The Value Of Links: Part II

The last few posts we’ve been looking at the value of links. We’ve talked about some common sense concepts to help you think about links and then offered some general thoughts about trust and authority as they relate to link value.

Today we’ll continue and conclude this discussion on the value of links.

We’ll look at the anchor text of links and link diversity and then offer some thoughts about putting everything together so you can better determine which link has more value for your site.

Black and white photograph of an anchor in the street

Anchor Text: What’s Being Voted For?

In an election what’s being voted for is known before the vote is taken. With links we need to ask what’s being voted for after the vote is recorded. What specifically is being recommended with the link?

Anchor text (the clickable words that make up the link) tell us what the link is recommending. So too do the words near the anchor text as well as all the words on the page doing the linking.

Search engines can also look at what’s on the page being linked to. If this page is about typography and it links to another page also about typography then the link is likely a vote for typography related words and phrases.

The closer we are to the link the more specific the words tell us what’s being recommended. The further from the anchor text the more general the recommendation.

Anchor text is still the strongest signal for what’s being recommended with any link. As such one seo tactic is to continue to use the same anchor text for every link you can get pointing to one of your pages.

If we think back to the cat and mouse game it’s not really natural for every link to a page to use the exact same anchor text. It might be a signal that something is being manipulated.

Some tips about keywords in anchor text:

  • Try to have your main keyword phrases included in links back to the page
  • Where possible vary the anchor text pointing back to your pages so they appear natural
  • When others link to your page they’ll often use either your page title or url as the anchor text of the link. It’s a good idea to include keywords in one or both.
  • Regardless of the seo if someone clicks a link for “WordPress Development” they expect to land on a page about WordPress development. Ideally make it clear what your page is about as quick as possible.

A quilt representing diversity from the 2009 diversity Conference in Salem

Link Diversity: How Many Votes Does One Site Get?

In an election we only get one vote. With links we can vote or recommend the same page over and over again. Which would you think has more value, 100 links from a single domain or 1 link each from 100 different domains?

If you consistently link to the same resource again and again it likely does say you find that resource more valuable than those you only linked to once or twice. Still it’s you voting for the same thing again and again. How many votes should you get?

It’s not too hard to see how one might stuff ballots by linking to the same few pages over and over.

On the other hand if lots of different domains are linking to a page it suggests the page is important. More people are voting for it. It’s harder to manipulate lots of people than it is to manipulate one or two. The single vote from many sources is likely going to be trusted more than the many votes from a single source.

All else being equal a link from a new domain is likely more valuable than another link from the same domain.

Closeup of a few links in a chain

Putting it all Together

With everything we now know about links in mind how should we decide when a link is worth getting? How can we decide if the effort to gain a link is better spent doing something else.

First think about the indirect and direct benefits of the link. If CNN wants to write a profile on me any link it adds will be great even if those links have 0 seo value. A lot of people are going to see the link and potentially click on it. It’s a good link even if there was no such thing as a search engine.

Links providing good direct traffic will generally provide good search traffic as well. The reverse is not necessarily true. A link helping your page rank better may not result in good direct traffic through that link.

More links are generally better than less links. Realistically the goal is to get more of the right kind of links. Your goal is to increase the total value flowing into your site. That could be a few high quality links or many low quality links.

One link worth 100 link value is worth the same as 100 links each worth 1 link value. Each of those 100 links is less valuable than the single link, but together they add up to the same value. Which is easier for you to get? The one high quality link or the 100 low quality links?

  • Directories—Does your listing need to be editorially approved? If not how honest is the recommendation? How much should a search engine value the link?
  • Social media links—Most social sites add nofollow to external links. The links are easy to add. How much value should a search engine give the link?
  • Forum signatures—Again there’s little editorial approval with forum links. How much trust would a search engine have in these links? How much value should it give to the link?

A chain used to connect wallet and pants

Let’s consider directories with a little more detail. A directory like Yahoo does editorially approve each listing. Yahoo itself is seen as a trusted and authority site. A link from the Yahoo directory is probably a good link. Compare that to Bob’s free for all link exchange directory.

How about article marketing and guest posting. Both involve creating content that’s published on other sites in order to acquire more links. In the former you write an article and then submit it to any number of article directories. In the latter you write a highly targeted article for a specific site and audience.

With article marketing the page and site where it’s published uses little if any editorial control. The sites are generally not filled with great content. They aren’t authorities. They do let you control the anchor text. The goal of article marketing has been to have your content end up on as many sites as possible to increase link quantity.

With guest blogging a great deal of editorial control is associated with getting published. The site in question is ideally an authority on your topic or at least has the most topical authority that will accept your post. Again you can usually control the anchor text. The goal of guest posting is to gain a few links from one very good source.

Which of the above is then the better tactic for building links through content on other sites?

Hopefully you now have a better idea how to answer the question and even better be able to justify why you think one tactic will work best for your site.

Top Value Stamps saver book

Summary

Links are important when it comes to which page ranks where. In an ideal world we might be able to consider all votes to be equal, however, linking on the web isn’t ideal and search engines need to apply some value scale to links.

SEOs use all sorts of tools to attempt to measure the value of one link as it compares to another. I find if you keep a few simple ideas in mind you can often see which links are likely to be more valuable than others.

  • Ask yourself if the link can be trusted. What signal does it give to show it’s an honest recommendation?
  • Ask yourself who’s doing the linking. Does a recommendation from this source count for more than other sources?
  • Ask yourself what the link is saying. What is this link making a recommendation for?

If you can think about links in these general terms it can help you understand which link is more valuable and guide you about which tactics you can pursue for long term growth.

There are many more details in regards to the value of links than what I’m sharing here. Hopefully this post will make those details easier to understand should you decide to learn more. Hopefully it will also help you better decide on strategies and tactics for building links.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

One comment

  1. you’re right. in the end, Google wants people to find relevant unbiased information. if you’re guest posting personally on a relevant article, it means a lot to them.

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