- Along came Google: The making of Google & PageRank
- Internal, inbound, and outbound types of links
- Inbound Link Focus: Natural Links From Quality Pages For Greater SEO Benefits
- Internal link focus: Distribute the PageRank well on your website
- Outbound Link Focus: Just Appear Natural
In the early days of search engine optimization, before Google even existed, web ranking was based heavily on the use of keywords in the content of the page.
Without sophisticated search engine algorithms, using keywords was the easiest way to rank pages.
The logic was simple: the more a keyword phrase was used on a webpage, the more likely it was what the page was really about.
Unfortunately, the SEO practitioners of the time took advantage of this system and made unnatural use of keywords by overusing the targeted keyword phrase in order to rank higher.
This method is known as keyword filling these days.
This results in websites being ranked for keyword phrases even if the website doesn't have much to offer on a topic.
A new way to view and rate websites, which ranks and which were not needed, and which should go beyond just analyzing content.
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Along came Google: The making of Google & PageRank
Google started in 1996 through a partnership between its founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
The search engine's early ranking algorithm was based on the PageRank algorithm that Page developed and named after Page when he was studying information retrieval at Stanford University.
The main idea was to use links between websites as a ranking factor.
The archived info page from Google states:
“PageRank counts the number and quality of links to a page to give a rough estimate of the importance of the website. The underlying assumption is that more important sites are likely to get more links from other sites. "
Read all about the PageRank algorithm. This is all public information and the PageRank patent can be viewed online for free.
It is a very technical document, and readers may need more advanced programming and math skills to understand it in its entirety.
Instead of reading all of the details behind how Google analyzes and rates links, it may make more sense to understand why this algorithm looks at links in the first place.
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Internal, inbound, and outbound types of links
A link or hyperlink is a clickable object on a web page that leads from one page to another. Links can be displayed visibly as text, images, or buttons.
We can classify links based on the destination of the link, regardless of whether users are directed to another page on the same website or to a different website.
Internal links are links between the pages of your own website.
Search engines determine this based on the domain name. If the links on a page point to other pages within the same domain, they are considered internal links.
If for some reason your website was built for more than one domain, this will be shown as an external link by search engines.
Inbound links are links that come from other websites or another domain name.
Outbound links are links on your website that point to websites with a different domain name.
Inbound Link Focus: Natural Links From Quality Pages For Greater SEO Benefits
Of the three types of links, inbound links are the ones with the greatest SEO benefit, but they are also the most difficult to obtain.
Quality sites are like friends you turn to: they are trustworthy, believable, and have some authority over the subject
Whenever a webpage links to another webpage, the content creator that used the link did so for a reason.
Often times, they like the page they're linking to because it contains information that supports or builds on the information on the first page.
On the other hand, some authors link to pages for the opposite reason. You may be linking to a page that you want to criticize or disagree with.
However, both links are good for the page being linked to. Regardless of whether the content is loved or despised, it has generated a powerful response that is indicative of quality content.
When the content of a page gets someone talking, it indicates authority, credibility, and / or trustworthiness.
So, links on pages are like voices of trust, credibility, and authority.
The more links a page gets, the more votes it gets, which can improve its ranking.
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However, the number of links a page receives isn't all that matters.
Google also rates the quality of the links.
Nobody likes fake friends
Sometimes you can identify fake people instantly. In other cases it is not that easy.
The same applies when Google looks at websites. Links that appear like votes of confidence can easily be forged with the following things:
- Online forums.
- Blog comments.
- Guest books.
- Social media profiles.
- Article directories.
- Q&A sites.
- Social bookmarking.
These are called artificial links.
Sometimes Google finds that the links are spoofed right away, but not always. It can take Google a while to identify artificial links.
These artificial links have negative consequences for the pages.
The rank of these artificial link pages can be affected by various ranking factors that monitor link quality, as well as algorithm updates or even manual actions by Google.
To have good, natural links, a website needs quality content that is trustworthy, credible, and authoritative.
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This allows the pages to receive high quality, natural links from other websites that will improve their ranking.
Inbound links are still important even after Google's Penguin update
Over the past decade, Google has implemented a number of important algorithm updates. One of those important updates was Penguin.
Google's penguin update has become an integral part of the core algorithm.
With the Penguin update, Google can rate the quality of links more effectively.
Immediately after this update, some SEO experts initially had the impression that links no longer matter. However, this is not the case.
Links are important for ranking and still show the same values as before.
Links reflect the quality of the content of a page, provided that they are natural links.
The penguin update made it easier for Google to identify artificial links.
Links have always been important ranking factors. However, the methods of getting links have evolved, especially after the Penguin update arrived.
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After the Penguin update, there is now more emphasis on natural links, which has made many SEOs in the industry much more focused on content marketing.
Creating link-worthy content and promoting content worldwide to attract users who would, of course, be willing to share and link to the advertised content.
Not everyone thinks like an SEO; Don't overdo the anchor text
One of the important aspects of inbound links that search engines look out for is the anchor text of a link.
Anchor text is the clickable text of a link or the alternative text of an image in image links.
The anchor text gives search engines an idea of the topic of the landing page.
In the past, this was abused and allowed the bombing of links. It simply uses the exact phrase you want to rank in the entire anchor text of inbound links from thousands of web pages, regardless of the quality or relevance of the page.
