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Link Popularity

by Alan Grissett, Owner and Project Manager of InfoServe Media, LLC

If you are new to Web site promotion, you might not have heard of link popularity before, but in some respects, it's the single most important factor for good ranking in search engines. Before covering link popularity, a brief overview of how search engines operate is in order.

Because of the vast number of files and documents on the Web, there is an inherent need for some method of indexing and searching for documents. Search engines and directories fill this need to varying degrees of success. Pure search engines differ from directories in that they do not use human editors to add to their directories; they use software to "crawl" through links in documents to find other documents to add to their indexes.

Historically, search engines based the ranking of individual documents solely on factors such as keyword placement (where a keyword appears on a page), keyword density (how many times a keyword appears on a page), and the inclusion of keyword phrases in specific HTML tags. Because these factors were easily manipulated by Webmasters, a high ranking could often be achieved for pages of little or no value. New methods of ranking pages were needed to achieve better results.

While keyword placement, keyword density, and the inclusion of keyword phrases in specific HTML tags are still important, a new factor in search engine rankings has also been added: link popularity. The basis of link popularity can be explained in one sentence: The more sites that provide quality links to yours, the better. It's not really that simple, because there are different kinds of links and linking methods that affect ranking, but for an introductory article, it'll do just fine.

Basically, the algorithms, or rules, that the search engines use favor those sites that have a large number of quality links pointing toward them. You can think of it as a popularity contest. Page A has more links pointing toward it, so therefore it must be a more useful page than page B, which has no links pointing toward it. Because of this, building links with other sites is simply one of the most effective forms of promotion for your site.

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