Things to keep in mind before we begin:
- to succeed with SEO you need a complete strategy beyond links
- you should not rely completely on links: links are only one of the hundreds of criteria taken into account when ranking your pages
Now for the fun part. Let's get down to business and start by thinking about links through a simple analogy we can all relate to - voting.
Links are like votes, and a link to your website is essentially a vote for it.
Votes can be bought or earned, but those who buy them are frowned upon when the polls are tallied – if you are found out.
You can receive all of your votes from one group of voters, but that isn't as powerful as receiving votes from many different groups.
Types of Links
Internal links are built from pages on your website to other pages on the same website.
Internal links are great for user navigation and help search robots crawl your site with ease.
As "self votes" these links have less value but do really help with associating a page with a keyword.
Internal links should be your first focus as you already have them. Control what you can, make the best of it.
External links represent the "votes" from one website to another. These are the most valuable to draw attention to your site and to increase your position in search results.
No-follow is an attribute any internal or external link can have. Search engines treat such a link as if it doesn't exist: it's a non-counting vote.
Citations are no-follow links from noteworthy sources like Wikipedia can still be of significant value, exemplifying trust by association.
Link Value and Trust
To determine the value of a link, here are a few questions to ask:
1. Where is the link from? Is it a popular and trustworthy site?
2. Does the site show signs of spam, or sell links to other unrelated websites?
3. Is the site you're receiving a link from ranking well in search? Could it possibly have a "penalty?"
One quick way to get the basic idea of link value is to simply search for the website. Try a few different keywords during your search and make note of how well they rank. If the site in question ranks well, they could very well be a great source for a trusted, valuable link.
It's important to have a diverse portfolio of links coming from varied sources that relate to your web content. Google and other search engines aren't impressed if all your links come from only one other site.
Just as important is your time line. If all your links are acquired in the same day it's like being a one-hit wonder compared to a rockstar legend. Growing your portfolio of links over time is an indicator that you can create value to visitors again and again - and search engines take notice.
Local Link Demographics for Local SEO
For companies with a local offering it's of growing importance to link within your demographic.
A link from the business across town, or your favorite customers' blog can go a long way projecting your local presence to the search engines and helps rank your site for searches relevant to your area.
Free Link Research Tools
How Many Links Do I Have?
Here are two free resources that give you an approximation of how many links you have to a certain URL. Both services also show various other statistics and data that could be useful.
Where Are Links Coming From?
One free tool offered by Yahoo! is the Site Explorer which lists all the URL's linking to a specific page. You can find it at http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com (link).
When Did I Get That Link?
A free service provided by Majestic SEO returns a basic graph of links over time in either a normalized or cumulative view.