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Many previous Google updates addressed this issue, including the Penguin update where overdoing keyword-oriented anchor text can seem unnatural and negatively affect ranking.
Since the Penguin update, there has been a strong focus on having natural anchor text in your inbound links.
Here are a few things to watch out for in order to jeopardize your link building efforts:
- Of course, when people add a link on a page that leads to your website, the anchor text is often your brand or company name. If your keyword anchor text contains more than your branded anchor text, it can cause problems. It's best to have more branded anchor text.
- Not everyone thinks alike, and it is highly unlikely that many people will use the exact same anchor text. If you keep optimizing for the same anchor text when you try to get links from other sites and it becomes the majority anchor text and it is not your brand name, it is highly unnatural. It's important to see some variety in anchor text, including general anchor text like click here, visit here, website, etc.
Internal link focus: Distribute the PageRank well on your website
Incoming links are the most beneficial as the PageRank is passed to your website from other websites.
The more inbound links you get, the more PageRank you get.
As the chain jumps from one side to the other from links, the flow of PageRank becomes weaker and weaker.
On almost every website, the page with the most inbound links is the website's home page. Therefore, if a page on your website is too far from the home page, the PageRank will drop significantly before you reach the page.
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This results in pages linked very far from the home page ranking poorly. Since not all pages will receive inbound links, your internal links should serve two purposes:
- Help users navigate to the different pages on your website.
- Help search engines crawl your entire website with fewer jumps from page to page.
Here are the public areas where you can find internal links:
Normal site navigation: links usually found in a top bar menu, sidebar, and footer that is present on all pages. This is usually based on your site architecture and how topics are categorized and sub-categorized to create topics and subtopics from general to specific pages.
Related Pages: A section of a page that links to other pages related to the subject of the page. This is beneficial for users as it suggests pages that the user is likely to have searched for.
User Site Maps: A site map is a single page that links to all other pages on the site. Based on usability studies, there are three types of people who navigate a site: those who use normal site navigation, those who use the search box immediately, and those who go straight to the sitemap. For very large websites, sitemaps can be overwhelming. In such cases, the sitemap may only contain the main category areas and not necessarily every page on the site.
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In-Content Links: Within the content of a page, links can be added to the words within a paragraph. This is not used sufficiently by many websites, but in other cases it can also be over-optimized, which can have a negative effect on search engine optimization. Just link naturally and keep the user in mind when creating such links.
While we highlight the use of internal links when distributing PageRank, always make sure that users are the top priority.
Always design websites and think of internal links for users first, then search engines and learn all the best practices for internal site navigation.
Outbound Link Focus: Just Appear Natural
Over the years SEO professionals have evolved the use of outbound links.
Some believed that outbound links took away PageRank and decreased ranking potential.
This may have been correct for a number of years.
This is where terms like "PageRank hoarding" and "PageRank channeling" came from.
Every outbound connection corresponded to a leak. However, if an outbound link was required for users, you can add the nofollow link attribute.
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The nofollow was like telling search engines, "Don't follow this link and give this page my PageRank."
However, many SEO practitioners abused this until Google released an update on PageRank evaporation in 2009.
In short, PageRank hoarding just didn't work the way it used to. Several theories and best practices emerged from this, such as:
- Don't have too many outbound links: In theory, the whole argument about the PageRank leak continues to this day. However, every now and then, you may find websites with tons of outbound links, and yet the page still ranks high. Therefore, the rule here is only what makes sense.
- Don't always follow all outbound links: adding a rel = nofollow attribute to links on the The tag instructs search engines not to credit this link for ranking purposes. It makes sense to always add the nofollow to avoid the PageRank getting to other websites. However, exaggeration or over-optimization doesn't seem natural, and the intent really seems to be to hoard PageRank.
- Good quality websites usually link to good quality websites: giving links is just as important as getting links. Good quality websites maintain a level of quality that made them what they are. So when these websites are linked to other websites, they also choose a good quality destination. Since this is a common occurrence on good quality websites, you can also replicate this behavior to signal search engines that you are a good quality website, too.
In all of these three bullet points, the rules can seem contradictory.
No outbound links keep PageRank, but no links look lazy.
Adding a nofollow should help maintain PageRank. However, if all the links don't follow, they will look more unnatural.
Conventional wisdom has taught us that outbound links will kick out of PageRank, and that is still true today, but it is recommended that you link to high quality websites.
The guidelines here don't seem set in stone and are somewhat flexible, but the main rule that applies and applies to all of the rules above is to appear natural.
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Link to other websites when this goes without saying.
Links were an important part of SEO. You still are. And it looks like it will be important in the years to come.
However, as with many other things in search engine optimization, past optimization is vastly different from what it is today.
We classify links as inbound links, outbound links, and internal links.
- Inbound links provide the greatest impact as they are like voices of trust, credibility, and authority that help with ranking. However, it is important that these inbound links are natural links and come from high quality, relevant websites.
- Internal links help distribute the PageRank from the incoming links to other pages on the website in order to improve the ranking on many other pages. In addition, internal links are not just about search engines. Always serve users first.
- Outbound links should only be used in a way that appears natural to the user. Linking to high quality websites will show these signs and link your website to higher quality websites.
If there is a single topic for all of these types of links, it is natural to link to it.
If it looks bad to people, most likely it looks bad to search engines.
Selected image source: Paulo Bobita