Is your site being penalized for low link popularity?

Link Popularity (the number of web pages that link to a site) has become a critically important factor in driving traffic to a web site. Unfortunately, new sites and sites with low link popularity are at an severe disadvantage and often find it very hard to attract new visitors. Here's why...

Although rarely stated in plain english, search engines do not like and do not trust unpopular web sites!

This sounds extreme, but starts to make sense if you think about it from the search engine's perspective. Search engines evaluate millions of web pages and display them in order of relevancy. In the past, search engines have played a continual cat and mouse game with thousands of webmasters who try to 'trick the engines' or 'beat the system'. Given the rewards of a good ranking, some webmasters would create thousands of computer generated pages hoping to trick the search engines into assigning them a good ranking. These pages would look bad to a human, but would occasionally rank well. This happened more and more, and engines started to fill up with 'junk' listings.

Around this time, search engines started to discover that link popularity was a very effective way to weed out 'junk' pages and a good way to judge a site. Link popularity is very difficult to abuse (a webmaster would have to control tens or hundreds of sites located on different servers). Also, search engines found that judging a site by who links to it is one of the best indications of site quality. After all, not many webmasters make a habit out of linking to bad or less than useful web sites.

Although search engines don't come right out and say they don't like unpopular sites, it's easy to read between the lines...

1. Search engines now discourage manually submitting your site saying that they will find your site by following links on the web.

Google says (in their FAQ) that submitting is not necessary and that "The best way to ensure Google finds your site is for your page to be linked from lots of pages on other sites. Google's robots jump from page to page on the Web via hyperlinks, so the more sites that link to you, the more likely it is that we'll find you quickly."

Yahoo says (in their FAQ) that "The Yahoo! Search index, which contains several billion web pages, is more than 99% populated through the free crawl process. Yahoo! Search crawls the web every 2-4 weeks and automatically finds new content for indexing."

MSN advises (in their Site Owner Help) to "Make sure that each page is accessible by at least one static text link.".

2. Sites can be delisted from a search engine if enough pages do not link to it.

In their FAQ, Google explains that one of the possible reasons your web pages used to be listed and are now aren't is that.... 'The contents of your page or the links pointing to your page changed significantly and you no longer have a sufficiently high PageRank, or your page had low PageRank to begin with and a small change caused you to be dropped from the Google index.'

3. Once included in a search engine index, sites with higher link popularity are heavily favored

Google says (in their Technology Overview) that "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. "

Yahoo suggests (in their FAQ),that you should "Correspond with webmasters and other content providers and build rich linkages between related pages." to improve the ranking of your web site in their search results.

MSN says (in their Site Owner Help section), "The MSN Search ranking algorithm analyzes factors such as page content, the number and quality of sites that link to your pages, and the relevance of your site’s content to keywords."

How many links is enough?

Once site owners realize the importance of link popularity, the first question they ask is usually 'how many links do I need?'. The frustrating answer is.... it depends!

All sites need a basic amount of links as a starting point. These links prevent the search engines from treating a site as an "orphan site" (one which is not linked to) and improve the chances of the search engine finding the site's pages to add to its index.

Some sites only need ten or twenty good incoming links to rank well. Others in highly competitive industries need hundreds or even thousands. The best way to tell is to run a Link Popularity report on your site and on your competitors' sites. If your competition is outranking you and has many more incoming links, you should probably start thinking about increasing your link popularity.

Increasing your link popularity

Luckily, there are several highly effective ways of increasing your link popularity. Proper use of link popularity reports can give you the information you need to evaluate your situation and act accordingly. Better yet, running the right link popularity reports can show you exactly where your competitors are receiving traffic from and provide you with hundreds of handpicked sites interested in linking to your site.

How to jumpstart your link popularity...   


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