Linking is a hot topic these days -- anyone with a Website and an interest
in search engine traffic knows that you have to get some good incoming
links in order to be found in the search engines. However, most people
are a little lost when it comes to landing them.
I recently caught up with SEO guru Mike Grehan at the SES conference
in San Jose, where he gave an informative session on link building. I
met with Mike later in the week to discuss his thoughts on links, business,
SC: What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding among webmasters/SEOs
when it comes to link building?
MG: People look at links as if they are all the same, and often
they go for quantity over quality. That's not the way to do it. Link analysis
has its roots in citation analysis and social network analysis concepts.
A couple of sharp scientists named Pinski and Narin found that by using
these predictive methods it could be possible to determine the next winner
of the Nobel prize. The guy who had the most papers citing his work was
the guy most likely to get the nod. However, even in the world of science,
an early type of spam reared its ugly head. Pinski & Narin were aware
that this type of analysis could be skewed or distorted by using methods
of manipulation, even to the point of simply bribing someone to mention
you in their paper. To combat this, they recognized that the work of some
authors/researchers carried more weight than others, i.e., had more influence.
Influence weight made it harder to manipulate results, as the community
reputation of the author plays a large part in the calculation.
SC: How does this relate to link building?
MG: Just as in the scientific community, the influence weight
plays an important role on the Web. The search engines are trying to determine
the most relevant results for their search queries, and to do this, they
analyze the linking structure of the community. They "know"
what specific pages are about and they assume that pages that link together
are somehow related. They are essentially sharing their reputation with
each other. The more pages that point to a specific page, the more importance
or influence that page has in their calculations. Think about it like
this: I make blue widgets. I sell them to Rolls Royce. I tell my customers,
our blue widgets are the best -- we sell to Rolls Royce. At Rolls Royce,
they tell their customers their cars are the best because they only use
our blue widgets. Both businesses are using the reputation of the other
one to enhance their selling proposition. That's what links can do. A
sound linking proposition enhances the reputations of both businesses.
SC: How does a business go about obtaining these quality links?
MG: It's only hard to get links if you don't know why you need
them. Writing to a Webmaster with a form mail that says "I've added
your link, will you add mine" is crap. If someone wanted to partner
with your business and sent you a template e-mail, would you take them
seriously? You've got to give that other business a reason to link to
you. It's a business proposition, not a link exchange. Both sides must
benefit from the partnership. If you don't know what your site has to
offer another site or why your link is valuable, it's time for early retirement!
The best way to earn those links is through quality content. When a site
links to you, they are staking their reputation on you. That's something
to think about when you consider linking to a free-for-all site or a link
SC: What do you think about buying links?
MG: If you can buy a quality link that relates to your site, buy
it! It's a business proposition like everything else. That's certainly
one way to do it and a relatively easy one, if you have the opportunity.
SC: Are themes, or links only from related sites, important?
MG: It's not about themes; it's about communities and reputation.
Linking creates virtual communities. Links from the business community
you exist in are going to have more influence than unrelated links. I
say this because the search engines are going to make some simple assumptions
-- a link from page A to page B is a recommendation by the author of page
A. If page A and page B are linked, they might be somehow related. A network
of links in from pages in the community that are truly related is going
to build a stronger reputation for that page than a bunch of unrelated
SC: Some people try to increase their link popularity by setting
up multiple domains to link to their main site. Does this help?
MG: Absolutely not. Those mini-networks are like spam islands
if they don't have quality links pointing into the satellites as well
as the mother ship. They are easily detected.
SC: What do you think about selecting sites as link partners based
on their Google PageRank?
MG: I've done a lot of research on this. I know exactly what PR7
means: It means you have one more than six but one less than eight. That's
all it means. Stop obsessing about PR; get on with business!
About The Author:
Scottie Claiborne, owner of Right
Click Web Consulting, is the administrator of Jill Whalen's
Rankings SEO Forum as well as a moderator at Cre8asite
Forums and frequent contributor to the High Rankings Newsletter.
She specializes in usability, marketing, and SEO and offers training workshops
as well as individual consultation.