5 Factors that Determine a Link's Value to Your Rankings
Hundreds of thousands of people create new links every day to explain, illustrate and share the ideas that are important to them. Links remain a central measurement that search engines use to make decisions about how websites should rank for search terms because people continue to use them to lead others to valuable information. On every web page (URL) with links there are many measurable data points that help search engines decide how much influence that URL's link should have on the rankings.
We have assembled a sampling of some of the URL data points that we have found to influence the link value search engines assign. This is by no means a comprehensive list of factors, but for those engaged in link acquisition it provides a framework for analyzing the link value your site is likely to receive from a target link prospect.
1) Do Your Keywords Appear in the Target URL's Title Tag, Body Text, Meta Keywords, Meta Description and Header Tags?
One starting point can be the core list of keywords you would like to rank for. By now, you have likely identified through analytics and ROI measurements exactly which keywords are most valuable to your company. With these keywords as a baseline, there are decisions you can make about which link opportunities to pursue.
If your target keywords appear on or in the URL that you are analyzing, this page will positively influence your rankings for that keyword. Why? Because that URL has given search engines clear relevance signals regarding those keywords. This is especially so if that URL has been consistent in its keyword usage from the title tags through to the copy on the page. Search engines interpret relevance and rankings based on links from URLs that clearly and consistently make use of the keywords that you are targeting.
2) How Many Outbound Links Appear on Your Target URL?
If you visit a webpage with 100+ links then the value of that page to you is potentially quite low. Imagine if you asked a librarian for information on a topic and he stacked 100 books on the desk. Despite your amazement at his strength and thoroughness it would be quite difficult for you to know where to start. Further, out of these 100 books only a few of them are likely to be highly relevant to your interest.
The more links there are on a page, the higher the likelihood that the URL's creator omitted information regarding why each link is important or how that link fits into the context of a topic. It is also likely that the URL's creator included links that are off topic for your target keyword phrases. Search engines reduce link values from URLs with higher numbers of outbound links making this an effective data point for analyzing the value of a URL to your portfolio of link prospects.
3) Number of Words in the Body Text of Your Target URL
The more words in the body text of a URL, the more diluted your target keywords become on that page. Search engines assign less link value from that URL for your target keywords. A page with too-few words can indicate a page of less importance or even a spam page.
4) Existing Measures from Search Engines for Your Target URL
Some search engines provide indications of a URL's value to their users. Google provides their toolbar users with a measurement between one and ten called PageRank. The relationship between the PageRank the toolbar shows and the actual weight of that page in Google's algorithm is cause for endless debate, and many experts hold that over valuing Google's PageRank in link acquisition decisions is a mistake.
Still, the PageRank value exists and it can be used in prioritizing your link acquisition initiatives. We use PageRank to determine the amount of potential link value passed to other URLs, and the PageRank of a hostname to gauge the stability and long term strength of the link acquired.
5) What Type of Site is Your Target URL From?
Identifying the type of site that published your target URL determines how you will approach link acquisition. Depending on the inherent link strength of your organization you may have advantages with certain types of sites and seek links from them more heavily. For search rankings that stand the test of time we recommend that you acquire links from a diverse range of URL types, from blogs to social networks to news articles to directories to link pages. This will mean analyzing and developing your organization's natural link strengths.
Developing, growing and expanding your link profile is vital to the growth of your brand, rankings and the targeted traffic your website receives. For those seeking to grow their search rankings the measures and indicators listed above provide a framework for building link acquisition initiatives that provide long term value.