additional information, then you will never attract the type or quality of editorial links that other authority sites get by default (as a result of providing visitors with a range of options).
Linking out by providing in-depth mash ups, top 10 or top 20 lists and consolidating an array of resources on your pages for others is (a) the right thing to do from time to time as well as (b) that value of hub status can come back and reward your site with the ability to rank for the keywords you intend on with a fraction of the effort.
Wikipedia is in my summation, the grandest authority site to date. It has user generated content, is self moderated and constantly provides information and traffic to all of the links it assumes, devours and emulates.
As a result, there is hardly a search phrase you can enter without cross-referencing some shingle in Wikipedia. The reason is (a) the depth of content on multiple topics (b) tons of deep links to each page from a variety of IP addresses and types of sites and (3) the fact that they link out (even though its nofollowed) to so many other types of websites.
Take some time and start looking at the backlinks from some authority sites in Yahoo to get an idea of what really strong links really look like (link:google.com link:Wikipedia.org, link:cnn.com), you will note that there are similarities of co-occurrence; and that a like links to a like (authority sites to other authority sites). Also, take a look at where they link to using MSN’s linkfromdomain:google.com | linkfromdomain:Wikipedia.org | linkfromdomain:cnn.com
SEO is full of minute details with a multidimensional array of granular layers to explore, fine-tune and create, so, instead of thinking of attacking a ranking of an authority site, look behind the site and see who is propping it up. Perhaps you can either get a link from an editorial sponsoring “authority site” of scale the tipping point needed to push past that page by concentrating your websites ranking factor.
Even though the “nofollow” attribute was intended to stop the flow of link juice “something always gets through”. Trust is a ranking factor as well…and that is something that can wear down a nofolllow tag over time and seep into all of the sites embedded into its link graph (the sum total of all the internal and external links that site connects).
The takeaway here is (a) don’t be greedy (b) be careful where you point your links (better and more trusted neighborhoods are better than questionable ones) and (c) realize the long term value of building authority for your website, instead of just building links and you are one step closer to ranking for more keywords with less effort as your website scales the ladder of relevance on its way to the top of thousands of relevant and competitive keywords.