Link popularity is an important ingredient of search engine optimization. Most major search engines use it as part of their algorithm, some more than others, making it a factor that should not be overlooked. For less competitive terms, on-page optimization may help you rank well, but for competitive terms, you will need link popularity to get that additional boost in the rankings.
So what is link popularity? It is a measure of how popular your site is, based on the number and quality of links that point to your page. If you have lots of high-quality sites that link to your page, then it usually follows that your page must be considered to be a quality page. Note that I am referring to pages, not sites. Each page is evaluated as a stand-alone entity. Usually, links point to a site's homepage, but not always, and not necessarily. For example, if you have a site about cars, you might have 100 sites that link to your Ferrari page. So conceivably, an inner page could rank better than a homepage, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, having lots of inner pages that rank well for specific keyword phrases are a great way to get more traffic.
Wait, you say, I have a brand new site. How can I get lots of people to link to it? Can I ever compete? The answer is yes, you can compete and you can get backlinks to your new site. There are several ways to accomplish this.
- Find relevant topical directories (or relevant categories in general directories) and submit your site. There are thousands of directories willing to list your site for free. You may find some that charge a fee, and it is up to you if this is within your budget or not. If it is a small one-time fee, it might be worth it.
- Navigate to your thematic category in Google's directory. Sites listed there are listed in PageRank order. Those sites might be happy to exchange links with you, or they may even have their own directories for submissions.
- Look at the backlinks of your competitors. Each one of those backlinks may be a prime candidate for exchanging links with your site.
By the time you've accomplished the above, your site will no longer be new, and you will have gathered a nice set of backlinks to your site. Google will have assigned a PR to your site, giving you a better chance to obtain links in the future, since now others can see that you already have some link popularity.
Of course, it shouldn't need to be said, but I will say it anyway...Good content is always a must. Good content will cause people to naturally link to your site because they see the value of your site.