Search engines are constantly striving to provide relevant search results for each search query. Up until now, search engines place high importance on SEO off-page factors – namely links.
Link popularity is based on the number of links a search engine finds pointing to a particular site – the more popular the site, the more likely it is to have quality content. Quality sites are more likely to have content rich pages, allowing the search engine to provide relevant quality results to search queries. To this end, search engines still give higher ranking in their search results to pages that come from a site with high link popularity.
PageRank is Google’s method of ranking web pages.
The best explanation of PageRank comes from Google itself:
“PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives, it also analyses the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”
Reference: Google Technology Overview
A high PageRank gets progressively harder to achieve. No one is exactly sure how Google measures PageRank, although it is frequently associated with the number of inbound links to a site.
There is a lot of confusion over the value of PageRank, with many people believing that it directly relates to the returned results. This is untrue. When a search is conducted, Google uses a variety of factors (currently over 200) to find pages that are both important and relevant to the phrases searched for. PageRank is just one of these factors. A great way to track PageRank is with the Google Toolbar.
Every link improves PageRank, however the higher the PageRank of the originating page (not the whole site but the actual PAGE that the link comes from), the greater the benefit to the follow-on PageRank.
What this means is, if a page with a PageRank of 8/10 links to another site’s homepage, this will inevitably improve PageRank for that homepage more than if a page with a PageRank of 2/10 links to that homepage. There are of course a lot of other factors involved, but essentially, this principle forms the basis of it all.
When it comes to rank (i.e. where in the results a site appears on the SERP for a specific query), what the pages that link to a site are about will also influence how well a site ranks. For this reason, it is very important to foster linking relationships with sites that are related in nature and similarly themed. The best way to increase rankings is by making sure the links pointing to a site match the “theme” of the site. These are otherwise known as “themed sites”.
An important area of SEO is what is referred to as “link reputation”.
In the traditional model, whenever a page links to another, that page was thought of as “casting a vote” for the destination page. With link reputation, it is not just a vote that is cast, but the link is also saying something about the destination page. The words used in that link have a large influence on the rank of the page that the link points to. This is referred to as “link reputation”.
Link reputation has an even greater influence on a page’s rankings than link popularity. Specifically, link reputation is derived from the text used to link from one page to another page.
The rationale behind link reputation runs something like: “We know what THEY think their page is about but, what do other people have to say about it?”
By incorporating a link reputation strategy, the search curve can be bent in a sites favour, and rank extremely well.
For copywriters and other people involved in creating copy that is to go onto the web, it is always best to use existing copy within documents to create links.
As an example, if a person is mentioned on a page, and that person has a page on the site, such as the CEO, Directors etc, then using that person’s name to link through to their page is an excellent way to improve the relevance of the page that the link points to.
Improving Link Popularity and PageRank
For now, Link popularity and Google’s equivalent PageRank is an important part of organic SEO. It is also the hardest area of SEO to get results from.
Developing link popularity is time-consuming and requires a dedicated effort of implementing a successful link campaign strategy. Although prominent rankings can be achieved without strong link popularity for non-competitive terms, a sensible linking strategy is essential for high volume, competitive search terms.